It always looked as if Brendan Rodgers would leave Leicester City at some point throughout this season. The Northern Irishman has failed to inspire the inconsistent Foxes this term, continuously flirting with relegation throughout the first half of the season. He leaves underwhelmingly after an initially exciting start to life at Leicester, but clearly ran his course after four years.
Prior to the World Cup, their form could simply be put down to a bad start, but with Leicester now in the bottom three with less than a quarter of the season left, it was time to pull the trigger.
Dean Smith is the man to replace Rodgers, and while it seems like a rather unambitious appointment, his poor stint at Norwich shouldn’t overshadow the great work he did with Aston Villa, and a return to the Midlands may inspire Leicester to turn their fortunes around and the new manager bounce could make them more favourable when betting on football.
Indeed, things had become dull and listless at the King Power during Rodgers’ final year and had it not been for the financial restrictions in place at the club, perhaps we would have seen him sacked sooner. While Rodgers did a good job in his early years, coming within touching distance of Champions League football in consecutive seasons as well as win the FA Cup, his time is up at Leicester.
There are various factors that contributed to his downfall at the King Power. The main reason being recruitment. The departures of Kasper Schmeichel and Wesley Fofana, both integral players, were dealt with poorly towards the end of the window. While Leicester received £85 million for the pair, mainly due to the latter’s fee, there was no time to sign real replacements, leaving Danny Ward between the sticks to start the season and the underwhelming Wout Faes arriving from Reims. And while he made some extra signings in January, it still doesn’t look enough to pad out a depleted squad.
“It’s been a long time since the club signed players in January but there was definitely a need for it. Especially after the last couple of windows,” he said at the end of January. “It’s not just about now, it’s preparing going forward. We have a number of players out of contract in the summer in key positions, especially at centre-half. It was important from that aspect, strategically.”
Rodgers had got his signings spot on in his early years and built a team that could genuinely compete with the best in the league at one point in time. And they would have looked favourably amongst Champions League odds. However, as the injuries built up and the core of the side got older, things were never freshened up. Looking at the last few matchday squads, it’s the same faces that were fighting for Europe almost four years ago, with the likes of Jamie Vardy, James Maddison, Youri Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi ran into the ground.
The Nigerian is perhaps the biggest miss though. Leicester have been unable to cope in transition without Ndidi’s ability to break things up in midfield, and while his injuries have allowed Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall to establish himself as a regular in the first team, it’s led to Leicester getting punished far too many times. In typical Rodgers fashion, they’ve thrown away too many points from winning positions or when on top in games, culminating in their position in the table.
It will be interesting to see if Smith ensures their survival. Long-term it’s hard to see him taking Leicester in the direction they want to be in, having only played Europa League football last season, But as a short stop-gap, it seems like the right appointment in the context of Rodgers’ unravelling.