- The Foxes beat Arsenal 2-0 on Saturday to go second in the Premier League
- James Maddison netted his side’s second goal against Arsenal to seal the win
- The midfielder was under fire after leaving England’s squad to visit a casino
- But Maddison’s display against the Gunners showed his quality and maturity
- Gareth Southgate challenged him to be ‘low maintenance’ and he has listened
James Maddison can’t hide his delight after his strike from distance put Leicester 2-0 ahead
He salutes the Leicester fans following his vital goal against the Gunners to wrap up the win
Maddison and Jamie Vardy are delirious at a rain soaked King Power as Leicester go second
Gareth Southgate has challenged Maddison to be ‘high performance, low maintenance’
The Leicester midfielder looks up and picks out a pass in the early stages against the Gunners
The midfield star arrives at the stadium ahead of the clash with Arsenal looking focused
He has a pop at goal in the clash against the north Londoners under pressure from Guendouzi
Maddison has been key for the Foxes in the league this season with four goals and two assists
Maddison has gone from strength to strength under the guidance of boss Brendan Rodgers
He not won an England cap, but Maddison will be in contention to play against Montenegro
Gareth Southgate has challenged James Maddison to be ‘high-performance, low-maintenance’ and on the evidence of the midfielder’s display against Arsenal yesterday/on Saturday, the England manager’s message has been received loud and clear.
Even though Maddison has yet to win a full international cap, he has already figured prominently in the build-up to at least one England fixture.
His decision to visit a Leicester casino, after leaving the squad due to illness, in order to watch the 2-1 defeat by the Czech Republic last month, was a distraction Southgate could have done without.
But despite his irritation, Southgate picked Maddison again last week for the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Montenegro and Kosovo, and the 22-year-old’s performance here showed why.
Maddison scored a fine goal, a low drive through the legs of Hector Bellerin to put Leicester two up, but this was only one part of a very impressive display. Maddison was inventive and bright throughout but above all, he was mature.
Maddison will never be the player who parrots the party line, stays out of the public eye and does everything he is told. Like Kevin Pietersen or Danny Cipriani, he will always divide opinion among peers and supporters.
Yet like Pietersen and Cipriani, he is a player who can repay a coach handsomely if he is managed correctly.
Arsenal boss Unai Emery was certainly aware of the damage Maddison can cause. Lucas Torreira was rarely more than a foot away from the playmaker whenever he received the ball in the Arsenal half. The Uruguayan snapped at Maddison and denied him space, yet instead of becoming frustrated, Maddison found answers.
At times he dropped deep to escape Torreira’s clutches and tried to start attacks from there. On two occasions, Maddison was cute enough to see Torreira coming and draw fouls in dangerous areas. As Torreira persisted, Maddison swapped places with Youri Tielemans to ask another question of his shadow.
Maddison did his defensive work, too, which has been demanded of him repeatedly by Brendan Rodgers. The Leicester boss has little time for players who believe flair alone is enough to play in his teams.
Therefore, he has spent hours at the Foxes’ Belvoir Drive training base working individually with Maddison, explaining the principles of the counter-pressing style Rodgers favours and emphasising Maddison’s defensive duties within it. He wants Maddison to improve physically, too, so he can continue to make an impact late in games.
If Maddison fulfils his potential, Rodgers believes he can become as influential as Philippe Coutinho, a player signed by Rodgers, was during his time at Liverpool. Coutinho was outstanding at Anfield and became one of the most expensive players in history when he joined Barcelona in January 2018.
Coutinho was also one of Brazil’s best players as they were unlucky to be knocked out of the World Cup in the quarter-finals last year.
In the coming days, we may have our first clues about whether Maddison can be similarly important for England.