There’s a growing sense of optimism at Leicester City at the moment. Although it’s still very early in the season, Brendan Rodgers’ team have been in commanding form and are threatening to break up the ‘big six’.
With only seven games played, Leicester are only behind Liverpool and Manchester City in the Premier League table. Recent wins have included a gutsy triumph over Tottenham and an epic thrashing of a sorry Newcastle United. It might be easy to get carried away with the Foxes’ win over lowly Newcastle, but there is definitely plenty of promise within the young Leicester City side.
Some have stated that Leicester have enjoyed a relatively generous start in terms of the fixture list. But with a hugely important match against Liverpool at Anfield next weekend, it’s going to be fascinating to see where the Foxes go from here.
5-0 demolition of Newcastle United
Newcastle United have endured a horrendous start to the season, and Leicester made Steve Bruce’s team suffer with an embarrassing 5-0 win on Sunday. Although Newcastle showed some promise in the opening 20 minutes, Leicester gradually produced a dominating display that illustrated just how fearsome they are under Brendan Rodgers.
It was another excellent game for Jamie Vardy as the Leicester striker picked up two well-worked goals and showed just how clinical he can be. Ricardo Pereira produced a dazzling effort to open Leicester’s account, and when Newcastle’s Isaac Hayden was sent off in the 43rd minute, the visitors visibly crumbled.
What was remarkable about the performance was the fact that Leicester managed to do all of this without James Maddison who is battling with an ankle injury. Players like Harvey Barnes, Youri Tielemans and Ben Chilwell showed some lovely interplay, and while Leicester could have settled at 3-0, they clearly wanted to destroy Newcastle and wrapped up one of this season’s most impressive performances.
Important home win over Tottenham
Leicester’s thrashing of Newcastle United came after a spirited display that saw them taking three points off Tottenham Hotspur. The Foxes came from behind to claim an important 2-1 victory, and it showed that Brendan Rodgers’ team have the grit and determination necessary to bring down bigger teams.
Tottenham were unlucky to have a Serge Aurier goal disallowed by VAR, but Leicester showed enough talent to win the tricky home match. Ricardo Pereira scored an excellent equaliser and James Maddison proved what an important asset he is to the team by claiming the late winner. All in all, it was a hugely positive result given previous disappointments in the season against Chelsea and Manchester United.
The impact of Brendan Rodgers
Brendan Rodgers came to manage Leicester in February 2019. This followed on from Claude Puel who had unsuccessfully led the team to four successive home defeats at the start of the year. Ever since Rodgers came to Leicester, he has helped the team pick up 31 Premier League points. This has only been surpassed by Liverpool’s 49 points, and Manchester City’s 43 points.
Leicester City managed to claw their way to a reasonably respectable ninth position in the Premier League table last season. This time around the club are sat in third place, and it’s easy to see how European football could be a reality next season.
So what is Rodgers doing that has made Leicester look like a team reborn? Ultimately Rodgers has allowed Leicester to be the team they could have only dreamed of being under Claude Puel. Rodgers has nurtured a young and exciting side that is well balanced by experienced stars such as Jamie Vardy, Kasper Schmeichel and Jonny Evans.
Rather than wearing out the side by going off on a lengthy preseason tour, Rodgers took the time to stay close to home and put in as much work as possible. The efforts appear to have paid off as only Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham have had more touches of the ball, and Leicester are in the top six in terms of the number of pass sequences of 10 or more.
The Foxes have also proven to be a difficult team to break down. The team are getting a reputation for constantly harassing their opponents in all areas of the pitch, and only two Premier League teams have faced fewer shots on target.
Anybody who saw Rodgers managing previous teams like Swansea, Liverpool or Celtic will recognise these trademarks, and his approach appears to be working wonders at Leicester.
Leicester’s defence in the post-Maguire era
Many had speculated that Leicester would be in trouble following the £80 million sale of Harry Maguire to Manchester United. But Brendan Rodgers has produced a disciplined Leicester defence that has the joint lowest amount of goals conceded this season.
Much of this has been put down to the defensive skills of the Turkish international Caglar Soyuncu. The defender signed from Freiburg in 2018, and he has formed an excellent central defensive partnership with Jonny Evans.
With the likes of Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell able to work forward on the wings, the Leicester defence has proven to be flexible and dynamic. But it’s the fact that the Foxes have Wilfred Ndidi just ahead of defence that could be their secret weapon.
The Nigerian star was ruthless against Newcastle, and his strong tackles and efficient passing mark him out as being an excellent midfield all-rounder. It’s easy to forget that Ndidi is only 22 years old, and whether he’s intercepting passes or scoring important goals like the equaliser against Chelsea, the young midfielder has made himself a key part of the Leicester team.
Room for improvement in the Leicester attack?
Compared to teams like Liverpool and Manchester United, Leicester may appear to have fairly limited attacking capacities. Obviously Jamie Vardy is a natural goalscorer, but the frontline of the Leicester attack doesn’t instantly look as good on paper as so-called ‘big six’ teams like Tottenham Hotspur or Arsenal.
However, it’s a method that clearly works for the Foxes. With Vardy alone up front, it has allowed the 32-year old to be ruthlessly predatory in front of goal. Vardy has scored five Premier League goals in seven appearances so far, and his sheer personality always adds an extra spark to the Leicester performance.
Although Vardy might often be left alone in the attack, there’s plenty of creativity further back to help power the Foxes to victory. All Leicester fans will be glad that Youri Tielemans has been made a permanent addition to the team, and the Belgian star has shown that he can be a real playmaker.
James Maddison may have missed out on the Newcastle match, but the 22-year is easily one of the Premier League’s most promising players. With plenty of power and creativity, Maddison has been pivotal in Leicester’s fortunes over the past few months.
Such is Maddison’s talent that it is thought that he will get his England call-up soon, although there are rumours circulating that he could be following Harry Maguire to Manchester United.
Living up to the memory of 2015/16
Leicester’s astonishing Premier League triumph of 2015/16 will live on down the ages, but Brendan Rodgers seems to be aiming for sustainability rather than one-off successes.
By focusing his efforts on hugely promising youngsters like James Maddison and Wilfred Ndidi, it’s almost scary to think where the Foxes could be in a couple of years time.
However, it must be noted that money talks in football, and it’s easy to see how future stars like James Maddison could be tempted to follow the likes of Harry Maguire to Manchester United.
But there is an unquestionable sense of optimism at Leicester now. The sheer volume of the home crowd was a big factor in the Foxes’ triumphant win over Tottenham, and the fact that they have lost only once in ten games will make them a very difficult team for any side to play.
Leicester’s next matches
Brendan Rodgers managed Liverpool for four seasons, and Leicester will have to head to Anfield for their next game on Saturday. Liverpool have enjoyed a perfect start to their Premier League campaign, but the Foxes could have what it takes to put an end to Liverpool’s winning ways.
Jurgen Klopp’s team were lucky to win last weekend at Sheffield United, and Leicester’s solid defence could stymie the relentless Liverpool attack of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
Following this, Leicester host the always-tough Burnley at home on 19 October. Games against Southampton and Crystal Palace follow before Leicester entertain Arsenal in what should be a fascinating match on 9 November.
This means that barring Manchester City, Leicester will have played all of the toughest Premier League teams in a relatively short space of time. If they can hold their own against Liverpool on Saturday, then there’s no reason why we won’t see Leicester building on this result to be playing European football again next season.