The Youri Tielemans, James Maddison combination has finally arrived.
A lot has been made in recent weeks about how much Leicester City have missed Tielemans. In truth, the results and performances have been poor with and without the Belgian. What Leicester have been missing – that emerged for the first time this season on Sunday – was the combination of their two most creative players. The James Maddison-Youri Tielemans axis can get them back on track.
The pair had started eight games together before they took Newcastle apart, but they were inconspicuous displays in which one or both of them fell short of the mark they have now rediscovered.
Maddison, by his own admission, was way off it at the end of last season and the start of the current campaign. He now has four goals and four assists in his last six games and is again showing the sort of form that had him in the mix with Mason Mount, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish for a coveted England place.
The stuff that makes Maddison Maddison was all on show against Newcastle. The passing, dribbling, first touch, finishing, and the diving… He’s very good at it – diving. Sticking a leg out and timing the movement of his upper body to kid the referee and most of us watching. Jamaal Lascelles can’t complain really. It wasn’t enough of a touch to bring Maddison down, and the Leicester man initiated the contact, but you can’t give these guys the opportunity. In this mood, Maddison will take every opportunity handed to him, as well as those he’s made for himself. His one-two with Patson Daka was simple but perfect, as was his finish for Leicester’s fourth.
Tielemans scored two on Sunday: one from the spot; one after a brilliant assist by Maddison; both emphatic finishes into the top corner. He made both look absurdly easy. But it’s his ability to take the ball on his back foot and play passes through the lines that makes him so dangerous, and Leicester such an attractive team to watch, particularly when Maddison is the recipient.
Both of them have wonderful vision and time on the ball due to their often immaculate first touches. They combine the ability to see passes most don’t and the ability to pull them off in a variety of ways: outside flicks like one particularly outstanding Maddison through ball for the Daka goal; driven balls with the laces to slice through opposition midfields, as Tielemans did with stunning accuracy and regularity.
Newcastle didn’t really test the ailing defence and another injury for Jonny Evans will be a massive worry for Brendan Rodgers, who still needs to find a solution at the back. The goalkeeper and centre-backs continue to play as though they have been thrown together. They appear on totally different wavelengths when defending in open play, and the mix of man-to-man and zonal marking from set pieces is continuing to cause chaos.
Leicester have had a frustrating start to the season, but now sit eighth, just six points off that last Champions League qualification spot. And the returning mojo of their great creators may well be enough to put them in the running.