Amongst the Lionel Messi’s and Cristiano Ronaldo’s, Brendan Rodgers and Leicester City quietly had one of the best summer transfer windows in the Premier League.
In came Boubakary Soumare – a new, skilful, midfield engine; in came Patson Daka – a younger, somehow even quicker striker than Jamie Vardy; in came Ryan Bertrand and Jannik Vestergaard – two Saints looking to make an impact at the Foxes, alongside the raw talent of Ademola Lookman. Importantly, too, the departure door remained shut. So, to sum that up, the side that finished 5th by one point in the season prior significantly improved their squad for the upcoming campaign. Yet, somehow, with those improvements, they now look anything but a top six side.
For all of the new acquisitions, the Foxes have not looked better off; they’ve looked far worse, with an unexplained bluntness five games in, combined with defending we have come to expect from those far more chaotic in the bottom half of the table. And this doesn’t come under a manager who enjoys ‘heavy metal football’. This comes under Brendan Rodgers; a subdued manager, with notebook and pen in hand, and not a single crease to be seen in his suit. The whole situation is a tad confusing, but it needs fixing, and quick.
Time for Brendan Rodgers to Act Ruthlessly at Leicester City
James Maddison: A Growing Problem
There was a period of time last season when James Maddison couldn’t put a foot wrong – perhaps emphasised by his scintillating strike from range into the back of Ederson’s net in a 5-2 drubbing of Manchester City. Injury soon struck, however, and, since then, he hasn’t managed a foot right – failing to register a Premier League goal involvement since February of this year.
When an attacking midfielder fails to play his part, fails to create, that’s when the problems can start. All of a sudden, the knife that sharpens the sword used to attack become increasingly blunt. And, when that happens, it’s time to find a new knife, and not persist with the current one. Or, in the case of Brendan Rodgers, it’s time to find a different creative outlet; it’s time to be ruthless and drop Maddison.
For the first time this season, the former Liverpool boss tried that solution, too – taking Maddison off at half-time against Brighton. And, to little surprise, it worked. Leicester went from a side down and out, to very nearly a Tyson Fury-like rise from a Deontay Wilder left hook. That aforementioned attacking sword looked sharper than it has all season without Maddison. In the end, yes, it didn’t earn them a point, but that’s only thanks to VAR. The Foxes score three second-half goals, and two of those were chalked off for Harvey Barnes’ inability to get back onside, seeing the game end 2-1 in Brighton’s favour.
The argument is now more than feasible that, had Rodgers started the game without Maddison, he could have overseen three points for his side. All of this sounds harsh on the midfielder, who has previously starred and will one day shine again, but, for now, Rodgers must act ruthlessly. To put it simply, that’s just football at the top level.
Daka and Iheanacho Need Opportunities
Usually, a player is rewarded when in the best form of their life, but not Kelechi Iheanacho. In fact, he’s been anything but rewarded. Instead of playing the rightful and earned starting role, the Nigerian has once again found himself on the bench for five of Leicester’s first six games. This is a player that scored 19 goals last season, two more than Jamie Vardy. Yet, Brendan Rodgers has confined him to the bench, even opting to play Maddison next to Vardy against Norwich City.
The solution here isn’t to drop Vardy, either. The veteran forward has score three in five Premier League games. But, the added threat that Iheanacho can provide, must be utilised. Why have one 15-goal-as-season striker, when you can have two? Rodgers has the players at his disposal to go back to the basics of a strike partnership, and must make the decision.
Then there’s the case of Patson Daka – a player not getting nearly enough game time at the start of his Leicester career. The sheer pace of the forward is an asset that needs to be taken advantage of, plus his natural finishing ability shown at Red Bull Salzburg, where he scored 34 goals last season. Yes, Leicester City do, indeed, have a player siting on their bench, who is coming off the back of a 34 goal campaign. That player has featured just three times in the Premier League so far this season. After a poor start to the season, could it really get worse if Rodgers gave Daka his chance?
Does Soyuncu Still Have a Place in the Leicester City Side?
In amongst the frustration of the Brighton defeat, Leicester fans would have been as horrified as ever to see no Jonny Evans back in a Foxes shirt. Without him, they have fallen to pieces at the back; Caglar Soyuncu has never looked so exposed; Kasper Schmeichel’s goal hasn’t looked so at threat for a long time. Meanwhile, Jannik Vestergaard hasn’t exactly had a solid start, either.
It is crucial to get Evans back in the side; he is the experienced calm amongst a growing storm within Leicester’s backline. When three out of the four central defenders are available, Soyuncu’s place must come into question, or more, the lack of it.
The Turkish defender, who made mistakes against Norwich City and West Ham before being sent off on international duty, has looked a shadow of his former self. When Evans is back, Rodgers must make the tough call. He must favour Vestergaard, who has been far from great, but less calamitous than his aforementioned partner, and allow Evans to steady the ship next to him.
With the struggling Burnley up next, Leicester City must make changes and use the game as an opportunity to get the likes of Daka, and maybe even Maddison, off the mark for the season, and kickstart their top six push.
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