William Hill - Bet £10, Get £30 in Free Bets!

After an excellent season with Leicester City.

Danny Drinkwater recently found out that England’s manager, Roy Hodgson, had selected him for national team duty.

A look at Danny Drinkwater, Leicester City's 'puppet master'Drinkwater first heard about the call-up during a routine training session at Leicester, and Jamie Vardy, one of his teammates, described that moment. “It’s great news. Danny was over the moon but it didn’t affect him one bit,” Vardy noted. “He carried on in the game and was pinging balls about all over the place as he always does.”

In so many ways, this is exactly what one would expect of Drinkwater. His range of passing has been exemplary throughout the current Premier League campaign, and it’s one of the major reasons why the former Manchester United prospect has finally earned a chance at international level. Equally, Vardy’s comments about Drinkwater remaining unfazed also sound about right, as in the wake of his long-awaited call-up, he produced another strong performance for Leicester the following weekend.

It would have been easy for Drinkwater to be nervous about that match, not only because the clash against Crystal Palace had plenty of significance to the title race, but also because Hodgson was in the stands to see it. This was a big occasion for the now 26-year-old midfielder, but instead of being overawed, he was his usual self in the centre of the pitch. He played the role of “puppet master,” as Vardy would put it, launching long and angled passes all over the pitch, trying to dictate the direction and speed of Leicester’s play with that well-used right boot.

He is, after all, the club’s deep-lying play maker, the guy who brings about so many of their lethal counter-attacks, and after just 18 minutes at Selhurst Park, he illustrated this in typically economical fashion. The move started with Vardy, who came towards the ball, received it and subsequently played a sharp lay-off for Drinkwater. As the ball rolled back towards him, Drinkwater noticed Leicester’s right-winger, Riyad Mahrez, charging in behind the Palace defence, so he did what he does best. He played a cutting through ball to put the Algerian international in on goal, and although Mahrez managed to open up his body and produce a left-footed shot, Eagles goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey denied him with an exceptional save.

That wouldn’t be Leicester’s moment, but they didn’t have to wait too much longer to find the breakthrough. Mahrez, as it turned out, would be the man to find it, and Drinkwater, as he so often is, would be the primary instigator. Firstly, he kicked off the move by dropping deep and hitting a ball over the top to find Mark Albrighton, the left-sided player in Leicester’s front four. The move continued to develop until the ball eventually made its way back to Drinkwater, at which point he played a sharp vertical pass into the area. Vardy would latch onto it and play the ball back across goal. It soon rolled into the path of Mahrez, and determined to make up for his earlier miss, the prolific winger would provide the Foxes with what turned out to be the match-winner.

Drinkwater may not have provided a direct assist and he may not have been the man on hand to apply the finishing touches to the attack, but he was the man who got things going. In many ways, this is what Leicester have perhaps come to expect from him, as while he has only accumulated four assists for the season, he is still incisive with his distribution. This is demonstrated by the fact that he hits 0.4 successful through balls per game, a figure which puts him up alongside the Premier League’s best. Indeed the other players who join him on 0.4 successful through balls per game include Cesc Fabregas, Alexis Sanchez, Philippe Coutinho and teammate Mahrez, while the only player above this group, on 0.5, is the league’s assist leader in Mesut Ozil.

That makes Drinkwater incisive in a different sense. He sits a little deeper, kick-starting moves to allow the likes of Mahrez and Vardy to finish them off. “He is the one who holds all the strings and makes sure he pulls everyone into the right places,” says Vardy. “He feeds the ball where it needs to go.” That may not mean finding the headlines on a regular basis with direct contributions to Leicester’s scoring, but as he highlighted with his “secondary assist” for the goal against Palace, he is often the architect behind so much of the club’s good work.

Throw in his impressive defensive contribution, as a central midfielder who averages 2.9 tackles per game, and what you’re left with is a player who has truly established himself at the top level this season. He’s done this alongside the tenacious Frenchman N’Golo Kante, his partner in the heart of Leicester’s midfield, and considering that the duo have had a huge part to play in propelling the Foxes to the top of the table, it was excellent to see that both players received international call-ups in the wake of their imposing performances.

For Drinkwater, the call-up is the culmination of years of hard work, firstly as a youngster at Manchester United, then on a series of loan spells away from Old Trafford and, finally, at Leicester City. And though the player himself may have been displeased to leave United initially, he believes the experience has shaped him into the footballer he is today. “It was low,” he said of being sold by the Red Devils, “but look what has come of it.”

What has come of it is a tilt at Premier League glory and, based on a slew of exceptional displays for Claudio Ranieri, the opportunity to face off, on Saturday, against the World Cup-winning Germany. It may have been a meteoric rise, but Drinkwater isn’t frightened of the prospect. “I am not daunted, no,” he said. “I would say I am more excited than anything. I am a football fan. I have watched players like that week in, week out, so to play against them would be an exciting experience.”

For the Manchester-born midfielder, this is just another challenge attached to being a professional footballer, and it’s one that he’ll probably take on the same way as he would any other: by pinging long balls to the teammates in front of him.

Originally published at licencetoroam.net

Post written by Will Stratmann, Twitter: @willstratmann
for Licence to Roam, Blog: licencetoroam.net, Twitter: @licencetoroam

Note: The views expressed within this blog post are those of the contributing author, and may not necessarily reflect those of MatchDayApp Limited, its representatives or associated partners.

Would you like to contribute to the MatchDayApp Blog? If so, please take a look at our guest blogger guidelines and get in touch.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,