Ndidi has led the Premier League for two season in tackles plus interceptions. Considering the fact he plays for a team that averages 54-percent possession, that’s pretty good. Playing often as a lone defensive midfielder means that he screens the back line almost all by himself, which requires as much work rate as it does intelligence. Since the beginning of last season, Ndidi has averaged 6.3 tackles plus interceptions per game (first in the Premier League), compared to Kante’s 4.3 in that time. Mind you, 4.3 tackles plus interceptions per game is very good, but Ndidi has been more than incredible, almost single handedly protecting Leicester’s back four.
Ndidi clears the ball when he needs to, but he often wins the ball back before it needs to be cleared, so it’s not surprising he doesn’t have high clearance numbers. He sits at 2.1 per game, compared to Kante’s 1.2. The 24-year-old averaged 0.4 blocked shots per game, compared to Kante’s 0.2. 0.4 blocked shots per game is quite good considering the fact he’s not a centerback, it goes to show just how much the Leicester midfielder contributes to the team. It also displays his positional intelligence. In fact, Ndidi ranks joint-second for blocked shots per game amongst Leicester players.
Ndidi gets dribbled past 1.5 times per game on average in the time under scrutiny, compared to Kante’s 1.1. This could be explained in many ways. One way is that Kante is involved in fewer defensive duels than Ndidi, and there’s simply less opportunities to be dribbled by. However, it’s not a complete surprise that a defensive midfielder gets dribbled past, the worry would be a defensive midfielder who gets dribbled past more than/as much as he isn’t. In Ndidi’s case for example, he leads the league in tackles and interceptions, but not nearly in dribbled past, so that’s very good. Defensive midfielders would probably not be able to avoid being dribbled past because of the position they play.
An important aspect of defending that needs to be highlighted is ground duels. Ndidi has averaged five ground duels per game since the beginning of last season, compared to Kante, who has averaged 3.8. This is only appropriate considering that Ndidi probably has more defending to do per game. It’s still impressive nevertheless, as Ndidi averages more successful ground duels per game than any Chelsea player in the period under scrutiny.
There’s more to the story though, as Ndidi is more involved in more ground duels per game than Kante, but is also winning more of them. Ndidi has contested 9.1 ground duels per game since the start of the 2019/20 season, winning 55 percent of them. Kante has contested 7.9 ground duels per game, winning 48 percent of them. This indicates that Ndidi doesn’t just win more duels simply because he attempts more. The numbers suggest that he’s better at winning duels, this isn’t a surprise given the differences in weight and height of the two players. Ndidi is taller at 185 cm compared to Kante’s 169 cm. Ndidi is also heavier, and probably stronger at 74 kg, compared to Kante’s 68 kg.