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How Rodgers has made Leicester a force again since taking over the reins

  /  autty

If Liverpool and Leicester win their matches this weekend, Leicester will be above Manchester City in the table with nearly a third of the season gone.

In less than nine months, a team drifting under Claude Puel has become one of the most impressive in the country.

It is not difficult to see the catalyst: since the appointment of Brendan Rodgers as manager last February, the club has been on a steep upward curve.

Here, Sportsmail looks at the secrets behind the revolution.


When Rodgers arrived with his trusted lieutenants — assistant Chris Davies, first-team coaches Kolo Toure and Adam Sadler, head physiotherapist Dave Rennie and head of fitness Matt Reeves — last February, he delivered a presentation to the players about exactly what was expected of them.

It seems he is getting the balance right: midfielder Wilfred Ndidi, one of many who has thrived under Rodgers, describes him as a 'friend, father, boss'.

Rodgers is keen on individual coaching, too, and has spent considerable time with James Maddison — one of the league's best midfielders this season — working on his tactical discipline and individual pressing.

Speak to anyone at Leicester about the change in environment since Rodgers replaced Claude Puel in February and one phrase is repeated – 'high standards'.

Players are given every chance to succeed but if they are not deemed to be working as hard as possible, they will soon be shown the door. 'You always try to create a culture where anyone can improve, whether it's young or old players,' says Rodgers.

'It's there for you if you want to improve and we'll work our damnedest to make you better. If you want to do it you'll improve. If not you won't be here anyway.'


Like many managers of his generation, Rodgers is a devotee of the Barcelona/Dutch school of football advanced by Rinus Michels and Johan Cruyff.

One of the former Liverpool and Celtic boss' key ideas is the 'counter press' and he demands the ball be won back before the opposition have completed four passes. To hone this skill, Leicester do rapid exercises where a point is awarded to the circle of six players when they complete four passes, and one to the two in the middle if they win it back before this has been achieved.

The size of the pitch is altered through the week to suit different exercises. Rodgers believes strongly in 4-3-3 but wants his players to be flexible enough to drift between that and 4-1-4-1 – with Ndidi as the holding midfielder and Vardy the lone forward – or 4-5-1.

The 46-year-old will indulge creative players, like Philippe Coutinho, James Forrest and Maddison, but not at the expense of the needs of the team.

Leicester's full backs are a potent attacking weapon – Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell can often be found in the opposition penalty area and the results are proof it is working. Pereira has scored twice this term, while Chilwell has a goal and three assists.


At present, Leicester are at a significant disadvantage from the rest of the elite, as their training ground is far smaller and more modest than the bases at Manchester City or Tottenham.

All that is about to change when the club move to their new £100million facility at Charnwood, eight miles north of the city, in time for the start of next season.

The centre covers 185 acres, features state-of-the-art outdoor and indoor pitches and recovery equipment, and also has a nine-hole golf course. It should be ideal for a coach like Rodgers, who plans every session in ferocious detail. Folder upon folder of colour-coded documents chart every stint.

Rodgers prefers short, sharp bursts to long sessions. Individual drinks stations are prepared for each player before sessions, to monitor exactly how much they are taking on board and to reduce the chances of infection being passed around the squad.

Players talk positively about the 'flow' of the sessions and the ball is used virtually throughout as Rodgers sees little sense in running for running's sake. 'People ask me 'Why don't you go on runs through the woods?' Rodgers once said. 'Well, I've never seen a tree on a football field.'


There is a strong element of luck to any transfer campaign but Leicester have got enough right in recent times to suggest things are working as they should.

The Foxes tried and failed to sign James Tarkowski from Burnley in the summer when they became resigned to losing Harry Maguire, which gave Caglar Soyuncu his chance – and the Turkish centre back has taken it brilliantly.

The other deals that jump out are the £32m for Youri Tielemans, the £3.5m for Jonny Evans and the £22m for Ricardo Pereira.

At their current rate of progress, Leicester are a hugely attractive destination. A place where the pressure is not as high as at the traditional top six, but where you can compete for Champions League football and — whisper it — put yourself in line for an eventual move to one of Europe's elite.

Rodgers brought head of recruitment Lee Congerton south after working with him successfully at Celtic, while director of football Jon Rudkin is also an influential figure, with chief executive Susan Whelan dealing with financial negotiations.

The club's chairman, Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, is an active participant in discussions and no player can be signed or sold without his say-so.


Rodgers is already looking at how Leicester might make the route from the academy to the first team easier to follow, even though the Foxes have already brought players like Chilwell and Harvey Barnes through to the first team from the academy.

He wants all teams to adopt a style of play that mirrors the one he uses for the first team.

At the moment, even though Leicester's Under 23 side are enjoying good results under Steve Beaglehole, their way of playing is quite different from the passing, pressing game preferred by Rodgers.

Away from the pressure cooker environment, the Northern Irishman appears happy and relaxed – yet if he continues to have this impact on Leicester, he is certain to figure strongly in the thoughts of top clubs when they next change managers.

What would Saturday's opponents Arsenal look like now if they had chosen Rodgers, rather than Unai Emery, to lead the post-Arsene Wenger era?

Meanwhile, Vardy is in the form of his life but he turns 33 in January and, at some stage, will have to be replaced. The matter is too sensitive to be discussed publicly but it is inconceivable that Leicester have not thought about it.