In Focus: Tielemans is primed to help Leicester outfox Spartak
Youri Tielemans is already assured of legendary status at Leicester — but his reputation continues to grow.
The Belgian star was responsible for scoring the only goal against Chelsea at Wembley in May as the Foxes lifted the FA Cup for the first time.
And he has been equally as influential in front of goal so far this season, netting three times in the Premier League.
Ahead of tonight’s Europa League clash with Spartak Moscow, we take a look at why Tielemans, 24, is going from strength to strength.
Leicester’s lucky charm
With two goals and an assist in his last four appearances, Tielemans is a man in form.
Leicester won each of the games in which he either scored or provided and two of those victories came by a one-goal margin — 2-1 in the Premier League at Brentford and 4-3 at Spartak.
In fact, the 47-cap international has been directly involved in six goals across six separate matches this term, of which Leicester have won three and drawn one.
A glowing appraisal from his boss
Speaking ahead of last Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to Arsenal, Brendan Rodgers was full of praise for Tielemans.
The Foxes boss said: "He is only going to get better. An incredible professional.
"His mindset is to work at the highest level. He’s progressing and that’s what you want to see in your players.
“His job is to create goals and score goals, but he’s proven himself to battle physically in the league. He’s really worked on that aspect of his game.”
Rodgers also described the former Monaco man as “one of Europe's top midfielders”, reflecting the esteem in which he is held at Leicester.
Picking up where he left off
Tielemans’ strong start is really just a continuation of his excellent 2020-21, which was capped off with that momentous strike in the FA Cup final.
Since the beginning of last season in the Premier League, only eight midfielders have scored more goals than his nine — while he is also inside the top 10 midfielders for total shots over that period (72).
With three goals already this term at a rate of 0.3 per 90 minutes, he is well on course to smash his single-season league record for the Foxes of six in 2020-21.
Filling a void?
With those six goal involvements so far, Tielemans is over halfway to his Leicester best of 10, which he also set last season.
Across last season and this term, only Jamie Vardy has made it into double figures for assists, having set up 10 goals in the Premier League and Europa League over that period.
So there is a need for a dependable playmaker in the middle of the park — and perhaps Tielemans, who has provided seven assists in those two competitions during that period, could be the man to resolve it.
While his contribution in the final third naturally stands out, the important work Tielemans does off the ball cannot be underestimated — as Rodgers alluded to.
For example, only eight Premier League players have attempted more tackles than Tielemans’ 104 since the start of last season.
But what is more crucial is he regularly wins the ball where it counts, namely in the middle third where he regains possession an average of 3.83 times per 90, placing him 29th in the division for 2020-21 and 2021-22 combined.
That tenacity, coupled with his ability to pick a pinpoint pass into threatening positions, makes him one of the key cogs in this Leicester side.
All of these attributes create a multi-functional midfielder who affects the game in all areas of the pitch.
As a result, it is no surprise that Tielemans has drawn admirers from both the Premier League and on the continent.
Although his contract does not expire until 2023, the Belgian has to this point refused an extension, which may mean his days at the King Power Stadium are numbered.
But until then, the Foxes faithful will hope to see their star talent continue to rise.