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20th Nov 2021

Brendan Rodgers’ stubbornness costs Leicester – again

Callum Boyle

Inconsistency and a reluctance to try new things – why Brendan Rodgers’ stubbornness has cost Leicester again

What Brendan Rodgers has done for Leicester City is no mean feat. He’s taken a side who were a mid table Premier League team and transformed them into a club regularly competing for a European spot.

Back-to-back top five finishes, a League Cup semi-final and the club’s first-ever FA Cup final win, he will go down as one of Leicester’s best managers – but things this season haven’t been as simple.

Conceding simple goals, producing lacklustre displays, it’s the first time that Rodgers has experienced animosity from sections of the Leicester crowd.

In terms of man-management, there isn’t many better out there and it’s evident – just look at how the likes of Harvey Barnes and Youri Tielemans have elevated to new levels, but tactically, there seems to be a stubbornness about Rodgers which has cost the Foxes on more than one occasion.

Defending Set-pieces

Have you ever seen a zone score a goal? No, me neither. Zonal marking is a defensive tactics that divides opinion. And when you’ve been as bad at defending set-pieces for as long as Leicester have, you have to question why they haven’t moved away from it.

Not for the first time this season, and probably not for the last either, Leicester conceded easily from a corner as Antonio Rudiger rose highest from the corner delivered by Ben Chilwell at the front post. Identical to what Gabriel did for Arsenal before the international break.

Set-pieces were Leicester’s downfall last season and the problem clearly hasn’t been identified going into this. Rodgers’ refusal to move away from a tactical decision that obviously hasn’t been working for so long is seriously costing them – as shown by the stat below which demonstrates they have conceded the most set pieces in the league this season.

Opposition teams are easily targeting this obvious flaw in the Foxes’ game plan and Rodgers needs to swallow his pride and admit that his current plan, based on a zonal marking system, is not working.

Pointless Possession

The modern day football manager likes their side to have possession – as do supporters. They want to be entertained and keeping the ball and passing with intent is pleasing on the eye.

The man who was at the helm before Rodgers, Claude Puel, was often criticised for the slow pace of football on display at the King Power Stadium, and right now, it doesn’t look much different.

At times in the first-half of the Chelsea game, you wouldn’t have been mistaken for thinking it was the Foxes who were cruising by two goals – so much so that Kasper Schmeichel almost gifted Chelsea a third as his wayward pass fell to Callum Hudson-Odoi, who couldn’t take advantage.

The anger in the fans was audible in the chorus of moans as one of the midfield pair of Boubakary Soumare or Wilfred Ndidi opted for a safer pass back to the nervy-looking Caglar Soyuncu, rather than a more adventurous ball forward in the hopes of springing an attack.

Some credit has to go to Chelsea for their pressing, but this isn’t just a problem in this game. It’s all well and good having the ball, but 20 passes between your centre backs and inviting pressure on your goal isn’t going to do you any favours.

Lack of energy

The Foxes have often been lauded for their tiresome work ethic. When they lose the ball, they win it back and do so relentlessly, but that doesn’t seem to be happening right now.

Even Jamie Vardy, who is renowned for not giving defenders a second on the ball, isn’t closing down like he used to. Age might be a factor there, but it is something Rodgers must consider and work around.

Take Chelsea’s second goal for example, a fantastic finish from N’Golo Kante, but how easy was it? The Frenchman had all the time in the world to run, take a look and shoot – he probably even plan out his celebration beforehand.

But where were the Leicester players? Nobody was in sight and that’s happened far too many times this season. Is this because of the amount of games they’ve played in recent times? Maybe, to some extent – but that doesn’t excuse an apparent lack of desire.

Leicester have also been decimated with injuries – something out of Rodgers’ control – but again, those are on the pitch should still be closing down and playing with more intensity.

It’s the first time questions of Rodgers’ future have been asked. There’s no doubt that he has the ability to turn it around, but maybe it is time to go back to the drawing board and formulate new ideas as opposed to simply trying again and again with the same game plan.