Leicester defender Caglar Soyuncu is 'a defender made for the modern game' - Martin Keown analysis

By Martin KeownFormer England defender and MOTD2 pundit
Match of the Day 2 analysis

The more I see of Leicester defender Caglar Soyuncu, the more I like him.

He is only 23 but the Turkey international looks like a defender who is made for the demands of the modern game - agile, aggressive and good in the air, but also brave on the ball too.

Soyuncu is not the tallest defender at 6ft 1in but he has got a very good spring. On the ground, he gets in the faces of attackers and he also never panics when he is in possession.

Whatever situation he is in, he never really looks troubled to me.

Leicester defender Caglar Soyuncu
Soyuncu made only four league starts for Leicester last season after joining from German side Freiburg for £19m in August 2018, and did not make a first-team appearance for more than three months at the start of 2019. This season he has been an ever-present for the Foxes in the Premier League

We saw very little of him at Leicester last season when he was fourth choice behind Harry Maguire, Jonny Evans and Wes Morgan after joining from Freiburg, but Foxes boss Brendan Rodgers obviously spotted something he liked in training.

It was refreshing to see Leicester go with a young, relatively untried player rather than spend big on a replacement for Maguire when he left to join United for £80m in the summer.

Giving Soyuncu his chance looks like a very good decision now, with Leicester flying high in the table and boasting the joint-best defensive record in the Premier League.

I am a fan of their entire back four, but Soyuncu and the experienced Evans have formed a brilliant partnership at the centre of their defence, as good as anything you will see in the Premier League at the moment.

Both of them were magnificent in Sunday's 2-0 win over Crystal Palace, and it was not just their defending that impressed me at Selhurst Park.

They were dominant in both boxes - Soyuncu scored their opening goal but Evans also went close to scoring a couple of times as well.

Caglar Soyuncu heads Leicester in front against Palace
Soyuncu's header against Palace was his first goal for Leicester

Ndidi offers Foxes extra security

It was incredible for Leicester to beat Southampton 9-0 in their previous league game but their gritty performance against Palace was probably just as satisfying for Rogers.

Everyone has - rightly - been talking about the Foxes as a real attacking force but the defensive responsibility throughout their team is also first class.

Sunday's display in a tough and very tight game against a team who were never going to just collapse was a great demonstration of why they are third in the table, and why they are well equipped to stay there.

Snapshot showing Leicester's starting XI v Crystal Palace: Schmeichel, Pereira, Evans, Soyuncu, Chilwell; Ndidi; Perez, Tielemans, Maddison, Barnes; Vardy

Palace dropped deep and made it difficult for Leicester to play their usual free-flowing style, but the Foxes always had a solid base at the back.

Part of the reason for that was their full-backs, Ben Chilwell and Ricardo Pereira, did not look to get forward very much early on, but they also had the security of Wilfred Ndidi sitting in front of their back four.

I liked the way Ndidi popped in and out between his two centre-backs when needed, and also went out wide to deal with any issues when his full-backs needed help. He covered a lot of ground.

Graphic showing Wilfred Ndidi's 69 touches against Palace
Leicester's Wilfred Ndidi made 69 touches against Palace, and won 18 duels - along with team-mate Ayoze Perez, the most of any player on the pitch. Ndidi also made eight tackles and won possession 10 times, both game-high contributions

With Ndidi in the team, his central defenders know they only have to worry about balls in behind them because if a team tries to play to feet in front of them, Ndidi will almost always be there.

When he's not, Soyuncu is very mobile so he will come out to deal with any danger more than Evans does. It is a combination that works.

Together they helped to restrict Palace's threat and also acted as a launch-pad for Leicester's attacks and the kind of attractive football they are now becoming synonymous with.

Foxes are massive favourites against Arsenal

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We are 11 games in now and the Premier League is beginning to settle down - we have got an idea of how the season is going to play out.

I still don't think anyone will end up finishing close to Liverpool or Manchester City because their quality and depth is so well established.

But it is hard to back against the rest of the current four staying where they are, based on what we have seen so far.

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard is a novice in this situation but look how well he has taken to it with the run they are on - a club record seven successive away wins.

Snapshot of the top of the Premier League table: 1st Liverpool, 2nd Man City, 3rd Leicester, 4th Chelsea, 5th Arsenal & 6th Sheff Utd
Leicester have made their best start to a top-flight season in their 135-year history. The Foxes have conceded only eight goals, the joint-best record in the top-flight along with Sheffield United

Leicester are flying too, only two points behind City, and it is significant that they are six points above Arsenal, who they play at the King Power Stadium next Saturday.

I make the Foxes massive favourites going into that game - in terms of form, and the way both teams are playing at the moment, they should be very confident of winning it.

It is not a situation I would have expected at the start of the season but this is the perfect game for Leicester - and a chance for them to put even more distance between them and one of their so-called rivals for the top four.

Martin Keown was speaking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan.

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