Premier League: Brendan Rodgers at the heart of ‘something special’ brewing in Leicester
How Brendan Rodgers has transformed a young Leicester City side into potential Premier League champions
“There's something special brewing in Leicester again,” announced match commentator Peter Drury in his usual charismatic manner. The full-time whistles had been blown by the referee but the match had been over long before the 90th minute. Leicester City had, for the lack of a better word, thumped Arsenal. The 2-0 scoreline was more down to City’s profligacy than Arsenal’s grit. The general feeling in the air, filled with loud cheers from Leicester fans, was that it could have been four goals. Maybe even more. Against a ‘top-six’ team who spent more than a £100 million in transfers this summer.
The crowd had every right to go ecstatic.
Peter Drury is right. There is something very special brewing in Leicester. Again.
Only this time, it isn’t the story of the underdogs punching above their weight. This is the new Leicester City. A sharp, focused bunch of footballers playing a brand of attractive football that will have the football faithful licking their lips again.
And right at the heart of it is Brendan Rodgers.
The man who ‘almost’ won it
Rodgers’ story is often lost in the larger narrative of how Liverpool or Steven Gerrard never won the Premier League. He almost won it too in 2014. Many said it was the manager's unwillingness to let go of his footballing-principles that saw him try to win a match against Chelsea when Liverpool only needed a draw that led to Liverpool chocking in the title race. The rest, as they say, is history as Chelsea went on to defeat Liverpool 2-0 and alter the title race completely.
But Rodgers is a changed man. A move to Celtic helped him polish his skills at the elite level. In Scotland, he won it all before a move to Leicester City and a return to the English Premier League opened up for the former Chelsea youth team coach. It wasn’t easy at Leicester in the initial stages for the Irishman. Rodgers had to make his players ‘unlearn’ so many lessons from the previous managers before tuning the players to the way he wants them to play.
Why Leicester click
The major reason behind Leicester City’s bright start to the campaign has been the players they have in their ranks - young, dynamic and verastile. The Foxes play a 4-1-4-1 formation with two enterprising fullbacks in Ben Chilwell and Ricardo Pereira who aid in the attack. That usually means Leicester outnumber the opposition defenders each time with the likes of James Maddison, Ayoze Perez, Harvey Barnes and Youri Tielemans joining Jamie Vardy in a fluid attack. There is an incisiveness to Leicester’s football – it isn’t just passing around the football till you wear down the opposition. The versatility of Leicester’s midfield, highlighted by Wilfred Ndidi’s ability to play the one-person shield to the defence, means opponents struggle to man-mark the players with players constantly shuffling their positions.
Maddison’s meteoric rise as one of England’s best attacking midfielder has been a big positive for Leicester. Vardy and Maddison have formed a telepathic partnership reminiscent of Vardy’s partnership with Riyad Mahrez in the season Leicester clinched the Premier League title. The two had their names in the scoresheet against Arsenal and will certainly be the key if Leicester are to maintain their dream run.
A long season
Rodgers wouldn’t need reminding that it is a long season and still there is a long way to go for Leicester before they can sure of a place in the Champions League next season. But luckily for them, their matches till Christmas are against the League’s bottom-dwellers which means the Foxes have the chances to challenge the front-runners Liverpool and Manchester City. Brendan Rogers, unlike his immediate predecessors Claudio Ranieri, Craig Shakespeare and Claude Puel, has managed to motivate a group of players who had reached the summit but had no hope of ever returning there. The belief is back in Leicestershire. The last time it happened, they caused an Earthquake! Time to get those Richter scales ready again?