Football Expert & Columnist
Brendan Rodgers meets Jamie Carragher: Leicester defence, Jamie Vardy form, James Maddison style and more
Watch Aston Villa vs Leicester live on Sky Sports Premier League on Super Sunday; Kick-off 2pm
Last Updated: 08/12/19 1:59pm
What's the secret to Leicester's mean defence? Why is Jamie Vardy starring this season? And which Liverpool player is James Maddison starting to resemble in Brendan Rodgers' eyes?
The Foxes, who climbed back above Manchester City into second with a midweek win over Watford, boast the Premier League's top scorer in 14-goal Jamie Vardy, and at the other end have conceded just nine goals - the fewest in the league.
Ahead of a Super Sunday clash with Aston Villa, Leicester boss Rodgers - who signed a new five-and-a-half-year deal at the King Power on Friday - sat down with Jamie Carragher in the Sky Sports Match Zone to talk tactics and lift the lid on his approach.
"I've always wanted my teams to press but especially when I went up to Celtic, we took the opportunity to really look at the greater team [responsibility] in order to ensure you're compact. I've always wanted my team to press so for me, coming into Leicester, one of the first things you do is speak to the players, fundamentally, about how you press the game.
"One of the biggest things I've concentrated on is the distance of the players. I always wanted my teams to press high up the pitch but the pitch is only as long as your back four so there's a real emphasis for me on them closing the space and being really tight.
"Obviously Wilf [Ndidi] pushes himself on but what is absolutely key is these guys [the defenders]. What I have in them is a back four and a goalkeeper who are top class. They're young but they have the physicality to do what I want them to do in terms of shorting the pitch. Jonny [Evans] has big experience and he's the brain in it; he understands how I want to work. There's been a lot of work with them both in the game and in specific sessions to get them to shorten the pitch.
"I talk about compactness when we haven't got the ball but also compactness when you have the ball so you can really go and suffocate the game. I've got players with that intuition now that will go and do it automatically, I've got speed in the players that can and really press the game. I've got players with no ego, they really want to work and enjoy working."
The midfield role - and why Maddison's like Henderson
"For a lot of my career, I've played with that single pivot and two advanced ones. Both Maddison and Tielemans were maybe renowned No 10s but I don't play so much with a No 10 unless I put in a diamond like we did at Liverpool at times. These guys have got good energy to press the games and roles have changed in the game, too. You don't have to be a player that really smashes people. For me, it's as long as they can intercept and block.
"Everyone will look at James' creative side but in terms of interceptions, blocks and winning the ball back, he's in the same sort of bracket as Jordan Henderson. We know that Jordan is amazing at that side of the game and James has really improved his game in that sense. That's the message we're trying to send to them: if you want to play in central midfield and be the creators, that's absolutely brilliant - but you have to be able to press the game."
Ndidi does the dirty work
"For such a young player, he has no ego and does all the dirty work.
"He reads the game and he can play. He is that protection for the centre-halves and the other midfield players. In terms of agility and that defensive side, he's very good and all we ask him to do is play simple things.
"Is he a big part of our defensive record? Absolutely. But it's from the team really. Jamie [Vardy] sets the press up at the top end of the pitch and everyone is synchronised behind that in order to press."
Vardy's even quicker now - this is what I want from him...
"If you think back to Liverpool, when I came in, Luis [Suarez] played up there with Andy Carroll so he spent a lot of time running up the sides and around. It was about getting him as a striker, then at times playing Daniel [Sturridge] off him or Raheem [Sterling] but keep him more centralised and then he's in the box more, he'll have more chances and he'll score more goals.
"With Jamie, it was the same. He's such an honest player that if you ask him to press the back four, he will do it, but we don't want him to run more than anyone else but when he does, we want it to be at speed. I've always felt that when teams have been against him that's he's a real threat up front because he's aggressive with his press and then when you have the ball, the one thing you're frightened of as a defender is pace and this guy is as quick as I've seen over ten yards that I've worked with. He has that explosive speed.
"When we were here in the summer - from when he was first measured four or five years ago in pre-season and his numbers now - doing the same battery of tests, he was actually quicker. If you look at any of the best teams, like Liverpool, they're great in possession and working it, but then in transition, they can play deep and go in behind early. What I never wanted to do was lose that, it's a big strength of his, but could we add other aspects of it? If you didn't tell Jamie, because he is such a team player, he would be right back in a defensive area helping his team. However, him being up there gives us this option of if we want to play deep.
"He's so clever, he recognises danger. He waits in the central area and then when it's on, he can go and press it. He doesn't have to worry about pressing the whole back four, he's conserving his energy, because the other players have to conserve their energy as well. That's the variety you want in your team, the ability to play deep and play that longer pass and his pace and speed gives you the opportunity to do that.
"He gives any team great confidence. When you have a striker with that ability, you know he doesn't need many chances. Any of the best sides have it, that striker that can score, and he's got guys behind him who can serve him as well. Maddison is unbelievable on that through-pass, as is Youri; they can make that pass through teams or around them."
Follow Aston Villa vs Leicester with Sky Sports
Aston Villa vs Leicester is live on Renault Super Sunday from 1pm; kick-off 2pm. Sky Sports customers can watch in-game clips in the live match blog on the Sky Sports website and app.
Highlights will also be published on the Sky Sports digital platforms and the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel shortly after the final whistle.