Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard wants to add a new defensive-midfielder to his squad, but should he consider Wilfred Ndidi as an alternative to Declan Rice?
Chelsea’s Premier League woes continued on Tuesday evening as they were beaten 2-0 by Leicester City at the King Power Stadium.
First half goals from Wilfred Ndidi and the in-form James Maddison were enough to seal all three points for the Foxes, lifting them to the top of the Premier League table in the process.
Whilst it was another performance for Leicester chief Brendan Rodgers to be proud of, Blues head coach Frank Lampard was left to reflect on a fifth league defeat in the last eight matches, once again increasing the pressure on his shoulders.
Fromi the very first whistle in the Midlands the Blues were up against it. Leicester were up and at Chelsea from the off, looking to launch attacks and commit men forward as often as they could. At the other end, the Blues were toothless, offering very little to test Kasper Schmeichel in the Foxes’ goal.
Before Chelsea had even arrived at the King Power Stadium they knew they would have been in store for a tough assignment, with the Foxes having built up steam in recent weeks, largely thanks to the attacking threat from the likes of Harvey Barnes , Jamie Vardy and Maddison, who has now scored three goals in his last matches.
However, it isn’t in just an attacking sense where Leicester have been impressive, as they have also been defensively solid in recent weeks, conceding just two goals in their last five matches in all competitions.
The likes of James Justin, Jonny Evans and Wesley Fofana have been nothing short of outstanding, with the trio, alongside Timothy Castagne, striking up a solid base for Rodgers to work with.
But even though Leicester’s defence has been rock solid in recent weeks, it helps when a team has a midfielder capable of anchoring the back-four and offering a great sense of protection.
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For Leicester, the man responsible of carrying out that duty is midfield enforcer Ndidi, who claimed his first goal of the season last night. The 24-year-old Nigerian international, who joined Leicester from Belgian outfit Genk in 2017, has gone from strength to strength in recent years, proving himself as one of the best defensive-midfielders in European football.
His tall frame and energy to win the ball back is a quality that every team, anywhere in the world, wishes they could have. In modern day football, having that midfield linchpin capable of protecting the last line of defence is vital. As well as that, he has also proven that he is capable of putting the ball in the back of the net, particularly from outside the box.
Although Ndidi's performance will be remembered for his goal, his all-round showing was outstanding. He kept the midfield in check, did not allow Kai Havertz and Mason Mount an opportunity to stamp their authority on the game and, as always, kept the back-line in check.
With that said, it raises a question about whether Chelsea should move Ndidi to the top of their wish list as far as their search for a new defensive-midfielder is concerned. Throughout last summer's transfer window, which saw the Blues splash out more than £220million on seven new signings, Chelsea were heavily linked with West Ham United and England ace Declan Rice.
Lampard is a huge admirer of Rice and has been keen on adding him to his squad for several months. Chelsea were keen to get a deal done for him in the summer but the Hammers' valuation of around £80million proved to be far too big an obstacle for the Blues to overcome.
The Blues, though, have maintained their interest in Rice ahead of this month's transfer window, but it is very, very unlikely that he would seal a move to Stamford Bridge by February 1.
Therefore, with a move unlikely this month, Chelsea may wish to retain their interest until the summer before launching a fresh approach for the England international, who started his career at Stamford Bridge before leaving in 2014.
However, with Rice a young, England international, his price, like so many others as we have seen in the past, is only going to continue to head in one direction, with English players' values continuing to rise year on year.
Whilst Ndidi would not be a cheap solution to Chelsea's search for a defensive-minded midfielder, it is likely that he would cost less than Rice. The Nigerian international also has the experience of playing in Europe as well, which could twist Chelsea's arm if they were to look into the prospect of landing his signature.
In truth, both players are talented and offer an array of qualities to their respective clubs, but with Ndidi likely to be cheaper, experienced in Europe and consistently proving himself as a no-nonsense midfielder who takes no prisoners, he could be the perfect partner for N'Golo Kante in the heart of Lampard's midfield.
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