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Leicester City’s 3-1 win over Liverpool on Saturday brought them to second place in the day’s Premier League table, and it was a particularly momentous afternoon for Brendan Rodgers.
In a great result for landlord fans everywhere, Rodgers finally surpassed Jurgen Klopp, who previously rented a property in Merseyside that he bought during his time as manager of the Reds. In three previous meetings with the head coach who replaced him at Anfield, the Northern Irishman has been repeatedly humiliated.
The previous two games finished 7-0 for Klopp on aggregate, and in the previous game, Liverpool also ranked in the top 2-1. The German’s dominance must have been especially difficult for Rodgers to take on, as Klopp is the man who managed to turn the Reds into Premier League title winners. It’s a feat Rodgers came close to, but never accomplished during his years at the club.
This weekend, Rodgers finally got revenge on his ex’s perfect new boyfriend, leading his Foxes to a notable victory. The victory completed a kind of triplet. Before this season, Rodgers had never beaten Klopp, Pep Guardiola or José Mourinho. This season has ended that streak, beating Manchester City 5-2 and dispatching Tottenham 2-0.
In both games, Leicester played brilliant football throughout. Against Liverpool, they condensed most of their attacking threat into a devastating seven-minute period, which somehow overlooked their less than impressive start to the game. At first, the basic missed passes and loose marks almost punished them. However, this should be taken with a pinch of salt, as its display provides a neat microcosm of some of the challenges Rodgers has faced – and overcome – this season.
Much has been written about Liverpool’s injury crisis this season, but Leicester also came into this game with a crooked and half-cooked squad. Timothy Castagne, Dennis Praet and Wes Morgan were lost, while two of the league’s best defenders this season, James Justin and Wesley Fofana, were also sidelined.
Jamie Vardy, James Maddison, Wilfred Ndidi, Caglar Soyuncu and Ricardo Pereira have also spent periods at the treatment table this season, although as Maddison rightly pointed out after the game, this hasn’t been talked about enough.
Rather than spend his time complaining about his team’s fitness issues, Rodgers has shown incredible flexibility in his team’s picks. Earlier in the season, he made the best of his meager resources by trading to 3-4-2-1 or 5-4-1. More recently, he has reacted back to who is available by deploying a 4-2-3-1.
This trend continued against the Reds with Daniel Amartey in the right-back position, while Pereira assumed defensive roles on the opposite flank. For other teams, changing the baseline so dramatically could have disastrous effects. However, in Leicester, Rodgers has created a different tactical culture. This, combined with his world-class motivational skills, means that fringe players have had no trouble getting to the plate when necessary this season.
Marc Albrighton, Nampalys Mendy and Kelechi Iheanacho were once considered in excess of the requirements at King Power Stadium. Under Rodgers ‘leadership this season, they have found new life, playing their role in the Foxes’ top four.
The last marginal player to come to the fore was Amartey against Liverpool. When asked to replace on the right-back, his display was not classic, but he still came in with several important interventions, racking up a pair of blocks, a tackle and four punts.
Although the Foxes’ rotation options have played their part, it was the Leicester players who have drawn a lot of headlines this season who again proved decisive against the champions. Harvey Barnes, who must now be considered a strong contender for England’s team this summer, won the free kick that led to the first goal and also pocketed one. Maddison and Vardy were also heavily involved in the game’s dramatic seven-minute turnaround.
The result was significant for Rodgers personally and exactly what he deserved after working miracles with a sold out Leicester team this season. It has created an atmosphere in which players can thrive and has also managed to forge a style of play that is both distinct but flexible.
There are few fans in England these days who wouldn’t want him at the helm of their team and it seems that the best is yet to come from the once-ridiculous figure.