As Leicester City prepare to kick off the Brendan Rodgers era, Foxes of Leicester spoke to Graham Ruthven, A Glasgow based Scottish Football wiseacre, to get the complete lowdown on the new arrival at the King Power Stadium.
Q. Brendan Rodgers is the new Leicester City manager. The rumours had been doing the rounds for a fairly long time but not at one stage did it feel like Rodgers would want to give up the chance to write history with Celtic Football Club – not this soon anyway. How big a loss is he in your opinion and in what way could it potentially impact the season?
“The loss of Brendan Rodgers is huge for Celtic. When assessing the mark he made there it’s important to recall where the club was was when he arrived. It wasn’t uncommon for the top tier of Celtic Park to be closed for home games and apathy was setting in. Rodgers completely reenergised Celtic.
“He was always going to be a difficult act to follow up. It was quite a coup that Celtic were able to get him in the first place and so fans are ready for a step down in calibre when a successor is ultimately found. But leaving like this, at this stage of the season, has left Celtic high and dry and with no other option than to hire Neil Lennon back until the end of the season.
“In terms of this season, Rodgers’ exit could feasibly affect Celtic’s chances of a historic Triple Treble, but beyond that the trajectory of the club has also been impacted.”
Q. Leicester’s supporters are already revelling in the winds of sanguinity brought about by Rodgers’ arrival, and it seems the players are, too, as they finally ended the nine-game winless streak with a 2-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion on Tuesday. The foxes faithful are fully confident that he is the man to establish club as the best of the rest (teams outside the big six) in the Premier League and bring some trophies along the way – all of it achieved in style. You’ve seen enough of him. Was the Scottish Premiership too kind to him or has he improved to the extent that he’ll help Leicester realise the ambitions of the fans? Or put simply, they’re not overhyping him, are they?
“Rodgers is better for his experiences in Scotland. After being sacked at Liverpool, Rodgers needed somewhere to show that he could handle the pressures of a title race, of leading a club that expects, without exception, to win every game.
“While the timing of his exit from Celtic stinks, Rodgers is probably right that he had taken the club as far as he could have. Financial constraints at Celtic mean they are being cut adrift at the top of the European game, with qualifying for the Champions League getting harder and harder. Rodgers’ character was tested as much as anything else at Celtic.
“Now he’s ready to test other aspects of himself as a coach.”
Q. Under Claude Puel, one of the recurring complaints was that the Frenchman demonstrated tactical naivety too often. While that is right, it also can’t be overlooked that the lack of personnel also contributed to making him look stupid. This leads us to a couple of questions: Can we expect the sort of tactical intelligence from Rodgers which Puel lacked – and with the personnel that he currently has at his disposal?
“I’m afraid Rodgers has his faults here too, but from the other side of the spectrum to Claude Puel. Rodgers is a very principled coach. He believes in a certain way of playing the game and he will very rarely deviate from that.
“In Scotland, in domestic competition, that wasn’t an issue because Celtic had the strength to impose their game on any opponent. But Rodgers was found out quite sorely in Europe. He was naive in thinking Celtic could impose themselves on teams like Barcelona and PSG.
“Celtic suffered a number of thumpings in the Champions League and Rodgers’ tactics were widely blamed for that. This tends to suggest that, given the strength of Leicester’s squad, Rodgers will succeed against sides of inferior quality.
“However, breaking into the top six, or even getting results against the top six, could prove difficult, going on what we saw of Rodgers at Celtic.”
Q. We now come to the part that most Leicester fans are eager to know about: Brendan Rodgers’ footballing philosophy and his system, and how he differs from Puel in this respect – if at all.
“This might not be what Leicester City fans want to hear, but there are some parallels to be drawn between Rodgers and Claude Puel’s philosophy in the way they favour quick attacks. However, Rodgers prefers more of a possession-based game than Puel.
“If there was a Venn diagram between Pep Guardiola, known for passing football, and Jurgen Klopp, known for fast and furious attacking play, Rodgers would sit somewhere in the middle. He is an advocate of the 4-2-3-1 formation, almost to a fault.
“Many wanted Rodgers to play with two up front last season when they had Leigh Griffiths, Moussa Dembele and Odsonne Dembele on the books, but he couldn’t deviate effectively from his default shape. Don’t expect that to change at Leicester.”
Q. There’s an assortment of young talents available to Rodgers from James Maddison, Harvey Barnes and Kelechi Iheanacho to Ben Chilwell and Hamza Choudhury. Can you see all of them benefitting hugely under the 46-year old. Or if we further narrow the question down, is there a particular player who you see flourishing?
“This is where Leicester City fans can get really excited over the arrival of Rodgers. This was perhaps his great success at Celtic, not so much bringing through young players, but turning the young players he inherited into superstars.
“Kieran Tierney was already a first team figure at Celtic when Rodgers was hired, but the Northern Irishman turned him into one of the most sought after young full backs in Europe. Stuart Armstrong was considered a squad figure, but Rodgers raised his game two or three levels, resulting in Southampton paying £7 million for him last summer.
“The two greatest success stories can be found in Callum McGregor and James Forrest, two players many Celtic fans believed not good enough. Now, they are match winners. Rodgers brought that out of them.
“Even going back to his Liverpool days, Rodgers has a track record of harnessing full backs and attacking midfielders. Ben Chilwell is already one of Leicester’s best players, but Rodgers could take him on even further.
“James Maddison is another who could benefit from Rodgers’ appointment. He could be Leicester City’s McGregor (that’s if McGregor doesn’t join Rodgers at Leicester, which is already being rumoured).”
Q. Let us keep the football to one side. Leicester’s dressing room has been widely accepted as a rather notorious one, an obstreperous one. They’re infamous for playing a major role in having the last three managers sacked. Now they have a man who has got quite the reputation as an excellent man-manager and, when needed, a strict observer of the “my way or the highway” rule. What part of that do you consider true vis-à-vis his tenure at Celtic?
“Rodgers is renowned for being a good man manager, and rightly so. As previously referenced, he is proven at improving and developing individuals in a way that no other British manager can boast right now. However, that isn’t to say that Rodgers hasn’t pushed too far with some players.
“Moussa Dembele, for one, left Celtic after a rumoured falling out with Rodgers, something that was effectively confirmed by Dembele’s tweets following Tuesday’s news.
“There had also been hints of tension between the Northern Irishman and Leigh Griffiths. The Leicester City dressing room will be a test, but at least at first, he will get them on board.”
Q. Finally, you know what keeps Rodgers happy, and you also know what Leicester’s owners are mostly known for. How do you see this appointment panning out (keeping both of those factors in mind)?
“There’s no reason to believe Rodgers won’t be a success at Leicester. It’s a good fit, with the Northern Irishman inheriting a squad he can do a lot with. Rodgers has achieved a degree of success in each of his last three jobs and so his pedigree is in no doubt.
“However, a warning to Leicester fans – learn from Celtic’s hurt this week. Rodgers is a master at saying the right things and pandering to supporters. Upon his appointment on Tuesday he said he would “give my life” to Leicester.
“But if an opportunity for Rodgers to climb the footballing ladder presents itself again in the not so distant future, Rodgers will take it. Don’t be too surprised if Leicester fans experience at some point what Celtic fans have faced this week.”