Wilfred Ndidi: The Top-Tackling Defensive Midfielder

Wilfred Ndidi: The Top-Tackling Defensive Midfielder

By Richard Mellor: Culled from lcfc.com

In the two full Premier League seasons that Wilfred Ndidi has featured in, he has finished as the top tackler on both occasions.

During the 2016/17 campaign, having joined the Football Club in January 2017 from Belgian side KRC Genk, Ndidi completed 68 tackles in just 17 appearances.

His first five months in England were eventful to say the least. It was on 3 January that the Foxes confirmed he was set to join the Club, and just four days later, he lined up alongside fellow Nigeria international Ahmed Musa against Everton at Goodison Park.

It was Musa who sealed safe passage into the next round of the FA Cup for City, who afforded Ndidi 90 minutes of playing action. He was in fine shape having played for Genk as recently as 27 December in a 2-0 success over Gent.

The appearances continued to flow, with his first goal for the Foxes coming in a 3-1 cup win against rivals Derby County, before a display of then manager Claudio Ranieri’s faith came on 22 February, when the Nigerian, aged just 20, started the first leg of City’s UEFA Champions League Last-16 tie with FC Sevilla.

Also Read: The Greatest Defensive-Midfield Player In Nigerian Football In 60 Years!

Under Craig Shakespeare, Ndidi remained in the side and played his role in six successive victories in all competitions, including the brilliant 2-0 win over Sevilla in the second leg to reach the quarter-finals of Europe’s most prestigious club tournament.

He went on to score two more goals, including a stunner against Stoke City, and eventually amassed 48 appearances for Genk and Leicester City combined in 2016/17.


His first full season in England resulted in him playing 33 times in the Premier League, where his 138 tackles left him 21 clear of Everton’s Idrissa Gueye, now at Paris Saint-Germain, and 25 ahead of former Fox N’Golo Kanté.

The 2017/18 campaign was a hugely important one for Ndidi, who not only excelled for the Foxes, who he also ranked highly for in clearances made (95), aerial battles won (117) and recoveries (296), but also represented Nigeria at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

In the glorious green and white colours of the Super Eagles, Ndidi’s performances for City earned him a starting place in all three of Nigeria’s group games against Croatia, Iceland and Argentina.

In Kaliningrad, Ndidi’s nation were beaten 2-0 by eventual finalists Croatia after Peter Etebo’s own goal was added to by a penalty from Luka Modrić, but they were given hope after earning all three points in their second group game.

A superb brace from City star Musa, who later that summer joined Saudia Arabian side Al-Nassr, handed Nigeria a 2-0 success over Iceland in Volgograd, meaning a win against Argentina would guarantee progress to the knockout stages.

Also Read – ePremier League: Ndidi Represents Leicester, Faces Wolves’ Jota in Last-16

However, Gernot Rohr’s side, despite drawing level after a Victor Moses penalty cancelled out Lionel Messi’s opener, conceded a second goal with four minutes to play after Marcos Rojo volleyed home.


Wilfred Ndidi vs Lionel Messi at the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup

Ndidi’s World Cup campaign with Nigeria came to an end, but the experience he gathered stood him in good stead ahead of City’s 2018/19 season in the Premier League.

The Lagos-born midfielder was once again a star man for the Foxes in England’s highest tier of professional football, as he finished the campaign with a Premier League-high of 143 tackles – one more than Gueye and 14 more than Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Fellow Fox Ricardo Pereira, meanwhile, completed 118 dispossessions, finishing fourth in the Premier League’s rankings for tackles made.

Further international involvement followed for Ndidi in the summer of 2019, when he featured in all seven of Nigeria’s Africa Cup of Nations fixtures en route to the semi-finals, where Riyad Mahrez’s Algeria – the tournament’s eventual winners – emerged victorious after the former City winger scored a 95th-minute free-kick in Cairo.

At the age of just 22, Leicester’s No.25 had already played for two teams at the highest level, and had represented his country at the World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations against some of the most gifted players on the planet.

His impressive form has continued this term, where he currently sits third in the tackling charts with 91 to his name, despite missing six of City’s 29 matches.

He is only eight behind Manchester United’s Wan-Bissaka, while City team-mate Ricardo leads the way by 20 with 119 tackles.

In addition, he has made 61 interceptions and 194 recoveries, and has won 181 duels and 59 aerial battles in 2019/20.

Perhaps his most apt moment came in just the second game of City’s season, when after making a rare mistake that led to Mason Mount’s opener for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, he powered home a header in the second half to restore parity and redeem his error.

His statistics since moving to the Foxes place him among some of the Premier League’s most accomplished players, and under Brendan Rodgers, he has continued to flourish.

“He’s given me a wider view of where this is supposed to go to make me even better,” Ndidi said of Rodgers in a recent interview in LCFCQ Issue 11.

“The statistics are okay, but I can be better than that – that’s the way I can explain it.”

Copyright © 2024 Completesports.com All rights reserved. The information contained in Completesports.com may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the prior written authority of Completesports.com.


  • Oluwafemi 4 years ago

    A very strong Nigerian Midfield Maestro with intimidating statistics

  • Chairmanfemi 4 years ago

    My prayer is that Rohr accepts the Contract proposals not minding the rubbish those ones wrote in it to start with. Then after that, I pray and hope what am about to opine now will somehow gets to his ears!

    Eventually when the Eagles team up again, it’s high time COACH GERNOT ROHR change his formation to a 4-1-4-1 formation as adopted by Ndidi club boss Brendan Rodgers. Ndidi alone is the King of the Midfield. He gives attackers confidence going forward. And Rodgers noticed this thereby switched there pattern of play to this formation leaving Ndidi alone in the Defensive Midfield with Tielemans and Madison surging forward in attack.

    Super Eagles have always been known with Attacking flair and Coach Rohr has brought that back in the last few years but I feel it would be more better if we adopt same formation. If we have our normal backline of 4(any of the defenders) and Ndidi in the DMF role with ARIBO and Our On/Off Great passer IWOBI in the Attacking role flanked by Chukwueze and Samuel Kalu with Victor Oshimen leading the lines…What would you make of the Super Eagles? A great team I tell you! Thankfully, We have ARIBO who is also familiar with DMF duties and he can just help track back whenever they loose the ball upfront sometimes. Africa and the World will dance to the Eagles tune if this is done cuz we now have loads of Interesting and Committed young attackers in the team.

    My one cent!

    • Na so…… I gbadun your entry sir. May you never see your back without using a mirror!

    • Dr. Drey 4 years ago

      And what happens if our opponents line up a 3-5-2, cut out our wingers and seize control of the midfield….??

      • Chairmanfemi 4 years ago

        @Dr.Drey; The 4-1-4-1 formation can easily be reversed to a 4-2-3-1 formation with Aribo coming to join Ndidi in the Defensive Midfield and even Crazy defensive 4-4-2 as Atletico showed us against Liverpool. Iwobi plays supporting striker to Oshimen up front while Aribo falls back or better still Another Striker comes in to support Oshimen up front and the 3-5-2 of the opponent will get tamed! The midfield you said they captured will be back to normal. So what else Oga?? Note: I opined earlier! Not saying Am a Gaffer

    • The formation you suggested is great, however, a dynamic team does not play a rigid formation, they should be robust and play according to strength of the opponent, for instance, we can’t adopt the same formation for an opponent like Brazil and Togo, or Sudan, their attacking strength is wide apart. If you notice the Leicester city you site as an example, they lost 80% of matches not involving Ndidi, because they don’t have his kind of player on bench, therefore being override in the midfield by the opposition. You plan your formation according to your opponents and your players strengths and abilities. @ChairmanFemi, well said though, just pointing out my own understanding of the game

      • Chairmanfemi 4 years ago

        Absolutely spot on @Ola.

        I suggested the 4-1-4-1 obviously because the Topic centers around WILFRED NDIDI. We all know, no one does the Job like him in the DMF when he’s not there. I think the only person that came close to his great Intercepting, Winning aerial duels and Releasing passes forward quickly was MIKEL AGU(especially against Uganda in that Friendly @Asaba). I think if he works harder and commits less error, he’s the Next Ndidi.

        So as for the formation, It’s centers around him. When he’s not there, we can still have the formation just that the Other AMF will be made to understand that he will be carrying out a Dual job of Attacking and Defending and I used Aribo as an example. So I think it’s still balanced

  • The formation is master class @Chairmanfemi

  • Thanks Chairmanfemi, you have got me excited about formations all of a sudden.

    I strongly suggest that a 4-2-1-3 formation for the Super Eagles at the moment as this will take optimal advantage of the skillet of our present crop of players regardless of opposition.

    Uzoho or Akpeyi are highly experienced goalkeepers, any of them will do.

    Full backs:

    The full backs will be manned by Aina to the right and Collins to the left. Against world class oppositions, they will be expected to overlap less or with extreme caution!


    Balogun and Ekong would be preferred first or Ajayi and Omeruo could come in if either is injured. I will expect Ajayi, Omeruo or Ekong to be goal threats when we have set pieces. I will also expect any of these 3 to venture forward when none of the full backs is overlapping. The lone centre forward should expect sporadic support from a centre back.

    Defensive Midfielder:

    Ndidi stays deeper with Aribo being the more centre midfielder. They should really complement each other and use effective communication to determine who provides cover when the other either ventures forward or is pulled out of position.

    Etebo will definitely come in in 60 minutes for Aribo to inject his own interpretation of centre midfield role into the fray in more competitive games. In less competitive ones, I will throw Ramon Azeez.

    Azeez, Aribo and Etebo interpret centre midfield role differently. Azeez has an eye to run into pockets of space to score the odd goals or provide driven passes. Aribo is combative, direct and like a winger playing in the middle; he complements a defensive midfielder better that the other 2. Etebo is another version of Aribo but with less vision. He covers a lot of grounds and makes his presence felt (but doesn’t always seem to complement a defensive midfielder seamless).

    Attacking Midfielder: I may want to experiment Cyriel Dessers here to see how well he adapts. The automatic option is Iwobi but he can be quite centrifugal in orientation (drifting away from the centre towards the left or right). I would still seek a player who is in a natural habitat in the centre to feed wingers and run into space (Ramon Azeez is less centrifugal but isn’t solid enough to stamp his authority in that position).

    Wings (wide) :
    The wings will be manned by Moses Simon and Samuel Chukwueze with Musa destined to be introduced in 70 minutes for Simon. There is also a role for Samuel Kalu or Henry Onyekuru (once he is back to his best)

    In the course of the game, there will be inter-changing of positions and they should expect support from overlapping fullbacks and expect to support them too. The calibre of the opposition will dictate the nature of support to be adopted by game.

    Lone Centre Forward:

    Victor Osimhen has a huge job on his hands (of feet) not only to score goals but to drop deep and feed his wingers who would be expected to run in behind, cut inside and almost assume the position of support strikers on occasions.

    Sometimes in the box 18 with the ball, he should be ready to feed his on rushing wingers. His position should also serve as that of a decoy to mask the primary threats who are the wingers, fullbacks or attacking midfielder.

    In effect, he is a scorer and creator of goal scoring opportunities.

    Iheanacho will definitely come in in 80 minutes to the give opposition defenders something else to think about for the remaining 10 minutes. His brief would be to be the creative spark that would further turbocharge the wingers into running into space with his insightful, neat and delicate passes. He should try to hold on to the ball to win free kicks and slow down the tempo of the game (if we are winning).

    • Jones 4 years ago

      Azeez wasn’t playing regularly before laliga was suspended

    • @Deo sorry to say you can’t be a good coach .
      I see no different with your formation and that of Rohr, very defensive.

      The best form of defence is attack, so chairmanfemi’s 4141 formation looks better to me.

      • Thanks Mr Goal, I have no plans to give up the day job anytime soon. 🙂

    • Good. But you did not consider other emerging options for full backs. Then azeez can’t play ahead of iwobi.

  • Chairmanfemi 4 years ago

    Always Masterclass with his approach @deo. Thanks for your contribution.

    My only concern is maximizing the Brilliant Attack Minded young players we now have in the Super Eagles to attack and keep attacking and not too Defensive. When we attack, the opponent can surely not think of attacking back or coming out. Instead, they will hope to first deal with the Problem they are facing in their half. Someone rightly said, Best form of Defense is Attack. In some few occasions, we’ve seen Coach Rohr defend too much with his 4-2-3-1 while the players ought to have been attacking the supposedly waeaker opponents instead. That’s why I thought of the 4-1-4-1. While we’re under pressure, we can then come back to 4-2-1-3

  • Collins id 4 years ago

    I think we still need a central midfielder to complement Ndidi in the super eagles midfield. I dont think aribo is good enough in that role. Aribo is very skillfull and good in goal scoring but he doesnt have the technics and vision of a central midfield i rather play him as attacking midfielder coming in for iwobi or playing ahead of iwobi depends on form but i dont think playing both player at same time is good enough for us. Its too kiding and got no class. Etebo is not bad too but he lacks decision making and technical dicipline to mentain a big game. Azeez i cant guarantee him in a big stage aswell becos he failed xpectation in 2014 wcup. I think the perfect person for that role is Ogenyi onazi, he is the man we have been missing in the engine room, he is got quality, vision, and class also enough expirience. I miss his long range passes and possesion of the midfield. I know many people will not agree on this but it so unfair to onazi for rohr to invite abdulahi as defensive midfielder ahead of a well established super eagles midfielder like onazi, when i think of him i remember gathuso, de jong, de rossi and vidal these are his types. When rohr came in, onazi was classic in all the early victories in wcup qualifications, we dont suffer for posession when onazi plays he knows how to retain the ball and controls the tempo of the game. After that England game of which he loses the ball while mikel was not helpful aswell,leading to a goal, coach rohr has dumped the great Onazi, etebo is learning to be a central midfielder, aribo is attacking midfielder. Onazi is a central mildfielder trained by italian giant lazio. If rohr need maturity and stability in the midfield then he Should bring back onazi,

  • Collins id 4 years ago

    In addition, its not the formation of rohr that makes us defensive it is the inability to posses the ball for a long time therefor loosing it to the opposing team that is why we defends often becos we cant afford to watch them score us like that. Betwin aribo etebo iwobi and ndidi i see them loses the ball so easily most times. And infront of the opponents 18 yards they loses patience too often cousing them to lose the ball unexpectedly or even unreasonably, this is not good enough for big games bcos the more u loses the ball the more u are bound to defend. They most not conclude or intentions expecially wen its not a sure one, they should always keep the ball by playing backwards, and build with patients and confidents on the ball this is guadiola secrets dont lose the ball easily by giving try ur luck passes or trying to make un call dribbling, every ball lost to good team will cost ur team. If u look at argentina game we loses the ball toomuch also against algeria we loses the ball almost every munites there for causing danger to our defenders and keeper, in big games even attackers keeps the ball save when they know there is no way of scoring( one of osihmens good character) our wingers must learn to keep the ball too. U most bot try all shoots or force dribble it coses danger to ur team and u will lose big games.

  • Collins id 4 years ago

    They must not conclude all intentions or try all shots that will obviously give away the ball. We must learn to be selfish with the ball as a team. That is how to succeed a big opponent

  • Thanks Mr. AG (aka Achieving Greatness).

    The two full backs I mentioned above would be my preferred option at the moment to start. I am particularly happy with Aina’s overlapping abilities and deliveries at the final third. His eloquent cut back for Ighalo against Burundi at the Afcon wasn’t only breathtaking but also one in an expanding chain of signature ball distributions. Collins as well offers goal threats with his pace an eye for goals.

    With those 2 fluid attack minded full-backs and 3 forwards (entailing wingers who can cut in to assume support striker roles), I feel that my proposed formation is way more attacking in orientation than it seems to the naked eye.

    Both are also focused and effective in the primary responsibility of defending if they have to venture forward less against technically astute oppositions.

    I refuse to see Awaziem as a right back option. I think he did exceptionally well when asked to provide makeshift cover at the Afcon but his natural habitat remains centre defence.

    Other Full backs:

    More to your point, I still see Brian Idowu as a viable left back option. Seeing him in the Champions League reveals a modern day left back with pace, passing abilities and defensive discipline.

    I am also hopeful that Ebuehi will be back from injury. Ihuemen Udoh is another promising prospect should he start playing regularly in Israel. There is Zaidu Sanusi who plays for Santa Clara in the Portuguese Primera Liga – quality left back.

    Rather than Awaziem, I will consider Kingsley Ehizibue whose exploits in the German Bundesliga speak to a sturdy right back whose attacking acuity is only matched by his defensive dexterity. It will be awesome to see what this lad brings to the Super Eagles table.

    Musa Muhammed is also not lost to me. Sadly, in these days when we have players serving in more glamorous leagues, playing in Croatia presents Muhammed a distinct disadvantage. However, he now plays very regularly. He is fit and sharp and can be trusted to put in a decent shift if ever given the rare opportunity to kit up for the Super Eagles again.

    It is also on record that Semi Ajayi is an option for the right fullback position. Omeruo and Ndidi have both been deployed by Rohr in the right fullback position when we got desperate in the past. Onazi played that role at the 2013 Afcon and he hasn’t retired.

    Please let me know of other viable fullback options.


Update cookies preferences