Wilfred Ndidi has been a revelation since joining Leicester City from Genk in January for £15 million. The Nigerian came in as a direct replacement for N’Golo Kante and succeeded where Daniel Amartey and Nampalys Mendy had failed.
He may have missed out on the Goal Africa Team of the Year, and the Foxes may have encountered some difficulty recently, with the midfielder sent off against Crystal Palace, but there's no disputing that Ndidi can look back on a superb year in the Premier League.
His efficiency in tackles and aerial duels is why he has been a mainstay with the Foxes even after changing managers three times since his arrival. As the 2016 champions have climbed the league over 2017, Ndidi's seamless adaptation to life in England, his ability to remain composed in the demanding context of the Premier League, and his dynamism in the heart of the park have all stood out.
2015 - Wilfred Ndidi is the first player to be sent off in the Premier League on his birthday since Dwight Gayle (Crystal Palace) vs West Ham United on October 17th 2015. Card. pic.twitter.com/ErPQ4pGttB — OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 16, 2017
The recent setback against Palace was Ndidi’s first career red card, and while it wasn’t the perfect way to celebrate a milestone birthday, new Foxes boss Claude Puel refused to blame the powerhouse and instead, reaffirmed the role he plays for the East Midlanders.
“Of course it is always harsh," Puel told the club's website. "I didn’t see a replay, but I think it was too little fall, maybe and it is harsh to lose a player like Ndidi because he is a crucial, valuable player.
"His work is fantastic and without Ndidi it is difficult with a player less, difficult to come back."
Ndidi’s importance to Leicester can’t be underestimated and Puel was right in his assertions about how difficult it would be without him on the field.
The former Nath Boys Academy graduate had played every minute of every league game this term and though Leicester have improved since Puel took over after a shaky start under Craig Shakespeare, Ndidi has remained very solid in midfield.
The 14-time capped Nigerian International has made 77 tackles in the Prem this term which is the most of any player, and before his sending off, had received just one yellow.
Ndidi had made 22 more tackles than the league’s next best in Idrissa Gueye and Pablo Zabaleta, yet both the Senegal and Argentine have a combined 10 yellow cards. It's testament to his efficiency and discipline.
Since Ndidi's sending off, Leicester's standards have slumped, with the Foxes falling to defeat against Palace, drawing with Manchester United and losing against both Watford and Liverpool.
The midfielder wasn't absent for any of those fixtures, having served his suspension in a League Cup clash against Manchester City, and while he was off the pace against the Red Devils and against the Merseysiders this weekend, he delivered a fine showing against Watford and was unfortunate to have been on the losing side.
Ndidi was also unfortunate to have missed out on the Goal Africa Team of the Year, and on another year, had it not been for the excellence of Hakim Ziyech, Naby Keita and Jean Michael Seri, he would have made the cut.
Indeed, while 2017 may be ending on a low key for the Nigeria international, he can look back on a remarkable 12 months of achievements with the Foxes and the Super Eagles.