From St Mary’s – James Maddison had an eventful summer.
Not only was his beautiful mug slapped up on billboards across the country as part of a campaign for a well-known supplier of questionable clobber, he was also the subject of a protracted transfer saga involving Arsenal.
The story dominated social and print media for the first two thirds of the window, with Arsenal eventually turning their noses up at Leicester’s eye-watering valuation and settling on Martin Odegaard.
Since then, the two parties have endured remarkably contrasting fortunes. Arsenal seem to be on the up. Their young squad, though still very rough around the edges, seems like great fun to be a part of.
Meanwhile, Leicester have been enduring a frustrating season. Injuries and poor form, coupled with a rise in expectations and spending after a terrific few years, even led to the supporters jeering their side off the pitch after a recent defeat to European champions Chelsea.
No player has personified the Foxes’ drop off more than Maddison.
Just a few years back, there were actual, 100% real conversations between serious football thinkers over whether he or drinking buddy Jack Grealish was the better player.
These days, Grealish is the most expensive British footballer of all time, while Maddison is not even a guaranteed starter for a stuttering Leicester side.
At least, he wasn’t until recently.
You see, Maddison has been undergoing a mini-revival of late. He netted in Leicester’s vital Europa League victory over Legia Warsaw on Thursday and then stole the show to ruin Claudio Ranieri’s return to the King Power Stadium, popping up with a pair of assists and another goal.
Against Southampton on Wednesday night, Maddison lit up the bleak south coast sky, putting in another display that suggested we might be witnessing a fully-blown, hairspray-powered renaissance – not just a mini-revival.
Right from the get go it was clear Maddison was positioning himself as the his side’s sole creative conductor in the absence of Youri Tielemans. His body language was expressive, as it always is, and at times he seemed to be attempting to pull him teammates into the positions he desired using telekinesis.
He also found space between the lines of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s rigid 4-4-2 structure with ease and always looked to make something happen when he received the ball.
Thus, it was no surprise that he was at the centre of Leicester’s equaliser, after they had gone 1-0 down inside just three minutes following some criminal defending from a set piece – again.
Picking up the ball on the right-hand side, he somehow managed to wriggle into enough space to get a cross in. Southampton failed to clear and eventually Jonny Evans produced the archetypal centre-back’s finish to make it 1-1.
Maddison dropped reminders of his joyous talent on the ball throughout proceedings and got the goal he deserved just after the break. Again, his close control was key with the midfielder picking the ball up on the left this time, sitting his marker down with a wicked fake shot and powering past Alex McCarthy.
Twice Maddison created a platform for his teammates to secure the three points but they could not thank him for his efforts, with Harvey Barnes and Jamie Vardy missing huge chances at the end to win it.
Although this was not a vintage Foxes performance, their playmaker-in-chief can come away very satisfied with his night’s work.
His magic is going to be keen with Leicester having to contend with potentially season-defining games against Aston Villa and Napoli over the next eight days.
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