Opinion: The Brendan Rodgers effect at Leicester City

When Brendan Rodgers was dismissed from his duties as Liverpool manager, his tenure in Merseyside was generally considered rather underwhelming. Furthermore, with Rodgers being somewhat casted away to the wastelands of the Scottish Premier League with Celtic, you wouldn’t have been crazy to think that Rodgers wouldn’t be returning to the English top flight anytime soon. However, he’s back and he’s transforming Leicester City into a formidable Premier League force. 

Rodgers replaced Claude Puel in late February of this year and since his appointment, only Manchester City and Liverpool have recorded more Premier League points than Leicester City, with a grand total of 31 points in 19 games. An incredible achievement by Rodgers but how has he masterminded such a prolific turnaround you might ask? Well, the transformation and development of players is the answer. 

A number of players who have donned the Foxes’ shirt this season have seen an increase in statistical performances under Rodgers and are now competing with some of the Premier League’s leading individuals. Most notably, Caglar Soyuncu, who was previously purchased by Claude Puel but was criminally underused, has stepped into the gaping shoes of Manchester United’s £80 million signing, Harry Maguire.

However, Ed Woodward and the Manchester United board will certainly be kicking themselves due to the sheer statistical differences, provided by WhoScored, between Maguire and the former second-string Soyuncu. The Manchester United defender who appears to have struggled at the Red Devils in a rather shaky period for the club, has recorded just 0.5 tackles per game and a measly 1.1 interceptions per game, this season. 

In comparison, the Leicester City defender has made an impressive 2.1 tackles per game along with a parallel record for interceptions per game. Furthermore, a possible example of tactical variations between Rodgers and Ole Gunnar Solskjær can be demonstrated through the passing statistics of Soyuncu and Maguire.  

The England international currently consists of long balls per game statistics of 5.1, whereas, on the other hand Soyuncu’s is just 2.9. Whilst watching the Leicester defender this season, it is clearly evident that the back line persists of a pass-first mentality, in order to keep hold of the ball for long durations of the game which could be one secret behind Rodgers success. 

Moreover, Rodgers has appeared to help develop players in key areas of the pitch, with another outstanding player being Wilfred Ndidi. The Nigerian midfielder already posted some incredible statistics prior to Rodgers’ reign at the club, however, his numbers have only skyrocketed since his arrival. During the 2018/19 season, Ndidi managed to record 3.7 tackles and 2.2 interceptions per game, according to the official Premier League website. Although Ndidi has featured in just seven games this season, the midfielder has made five tackles per game on average and has recorded 3.7 interceptions. Although it’s early in the season, there are no indications to suggest that the energetic midfielder won’t be slowing down anytime soon. 

Furthermore, the simply incredible comparisons do not stop there. N’Golo Kante, who is deemed by many as the greatest defensive midfielder in the world, has made just 2.3 tackles and interceptions per game this season, which demonstrates the staggering heights that Ndidi has reached under Rodgers’ supervision. 

Moving further up the pitch, James Maddison has provided the creative spark and attacking prowess for Rodgers’ side so far under his stewardship. Much like Soyuncu, Maddison was an acquisition made by the previous manager but has seemingly begun to take his game to the next level under Rodgers. Maddison, who is now beginning to flirt with a starting position for the Three Lions, has had a superb start to the season, converting twice and also turning provider on two occasions. 

However, the 22-year-old is beginning to prove himself as one of England’s most creative midfielders, with Gareth Southgate certainly taking his hat off to Brendan Rodgers and the effect he’s made on the young midfielder. This season Maddison has completed 3.3 dribbles per game and is fouled, on average, on 3.1 occasions per game. In comparison, England’s current first choice creative midfielders, Mason Mount and Ross Barkley, are struggling to compete with the innovative numbers of James Maddison. Mount and Barkley have recorded 1.6 and 1.5 dribbles this season respectively, whilst the pair have been fouled just 0.5 and 0.6 times. 

This revolutionised era under Brendan Rodgers is a reason for Leicester City fans to be excited about the club’s potential chances within the Premier League. Undoubtedly, the Foxes won’t be able to replicate the 2015/16 season, however, if they were to continue their current form, there is no reason as to why Leicester City couldn’t make a return to the Champions League in 2020. 

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