Two things that Brendan Rodgers is doing right at Leicester City
Leicester are currently second in the Premier League and in the title race for the first time since they won a shock crown in 2016.
If the title race remains a sprint and not a marathon, no one can catch Liverpool this season. But if they slow down or stumble, which is entirely conceivable, it is not only Manchester City who could potentially overtake them. Leicester are serious runners and could close the gap substantially.
Three years ago, they became the most sensational champions of the Premier League era and now, here they are again with a chance of following up that feat against superior opponents. They, after all, have the experience of winning the title, unlike Liverpool, who are under unbearable pressure to win the league title. Brendan Rodgers will know that better than most.
Here are 2 things that Rodgers is doing right at the King Power this season.
Recruitment and style of play
Leicester’s recruitment was poor in the immediate aftermath of their title win, even taking into account Wilfred Ndidi’s 2017 arrival. Islam Slimani, Ahmed Musa and Nampalys Mendy joined in 2016 but flopped.
Vicente Iborra, Kelechi Iheanacho and Adrien Silva – who missed the registration deadline by 14 seconds and was forced to sit on the sidelines for months – signed a year later but none made an impact, with only Iheanacho still at the club and barely playing. But the arrivals of James Maddison, Tielemans, Jonny Evans, Ricardo Pereira and Caglar Soyuncu have proven that the club are getting it right again.
It is not yet Rodgers’ dream team, which has made his work all the more impressive. Having taken the reins in late February, the Northern Irishman inherited a squad frustrated with Claude Puel’s tactics and sitting 12th after losing 4-1 at home to Crystal Palace. Of the regular line-up, only Ayoze Perez, who joined from Newcastle for £30million, was a true Rodgers purchase since Youri Tielemans had already been on loan at the club.
Rodgers is a perfectionist and the players have bought into his all-encompassing desire for improvement. We have seen this relentless nature manifest itself on the pitch this season. Teams do not typically win 9-0. When in the process of handing out a thrashing, the winning side is often inclined to sit off, relax and conserve energies for the challenges ahead.
This is not something that Rodgers allowed his Leicester side to do. And the fact that they overcame a tricky trip to Palace in the following game speaks volumes about the culture that the former Celtic boss is developing.
Unleashed Jamie Vardy
Brendan Rodgers has been mainly responsible for the remarkable revival Vardy has had following Claude Puel’s sacking in February. Prior to the Frenchman’s dismissal, the Foxes were a melting pot of frustration and confusion. Puel was promptly relieved of his duties and Leicester haven’t looked back.
Vardy has outscored every other player in the Premier League since Rodgers took over. His lightning pace makes him one of the swiftest strikers in Europe.
The veteran’s game intelligence is easy to underestimate. People only see the pace and aggression, someone who rarely finds himself with his foot on the ball in the middle of the pitch. He is not the stereotypical football genius but Vardy knows this game better than most.
Under Rodgers, Vardy has been tasked of playing the role of a central striker and is generally not been involved in the build-up play. This approach has seen a big improvement in the striker’s record when playing against deeper defences.
Throughout the striker’s career, a lot has been said of his ability to score against the bigger clubs but while he did score two late goals against Arsenal last season, it is Vardy’s scoring return against the rest of the Premier League that’s been transformed under Rodgers.
Vardy has a manager who trusts him and a body that has not yet failed him. Thus, he is only getting better while Leicester are soaring high.