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Brendan Rodgers at Leicester: The main challenges he will face
Leicester have appointed Rodgers in a deal until 2022
Last Updated: 27/02/19 1:27pm
Leicester have confirmed the appointment of Brendan Rodgers as successor to Claude Puel, but what are the main challenges he will face at the King Power Stadium?
Rodgers' switch from Celtic to Leicester was confirmed on Tuesday evening, marking his return to the Premier League for the first time since his departure from Liverpool in 2015.
From developing Leicester's young stars to making a fist of the cup competitions, here are the key areas in need of attention in his new role…
Develop the youth
Puel had his faults but one thing he can't be accused of is failing to give Leicester's young players chances. Wilfred Ndidi, James Maddison, Ben Chilwell and Demarai Gray (all 22) became key figures in his youthful side and there were also Premier League opportunities for Hamza Choudhury, Harvey Barnes and January signing Youri Tielemans (all 21).
It is a thrilling collection of young players - perhaps the most exciting outside the Premier League's big six - and one of the biggest challenges for Rodgers will be to continue its development. Leicester's rising stars are vital to the club's long-term future, and with the summer transfer window still several months away, they will also be crucial in the short-term.
It's handy, then, that player development is one of Rodgers' strongest attributes as a coach.
The Northern Irishman started out as a youth coach at Chelsea, where he was hand-picked by Jose Mourinho soon after his arrival in England in 2004. From there, he went on to Watford, Reading, Swansea, Liverpool and Celtic, but he has carried his experiences in Chelsea's academy with him every step of the way.
He moulded Ben Davies and Joe Allen into top-level Premier League players at Swansea, and his tantalising brush with the Premier League title at Liverpool in 2013/14 owed a lot to his fine work with Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and Jon Flanagan, all of whom became key players.
Rodgers continued to champion youth during his time in charge of Celtic, where the current first-team squad contains 12 players aged 22 or under. As well as bigger names such as Kieran Tierney and Oliver Burke (both 21), Rodgers has given senior opportunities to Mikey Johnston (19), Kristoffer Ajer (20) and Filip Benkovic (21), a player he will be reunited with at Leicester.
Benkovic is not the only talented young player who jumped at the chance to work with Rodgers at Celtic, with Paris Saint-Germain loan signing Timothy Weah the latest example, and Leicester will be hopeful of more of the same at the King Power Stadium.
"When I eventually retire from football, I want to be able to look back and see that not only have I won trophies but I've developed a football club that has brought through their own youth players and made them better," said Rodgers in 2014. "That is very important in my work.
"Other managers may be different and might just be about purely winning trophies but for me success isn't just about picking up the trophy at the end of the season. It's also about the football club, giving value to young players and seeing them develop."
Establish an identity
Leicester are crying out for a new identity. In the extraordinary, title-winning 2015/16 season under Claudio Ranieri, the team was known for its defensive solidity and devastating counter-attacking, but that approach has given way to something more muddled in recent years.
Leicester under Puel 2018/19
- 32 goals scored (12th in PL)
- 38 goals conceded (11th in PL)
- 49.3% possession (8th in PL)
- 9.0% shot conversion (14th in PL)
What was Leicester's playing style under Puel? It is not an easy question to answer. There was more of an emphasis on possession, certainly, but the speed of play was often pedestrian and they often struggled to create scoring chances.
As a result, Leicester have only scored 32 goals in 27 Premier League games this season. There have been high points - not least the 2-1 win over Manchester City on Boxing Day - but consistency has been lacking and so too has entertainment.
Rodgers looks like the right man to change that. He has been committed to attractive, attacking football ever since his days coaching in Chelsea's academy, and providing some excitement for a disillusioned fanbase is sure to be one of his priorities.
His Liverpool side played with ferocious intensity in 2013/14 and he is likely to demand the same kind of work-rate from his Leicester players. He certainly has the tools. Puel did not play to Jamie Vardy's strengths but the 32-year-old's powers have not diminished. In Gray, Kelechi Iheanacho, Tielemans and Maddison, the squad boasts plenty of pace and creativity.
Leicester supporters would dearly love to see Rodgers harness that pace and creativity far better than his predecessor, and he might also be helped by deciding on a more settled starting line-up.
Target the cups
Puel's refusal to take the cup competitions seriously was another major bone of contention among Leicester supporters. Having experienced the highs of their 2015/16 title triumph, those supporters were reluctant to accept a mid-table finish as being the club's priority.
Puel rested Riyad Mahrez and Vardy for their League Cup quarter-final with Manchester City in his first season, missing an opportunity to move into the last four at the expense of a second-string City side, and it was a similar story this year. Puel paid the price for leaving out his best players in their FA Cup humiliation against Newport County - and there was more complacency as they went out of the League Cup to City once again.
Leicester's early eliminations mean Rodgers will not get the chance to prioritise the cups in what remains of this season, but supporters will expect a change of approach in 2019/20.
They can take encouragement from Rodgers' record in Scotland, where he won Scottish Cup and League Cup doubles in each of his full seasons in charge. He arrives in the Midlands having already clinched this season's League Cup, with the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup to come this weekend.