Hamza Choudhury gave Leicester their “identity back” in the 1-1 Carabao Cup semi-final first-leg draw with Aston Villa, manager Brendan Rodgers says.
Substitute Choudhury, 22, added bite to the Foxes midfield, and dispossessed Douglas Luiz in the build-up to Kelechi Iheanacho’s 74th-minute equaliser.
“He made a huge difference – my fault I didn’t start him,” said Rodgers, whose side were 1-0 down in the 28th minute to Frederic Guilbert’s opener.
“We could see that we needed him.”
Against the side sitting second in the Premier League, Guilbert gave Villa a surprise lead – and they restricted the Foxes to few clear-cut chances before Iheanacho, also a substitute, fired in from Jamie Vardy’s pass.
Rodgers added: “It was critical for us. Hamza instigates our pressing in midfield.
“We’ve had Wilfred Ndidi [who was injured in training] in there who’s colossal for us. I didn’t put that type of player in there, but when Hamza came into the game [in the 69th minute], he was brilliant for us.”
Former Crystal Palace striker Clinton Morrison, working as a match analyst for BBC Radio 5 Live, said Choudhury should be called up to the senior England squad.
“[England manager] Gareth Southgate was here watching today – maybe put him into the squad, because holding midfield is the biggest problem for England at the moment,” he said.
“What Choudhury gives you is that he can sniff out danger, he destroys it and can make a tackle, but he’s also really good on the ball. Why not give him a game?
“If you don’t look at these players, you won’t know if they’re good enough for international football.”
However, former England international defender Micah Richards believes the Leicester midfielder is not yet experienced enough.
Richards cited the red card he picked up playing for England Under-21s against France at Euro 2019 in June.
“I don’t think he starts regularly enough,” said Richards of a player who has been a substitute in 10 of his 18 appearances for the Foxes this season.
“I agree he does a defensive role – I think he picked up a red card last year as well but you don’t mind that because he’s a young player and can learn from that.
“Gareth does like to integrate the young players but for me, I think there are probably players ahead of him. I think not this tournament [Euro 2020] but maybe the next tournament. This one is too soon for him.”
Southgate may also have been impressed with the performance of Villa midfielder Jack Grealish.
The 24-year-old, who is yet to win an England cap, was Villa’s biggest attacking threat and often eased the pressure on his side by moving the ball forward or winning free-kicks.
“I thought it was a great mature performance,” said Villa boss Dean Smith.
“He carries the ball so well, with great balance and composure. I thought that was what we lacked for the first 25 minutes until he got on the ball.
“After the goal, other players started to have more belief and that was what Jack brought us. He’s top player and he’s doing well.”
Source : BBC Sport – Football