Premier League

Iborra Can Be Pivotal To Leicester Revival

 • by Matt Gault
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Leicester City drew 0-0 at Bournemouth on Saturday, but only just. The Foxes left the Vitality Stadium knowing they had just about survived to earn a point.

After another deeply dispiriting display during Leicester were often outplayed by Eddie Howe’s men, it gives manager Craig Shakespeare plenty to think about heading into the international break.

Shakespeare will be worried about how his side were consistently exposed by the Cherries. Had it been a different day or a side with a more ruthless edge up front, it could have been a heavy defeat for the champions of two seasons ago.

However, they can be thankful for a point, and they can be equally thankful that Vicente Iborra, signed from Sevilla in the summer, is finally fit. The 29-year-old made his Foxes league debut against Bournemouth and undoubtedly added a degree of measure and assurance to the midfield.

The Spaniard’s first involvement after coming on for the injured Andy King at half-time was a crucial challenge in his six-yard area to stop Andrew Surman after Christian Fuchs was dispossessed. From the resulting corner, Iborra was on hand to clear.

In fact, Iborra – although he is still finding his feet in the Premier League – was a portrait of composure in front of the back-four. As the anchor in a 4-1-4-1, Leicester looked safer with him in the side. Iborra also impressed when he completed 90 minutes in the Carabao Cup win over Liverpool two weeks ago.

These are good signs for Leicester and Shakespeare, who need all the experience and knowhow they can get if they are to haul themselves out of the relegation zone after just one win this season.

Having Iborra as the pivot could be key to tightening up this Leicester side. Wilfred Ndidi has looked out of sorts recently (he was dispossessed three times against Bournemouth) but having Iborra behind him should offer support.

One of the biggest questions for Shakespeare is a matter of what formation will best suit his side. A bold move would be switching to a 4-3-3, with Iborra as the deepest-lying midfielder, Ndidi ahead of him and either Matty James, King or Riyad Mahrez as the most advanced of the trio.

Of course, Shakespeare hinted that Iborra may be used higher up the pitch as he has played as an attacking midfielder for Sevilla.

“We have had regular chats with him about that. You can draw on your experience because he hasn’t just played as a number six, which is like a deep midfield player, he has also played as a No.10 in behind,” Shakespeare said last week via Reuters.

Iborra can obviously be a factor at the other end, proven by his eight goals for Sevilla last season which included a hat-trick coming off the bench in a 3-0 win over Celta Vigo.

With Mahrez – who was dropped for the Bournemouth game – Demarai Gray, Ahmed Musa and Kelechi Iheanacho all vying for starting spots further up the pitch, though, Shakespeare will almost certainly deploy Iborra as a central midfielder.

A 4-2-3-1, with Iborra and Ndidi sitting deep behind three attack-minded players – Mahrez, Iheanacho and Shinji Okazaki, for example – could also prove effective with Vardy as the lone striker.

It remains to be seen what will happen with the look of this Leicester side but, one thing’s for sure, Iborra represents a strong option in the middle of the pitch as Shakespeare looks to transform his team’s fortunes.