When any team loses one of their best players it’s unquestionably a big blow.
That was no different when Harry Maguire left Leicester to join Manchester United in a £80million deal back in August – making him the most expensive defender in world football.
In most cases you’d expect the selling team to delve into the transfer market to find a suitable replacement.
Brendan Rodgers, though, opted to give an opportunity to a player that was already on the Premier League side’s books – and his show of faith has been suitably rewarded.
Turkey international Caglar Soyuncu has grasped his opportunity with both hands, with his agile and aggressive defensive style making him a big hit with supporters.
‘Harry Maguire, we don’t need you.’ Even the staunchest Leicester supporters must have doubted themselves when they first sang that chant in support of their new hero.
Soyuncu has proved to be a ready-made replacement for Maguire at the heart of the Leicester defence alongside former Manchester United defender Jonny Evans, and the pair should partner each other again live on talkSPORT against Arsenal this weekend.
Soyuncu made just four league starts for Leicester last season after joining from German side Freiburg in a £19m in August 2018.
He was fourth in the pecking order in 2018/19, behind the aforementioned Maguire and Evans, as well as Wes Morgan.
Soyuncu also didn’t make a single first-team appearance for more than three months at the start of 2019, but this term he has been an ever-present for Rodgers’ men.
The Foxes are flying high and currently sit third in the Premier League, while they also boast the joint-second best defensive record in England’s top flight.
Arsenal legend Martin Keown is a huge admirer of the 23-year-old and says Soyuncu is ‘a defender made for the modern game’.
In his column for BBC Sport, he added: “The more I see of Leicester defender Caglar Soyuncu, the more I like him.
“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.”
The defensive hangover that many expected to occur in Maguire’s absence hasn’t transpired.
The England star, meanwhile, has experienced a complete contrast in fortunes at his new club, with United currently 10th in the table after a disastrous start to the season.
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On a personal level it has been an indifferent start to his own Old Trafford career, but the towering defender has backed himself to be a success at the Red Devils.
“In five or six years, judge me then – whether I have been a success at this club or not,” he said in an interview with the club’s official magazine Inside United last month.
“I do believe and am really confident that, in five or six years, I’ll be a success and I am sure we’ll have many, many good times here.”
So, how do Maguire and Soyuncu compare against each other this season?
With the help of Opta, talkSPORT.com has unravelled the Premier League stats concerning the pair so far this season below and they make for interesting reading.
Evidently, Soyuncu has made a seamless transition into the Leicester first-team this season and things haven’t gone to plan for Maguire at United to date.
That’s been represented by the former’s dominance in most defensive duels, including interceptions per game, clearances per game and blocks per game.
MAGUIRE VS SOYUNCU 2019/20 PREMIER LEAGUE STATS (PER 90 MINUTES)
League appearances: 11
Goals conceded per game: 1
Tackles won per game: 0.36
Fouls per game: 0.5
Interceptions per game: 1.5
Clearances per game: 4.1
Aerial duels won per game: 3.7
Blocks per game: 0.5
Dribbled past per game: 0.18
League appearances: 11
Goals conceded per game: 0.73
Tackles won per game: 1.8
Fouls per game: 2
Interceptions per game: 1.6
Clearances per game: 5.5
Aerial duels won: 3.6
Blocks per game: 0.6
Dribbled past per game: 0.73
Only newly-promoted Sheffield United have conceded fewer goals (eight) than the Foxes this season, although despite having a dreadful start to the season the Red Devils statistically have the fourth meanest defence.
On the whole though, it’s been a dream start to the 2019/20 season for Soyuncu – he couldn’t have done much more to endear himself to the Leicester fans.
Maguire, on the other hand, has plenty of work to do at Old Trafford but he’s certainly got the quality and credentials that back up to be a success for that football club.
So how does Soyuncu match up in comparison to the former Foxes hero last season when per game statistics from are taken into account?
Opta have provided us with all the essential stats once more, and yet again there is a clear overall winner overall.
It goes without saying Maguire was a colossal figure at the heart of Leicester’s defence last season.
However, it must be noted that in the 31 top-flight appearances the England international made in 2018/19 the Foxes only kept a total of six clean sheets, conceding 40 goals in the process.
That equals to a 19.4 clean sheet percentage, nearly half of what Rodgers’ men have managed when Soyuncu has been on the field this season (36.4).
MAGUIRE 2018/19 VS SOYUNCU 2019/20 STATS (PER 90 MINUTES)
Goals conceded: 1.4
Tackles won: 0.59
Aerial duels won: 4.1
Dribbled past by opposition: 0.21
Goals conceded: 0.73
Tackles won: 1.8
Aerial duels won: 3.6
Dribbled past by opposition: 0.73
This is represented by the fact the Foxes have nearly conceded half of the goals per game this season (0.73) with Soyuncu among their ranks than they did with Maguire (1.4)
The Foxes have already kept four clean sheets in 11 games when the Turkey international has been on the field.
It comes as little surprise that the experienced Evans has been alongside Soyuncu at the heart of the Leicester defence when these have occurred.
They’ve recently achieved back-to-back stops out on the road after an incredible 9-0 victory at Southampton before a 2-0 success at Crystal Palace last Sunday.
Interestingly, Soyuncu has already made 17 successful tackle attempts already in the first three months of this season – only three fewer than Maguire made in the entirety of last season.
Maguire’s total of 0.59 tackles won per game therefore pales in significance to his defensive counterpart’s score of 1.8 at present.
The Englishman’s ability to defend crosses and set pieces was evident in 2018/19, achieving an impressive aerial win percentage of 78.1 – which equated to 4.1 per game – a big factor in why United shelved out such a significant transfer fee to bring him to Manchester.
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That is certainly one of the main characteristics to his game, and one which he has an edge over his defensive rival, who scored 3.6 in this category.
Neither player is particularly error-prone, although Soyuncu is certainly more of a risk taker in possession, which is backed up by the fact he’s already been dribbled past by opposition eight times this season. That happened to Maguire just six times last term.
This is without doubt an area he could improve on, with this happening to him on average 0.73 times a game in comparison to 0.21.
That maturity will come as the years tick on, and it’s worth remembering that Soyuncu is three years younger than Maguire.
Soyuncu is also more creative when it comes to the ball at his feet. That comfort on the ball links back to his youth days when he started out as a midfielder.
There are only two central defenders in the top flight who have completed more passes this season – the aforementioned Van Dijk and Alderweireld.
This is demonstrated by the fact he has made 750 passes in the top flight this season, with an overall accuracy of 87.33.
Soyuncu’s 68.2 passing accuracy per 90 minutes is again higher than Maguire’s, which currently stands at 60.5.
In short, Soyuncu has the capability to establish himself as a real force to be reckoned with in the Premier League.
If he’s able to maintain the form he has shown in the early months of this season then it won’t be long before some of the world’s biggest clubs come calling.
Leicester fans will be hoping that won’t be hoping anytime soon though, and with the Foxes genuine contenders to break into the Champions League places this season they’ll be quietly confidence that the youngster will stay at the King Power for many years to come.
As for Maguire, there’s no doubting the quality and experience he possesses. With United going through an uncertain period in their history, he has to step up and show what a top class operator he is.
The Red Devils have had born winners in their side such as Roy Keane, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs to name a few during the Premier League era and in Maguire they need another one to emerge and lead United on to more stable grounding.