Football | Söyüncü coming of age at Leicester
It has been an excellent start to the season for Leicester City.
Only Liverpool and Manchester City have taken more points from their opening four Premier League matches than the Foxes, who sit in third place on eight points.
A scoreless draw at home to Wolves on the opening day was followed up with a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.
Subsequent wins away to Sheffield United (1-2) and at home to Bournemouth (3-1) make for a strong start to Brendan Rodgers' first full season at the helm.
Tougher tests lie ahead; Leicester will face Manchester United, Spurs and Liverpool in three of their next four league matches.
Regardless, the Foxes have coped remarkably well (thus far) with the loss of influential defender Harry Maguire, who joined Manchester United in a staggering £80 million deal this summer.
Leicester were linked with several Premier League centre halves following Maguire's move to Manchester, including Brighton's Lewis Dunk and Burnley's James Tarkowski.
However, Rodgers opted to spend his money elsewhere - bringing in the likes of Youri Tielemans (making his loan move permanent), Ayoze Perez, Dennis Praet and James Justin - because he was confident he had an adequate replacement for Maguire waiting in the wings.
Step forward Çağlar Söyüncü.
The Turkish defender made just eight appearances in all competitions last season after joining Leicester in a £19 million deal from Freiburg, but has emerged as a key figure under Rodgers.
It looked like a shrewd signing at the time, with Soyuncu's performances in the Bundesliga reportedly attracting admirers including Arsenal, Manchester City and Atletico Madrid.
However, Soyuncu failed to settle at the King Power, and was behind Maguire, Jonny Evans and Wes Morgan in the pecking order under Claude Puel.
In April, Soyuncu was brought in from the cold by Rodgers - who replaced Puel midway through the season - to fill in for Evans and Maguire (who were both unavailable) for Leicester's trip to Huddersfield last season .
The young defender gave away a penalty in a 4-1 win for the Foxes, in what his first appearance in five months.
Despite his error, his performance was praised by Rodgers, and Soyuncu has done enough since then to convince his manager not to foray into the transfer market for a replacement for Maguire.
Rodgers handed Soyuncu a start alongside Evans in the heart of the Leicester defence for this season's Premier League opener against Wolves.
The Turkey international rewarded his manager's faith by producing a man of the match performance at the King Power Stadium, impressing both defensively and with his composure in possession.
Soyuncu showed great pace to snuff out a threatening Wolves counter after Diogo Jota robbed Ricardo Pereira in possession just inside the Leicester half.
This is unbelievable from Söyüncü.pic.twitter.com/h0unjvb8OS — ً (@Icfcsam) August 12, 2019
The 23-year-old made another good block to take the sting out of a dangerous Raul Jimenez strike.
Soyuncu - who has 24 caps for his country - made three tackles and showed his ability in the air; winning more aerial duels than any of his teammates in the scoreless draw.
He also exuded confidence on the ball, completing 92.2 per cent of his 77 passes for the hosts.
Rodgers revealed afterwards that Soyuncu was afforded an ovation vby his impressed teammates after the game.
Soyuncu produced another good performance in the 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge, and there was one moment in particular which stood out.
The Turkish defender out-muscled Christian Pulisic near the corner flag, before casually rolling the ball past the USA international and picking out a teammate with a delightful lofted pass.
Çağlar Söyüncü has skills 👀 pic.twitter.com/6M5mldzxp4 — Leicester City News (@_LCFCNEWS) August 18, 2019
Soyuncu completed 65 passes against Frank Lampard's hosts, more than any other Leicester player.
"For a modern-day centre back, he's exactly what you want," Rodgers gushed afterwards.
Soyuncu earned further plaudits with another man of the match display in Leicester's 2-1 win at Bramall Lane.
He made eight clearances, won four tackles, and competed in 18 duels as a stunning strike from Harvey Barnes snatched all three points for the visitors.
It was a header from Soyuncu in the Sheffield box which teed up Barnes to smash home a late winner.
His somewhat fortuitous assist capped off a fine evening for the defender.
Leicester are now unbeaten in the last five games Soyuncu has started (including the penalty shootout victory over Newcastle in the Carabao Cup).
In those five games, the ball-playing defender has formed a promising partnership with Evans, and has become a fan favourite in the process.
Soyuncu's impressive stats earn him a place in Sky Sports' 'Power Rankings' Premier League XI'.
His eye-catching start sees him join Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil Van Dijk and Arthur Masuaku in the best statistical defence of the season to date.
According to the Power Rankings, only six players in the division have made more passes than Soyuncu, and only eight players have had more touches than the talented centre back.
Soyuncu also ranks eighth for aerials and duels won.
His emergence shouldn't come as a complete surprise.
After all, this is a player who earned favourable comparisons with Mats Hummels while playing as a 21-year-old in the Bundesliga.
Evans praised his teammate publicly after partnering Soyuncu against Southampton in the League Cup last season:
"As centre-backs, there is a communication there and I’ve been very impressed with him as a player. He’s been really impressive. He’s the future of the club without a doubt."
Despite his superb start to the season, there is still a lot of room for improvement in Soyuncu's game.
He can be extremely rash, and tends to take a lot of risks in possession.
While he was largely dominant against Sheffield United, it could be argued that his positioning might have been better in the buildup to Olly McBurnie's header.
His performance in Leicester's 3-1 win over Bournemouth in their fourth and most recent league clash of the campaign showcased all of the positives and negatives in his game.
There were moments of magic, but there was also some rash-decision making from the former Freiburg defender.
He was lucky to escape a booking in just the third minute for a rash and needless foul on Harry Wilson.
Jamie Vardy gave the hosts the lead with an excellent strike in the 12th minute, but the Cherries hit back just three minutes later, with Soyuncu culpable for the equalizer.
Callum Wilson gave him the slip after the centre back tried to play the offside trap, and the English striker kept his cool to finish deftly past Kasper Schmeichel.
Tielemans restored the Foxes' lead four minutes before the interval, and Vardy doubled his tally in the second half to secure a 3-1 win.
Despite his error for the goal, there were plenty of positives in Soyuncu's display.
His sharp turn and strike from 20 yards flew narrowly wide of the Bournemouth goal, and the tall defender showed remarkable pace to catch Josh King on the wing, eventually dispossessing the Cherries' attacker and earning a free kick.
In the 47th minute, left Callum Wilson for dead with a clever Cruyff turn inside his own box, before dinking the ball over the onrushing Harry Wilson to Ben Chilwell.
After getting the bal back off Chilwell, he spun away from Callum Wilson once more, before getting his pass away effortlessly.
Harry Mag-who? 🤣 Meet Leicester centre-back Caglar Soyuncu 😎pic.twitter.com/54FJauGPGLpic.twitter.com/54FJauGPGL — Goal (@goal) September 3, 2019
Some fans would like to see Soyuncu take less risks, but his ability on the ball makes him a perfect fir for a Rodgers team.
He made a whopping 82 passes against Bournemouth, maintaining an 82.9% accuracy rate.
According to Who Scored, he has averaged a pass completion of over 85% so far this season.
Defensively, he is averaging five clearances and three tackles per game.
At 23, Soyuncu is improving all the time.
The coming fixtures against United, Spurs and Liverpool will be good tests for Soyuncu, but the early signs suggest Brendan Rodgers was right not to delve into the transfer market.