Leicester City: James Maddison could be better than Mahrez

James Maddison was one of the league's standout stars and earned a spot in the Team of the Year.


(Photo credit: fourthandfifteen)

Leicester City, yesterday, announced that they have completed the signing of James Maddison from Norwich City for a fee in the region of £20 million.

Maddison, 21, has agreed a five-year deal at the King Power Stadium and becomes the Foxes’ third summer signing, following in the footsteps of Jonny Evans and Ricardo Pereira.

James is a wonderful player who is one of the most exciting young talents in English football. – Leicester boss Claude Puel told the BBC.

One of the hottest prospects in the Championship, Maddison was in brilliant form for the Canaries last season, contributing 14 goals and eight assists as Norwich finished 14th.

Solving a problem

Leicester typically deploy a 4-4-2 system, with Jamie Vardy partnered by Shinji Okazaki up front, supported by the creative talents of Riyad Mahrez on the right flank.

They don’t usually operate with a number ten in their starting XI, but before Maddison, they didn’t have a player of his profile in the squad.

Mahrez, therefore, was relied on for his creativity, and it’s telling that he registered ten Premier League assists, three more than next best Marc Albrighton.

Maddison’s addition gives the Foxes a different way of playing. Rather than relying on chances coming from the flanks, Leicester can play through the middle – specifically Maddison – and start employing formations that utilise a central playmaker.

With Mahrez reportedly leaving the King Power this summer – and Maddison able to play on the right flank – this signing ensures Leicester aren’t left in the creative lurch.

Maddison & Mahrez compared

Mahrez is the more polished of the two, but he’s tailed off significantly after a phenomenal breakthrough season in which Leicester won the Premier League title. Maddison (8) mustered two fewer assists than the Algerian (10), but two more goals. 

KEY STAT: Mahrez directly contributed to 0.61 goals per game, whereas Maddison managed 0.5 goals or assists per game.

Both contributed directly to 22 goals in their respective league campaigns, but Maddison was more involved in all-round play.

For instance, he made 2.8 key passes per Championship game, compared to Mahrez’s 1.6, highlighting that Mahrez was often marginalised on the right flank.

Maddison, moreover, made 1.3 crosses per game – again more than Mahrez (1.0) – and had a better pass success rate (86.2%). The 21-year-old excels in ball retention, with passing and making through balls two of his best attributes.

KEY STAT: Maddison (1.3) was dispossessed fewer times per game than Mahrez (1.8).

He’s also confident in possession in terms of taking players on, and surprisingly made more dribbles per game (2.4) than Mahrez (2.3).

The future is bright

With Maddison joining Evans and Pereira coming through the doors of the King Power Stadium, Leicester have significantly strengthened their side ahead of the 2018/19 season.

Maddison, moreover, provides a focal point for Leicester’s attacking play and offers an alternative way of playing to that of previous systems, as a playmaker with both potential and longevity.

All for £20 million. An absolute bargain.

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Oli Stein

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Oli graduated from the University of Bristol with a degree in History and has worked with RealSport since September 2016.

Currently assistant football editor and Tottenham correspondent.

Follow him on Twitter: @steinoliver_

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