It took a late surge into the box and a last-minute penalty from James Milner to secure all three points for Liverpool in their Premier League clash at home to Leicester City. And while the visitors were left disappointed with the result, the performance showed they are now top-four contenders under Brendan Rodgers.
Close to glory
The Northern Irishman led Liverpool to second in the Premier League in 2013/14 before a rapid decline – prompted by some disastrous transfer dealings the following summer – led to his dismissal.
Liverpool eventually recovered and went on to become European champions under new boss Jurgen Klopp. Meanwhile, Rodgers got that episode of his career out of his system by plundering a haul of trophies north of the border with Celtic.
Despite that golden season on Merseyside and his record-breaking achievements at Celtic, Rodgers’ coaching ability has often been underplayed in the media and by the social media-dwelling public. And many felt his move to Leicester City would expose him as average.
There is no doubt that the 46-year-old made mistakes during his time at Anfield but the same could be said of the club’s hierarchy who played their part in a string of poor decisions which put the brakes on Liverpool’s rise six years ago. However, a record of seven trophies in fewer than three seasons while playing fluid and attacking football at Celtic should have restored his reputation. Instead, his success was attributed to the perceived low quality of the Scottish top flight.
Rebuilding a reputation
Keen to prove his doubters wrong, Rodgers accepted an offer from Leicester City and made an instant impact, finishing the last campaign strongly and turning the Foxes into top-four contenders in the process. By the time they lost to Liverpool, they were already priced ahead of Manchester United to finish in the top four in the football betting at Space Casino. They certainly look the best-placed team outside of the traditional Big Six to break into that group.
Rodgers seems to have given the Leicester club the same kind of spark he brought to Liverpool when he first arrived. His training plans have always been meticulous and the East Midlands club are already reaping the rewards. That attention to detail will soon be aided by a new £100 million training complex.
The club was drifting aimlessly when Claude Puel was sacked last season and looked destined to finish in the bottom half of the table. The fact they are now classed as contenders for Europe is a testament to the work Rodgers has done in the months since he arrived.
Jamie Vardy is back in form and back on the England radar, and the club are playing some attractive-but-effective football, a combination that is hard to achieve without the budget of an elite club. The Carnlough-born coach has set the standard at the club and expects everyone else to be on board whether it’s the players pressing to regain possession on the pitch or those working behind the scenes.
The club opted not to embark on an energy-sapping world tour in the summer, preferring to give their players the best opportunity to return fresh for pre-season. And the improvement in fitness and conditioning has been clear.
The season may still be young but the early signs are that Rodgers’ reputation is already being boosted along with Leicester City’s status as a serious Premier League force.