Brendan Rodgers stood at the touchline triumphant. He had just managed his new club, Leicester City, to a victory over a Bournemouth team they’d never beaten. Players milled about the pitch on their way to the locker room. They were Rodgers’ soldiers and the club his army. A month earlier, he had been recruited to steady a team that serially underperformed since winning the Premier League in 2015/16 under Claudio Ranieri.
Their current win-streak of three matches represented a decisive break from the turbulent tenure of Frenchman Claude Puel who had joined Leicester City in 2017. Rodgers’ reputation may have been in tatters in Glasgow but within the blue confines of King Power Stadium in Leicestershire, he was Montgomery in El Alamein. The curtain had lifted just a bit, allowing slivers of light into what can only be called a dark season that included the tragic death of the team’s owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.
Now, everyone talked about Europe again. It was within their sights, if not outside their reach. The more the word was kicked about among supporters, talking heads, and eventually the gaffer himself, the more they believed, the same way Jay Gatsby idealized the green light across the Long Island Sound.
Key players from the team that won the Premier League rose from the ashes during the win. Wes Morgan scored the first goal with a set-piece header. Kasper Schmiechel prevented a goal that would have changed the complexion of the match. And Jamie Vardy scored on a play that steadily built from halfway up the pitch with a string of short passes. (Diagram below.) It’s hard to imagine that somewhere in the Foxes’ fan’s mind, images of their 2016 run weren’t bubbling to the surface.
In a short span of time, Rodgers’ influence on the Leicester City squad appears to have taken effect. In typical Rodgers fashion, the Foxes dominated possession 58.8% to 41.2% for Bournemouth. They completed 84.3% of their passes, with 186 of them in the final third. They moved quicker, their passing more decisive, and barged into the space between the lines with vigor. The optimism that later filtered through the crowd started on the pitch with the players.
Rob Tanner, Leicestershire Live’s Chief Football writer was effusive as he reported from the stadium, “Leicester City were in complete control in the second half in particular. It’s a shame they’ve only got two goals to show for it. That’s all they need to climb up the table and pull level with Wolverhampton Wanderers in 7th.”
Pundits sang Rodgers’ praise. The Foxes were playing a more appealing style of football (remind me when football became a beauty contest?). Typical Rodgers-style posession football (Oh he’s so Continental… He spent time wandering Spain, you know.). Leicester City attacked with the flair that is equitable to winning in today’s football. After three matches, Rodgers had Leicester City playing football the way the sport’s elite did.
Of course, it’s only been three matches with Brendan Rodgers at the helm. The new-manager-bump can’t be discounted but neither should Rodgers’ skill as a manager. He picked his team. He dictated their formation. He gave the entire Leicester City family their confidence and belief back. In that sense, he’d already succeeded in the first crucial phase of rebuilding the team. That’s no small feat. The question is which manager did the Foxes hire — bridesmaid from Liverpool or the championship-maker from Celtic?
In the months to come, Scientific Inquirer Sports will be tracking Brendan Rodgers and Leicester City FC’s progress. Coverage will include analysis of select matches, interviews with City bloggers and reporters, in-depth features, and anything else that may shed light on the Brendan Rodgers Project.
WORDS: Marc Landas
SOURCES: StatsZone; Leicestershire Live;
IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons
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