Someone at Leicester has an eye for centre-backs — and Wesley Fofana is the club’s latest success story.
Harry Maguire, Jonny Evans and Caglar Soyuncu have all thrived for the Foxes in recent years. But when Fofana arrived last summer, few could ever have anticipated just how quickly the youngster would adapt to the Premier League.
While his £36.5million fee seemed extortionate for a player with just 30 career appearances to his name, Leicester’s recruitment department have unearthed yet another gem.
Having eclipsed Soyuncu and Evans in Brendan Rodgers’ pecking order, 20-year-old Fofana is now reportedly being monitored by several of Europe’s top clubs.
Ahead of tonight’s clash with West Brom, we take a closer look at why the young Frenchman is earning so many admiring glances.
The Leicester No3 has been a mainstay in the side since his move from Saint-Etienne and has played 30 games in all competitions this season — despite missing a spell with a thigh injury.
Fofana has looked comfortable playing in a back three or a four-man defence, with Rodgers switching between the two frequently.
So good has his form been in 2020-21, team-mate Evans claimed Fofana can become one of the world’s best in his position.
He said: "You can tell he's going to be a top-class player. He's got all the attributes — comfortable on the ball, aggressive in his defending.
"He's confident and seems sure of himself and I think when you see the games he has come in, he's played with a real maturity."
How he compares
In comparison with some of the Premier League’s top centre-backs this season — Ruben Dias, John Stones, Maguire and Thiago Silva — Fofana boasts better numbers for tackles (2.13), interceptions (2.53) and possessions won (6.63) per 90 minutes.
The Leicester defender is also a threat on the ball and often looks to advance into the opposition half.
He has registered 0.61 completed take-ons per 90 in the league this season, which is more than the four centre-backs mentioned earlier.
Furthermore, Fofana has yet to make a single mistake leading to an opposition shot this term.
Areas for improvement
Despite a splendid first campaign in England, there are certain aspects Fofana will need to develop if he is to become one of the league’s best defenders.
The youngster’s tackling stats are impressive but he has also lost more challenges (0.66) and been dribbled past (0.6) significantly more times per 90 minutes than Dias, Stones, Maguire and Silva.
Fofana also loses more aerial duels than the quartet and could be more composed on the ball.
He has been dispossessed 0.41 times per 90 minutes, more than double his defensive counterparts, and has the lowest average passing accuracy (85.69%).
Youth on his side
However, it is worth noting that the four other centre-backs have an average age of 28.
With experience, defenders tend to make fewer mistakes, learn when to commit and improve their positional play which, in turn, has a big impact on the number of tackles they have to make.
Look at the developments in Stones’ game this season after years of repeated slip-ups.
If Fofana is performing at this level now, there is no telling where he could be in a few years.
Leicester’s acquisition of the young centre-back has proved a real coup for the club.
His tackling and interception statistics are superb for such a raw defender, while a little more composure on the ball and fewer rash moments could see Fofana reach the game’s very summit.
And when the Frenchman eventually moves on for big money, you can be sure Leicester's recruitment department will have a replacement ready and waiting.