Before the Premier League went on hiatus, Leicester City’s James Maddison experienced something of a slowdown.
Wildly productive over the first half of the season, he had failed to register a goal or assist since scoring against Newcastle on New Year’s Day. He may still have been highly influential in midfield but, by his standards, he was on a barren run.
There were no goals or assists against Watford on Saturday afternoon but, still, Maddison’s performance suggested that there’s nothing for Brendan Rodgers to worry about.
In a fiercely contested game which both sides had their chances to win, Maddison stood out. There was a moment early in the first half which showcased Maddison at his best, Wilfried Ndidi dragging down the ball in the midfield and teeing him up to bypass the entire Watford team with a hooked pass straight to Jamie Vardy.
Though Vardy could only smash a shot wide, it was one of those moments – and there have been many this season – where Maddison’s vision and split-second decision-making seem to be on another level entirely.
There was another trademark pass just before half-time, Maddison slashing the ball with the outside of his boot up the left wing only for Craig Dawson to smother Vardy’s run. Not long after the restart, he threaded a fantastic ball to Youri Tielemans only for Watford’s defence to snuff out the danger.
Three months on the sidelines certainly haven’t dulled his intuition or ability to play effortlessly between the lines.
It took a while for Maddison’s set-piece deliveries to find their mark but, once he got into his rhythm, he started to cause problems for a Watford side with a noticeable height advantage over their opponents.
On the 60-minute mark he picked out Caglar Soyuncu on the charge in the box, but the hulking centre-back failed to connect when he could have powered home.
With his teammates struggling to put the ball in the back of the net, Maddison did his best to finish the job himself. After seeing several shots blocked he forced Ben Foster into a diving save late in the second half, following up after Marc Albrighton had hit the post and lashing a low effort towards the bottom corner only for Foster to push wide.
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Maddison was a bystander for Ben Chilwell’s thunderous opener, beautifully teed up by
Demarai Gray, before Dawson lashed home an equaliser right at the death.
Despite the disappointment for Leicester, Maddison did enough to suggest he can reprise his role as the main man in midfield between now and the end of the season. If he keeps playing like this, the goals and assists will return before long.