What went wrong for Brendan Rodgers at Leicester

Brendan Rodgers agreed to leave Leicester City with the club inside the relegation zone
Brendan Rodgers agreed to leave Leicester City with the club inside the relegation zone / Alex Davidson/GettyImages

It all started so well.

Basking in the warm glow of an August afternoon, Leicester led Brentford 2-0 after 46 minutes of the new Premier League season. Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall had sunk a sumptuous long-range strike into the bottom corner after Timothy Castagne opened the scoring from a slick corner routine against one of the division's best set-piece operators.

Yet, Leicester conspired to gift their visitors a way back into a contest which seemed sealed. A disappointing 2-2 draw set the tone for a season which quickly spiralled beyond underwhelming into the realms of disaster.

Leicester made the 'regrettable' decision to part ways with manager Brendan Rodgers on Sunday after the club slipped back into the releagtion zone with just ten matches of the season left to play.

The Foxes had not finished outside the top nine during Rodgers' first four seasons.

So, where has it all gone wrong this year?

Lack of recruitment

It's not only that Leicester spent less on summer transfers than any other Premier League club, it's the fact that Rodgers had to wait until September for the first outfield player to join the club.

Wout Faes immediately improved Leicester's creaking backline but the club had already played five league games (13% of the season) before he made his debut. The Foxes did tighten up but dramatically regressed after the World Cup hiatus, with the start of the decline emphatically signalled by a pair of own goals from Faes against Liverpool in December. Without the perenially injured Jonny Evans, the lack of transfer activity left little wiggle room for Rodgers.

Leicester acted in the January transfer window, bolstering the defence further with Harry Souttar and Victor Kristiansen before finally adding a forward in the shape of Tete. Yet, it is a lot to ask of three new players - with no Premier League experience between them - to immediately improve a struggling side midway through the season.

Brazilian winger Tete scored on his debut against Aston Villa but is yet to find the net since, failing to provide any lasting support for Leicester's creative hub who may be involved in a transfer going the other way this summer.

Over-reliance upon James Maddison

It's incredible to think that Rodgers left Maddison out of the starting XI for the most important game of his tenure at Leicester, the 2021 FA Cup final. Almost two years on, the England international is the heartbeat of this Foxes side and, if anything, the reliance upon Maddison has become suffocating.

Leicester have lost six of the seven Premier League matches Maddison has missed. The 26-year-old leads the team for shots and chances created, goals and assists. The Foxes average 1.7 goals per game in which Maddison features compared to just 0.6 without their talisman.

Even when Maddison is on form, he can't always do it all on his own. But Rodgers criminally let Leicester forget how to perform without him.

Brittle confidence

The signs were there on that opening weekend of the season. Leading 2-0, Rodgers failed to react to Brentford's tactical reshuffle. Once a coach vaunted for his in-game flexibility, Rodgers repeatedly struggled to adjust to the shifting tides of a Premier League contest.

No side in the division can match the 22 points Leicester have dropped from winning positions this season. Fittingly, the Foxes led in Rodgers' final match in charge. Yet, an unfortunate own goal from stand-in keeper Daniel Iversen and Jean-Philippe Mateta's 94th-minute winner earned Crystal Palace's first victory of the calendar year. Even against the out-of-practice Roy Hodgson, Rodgers was getting outdone.

Open back door

In truth, Leicester were fortunate to even take the lead against Palace. After weathering a first-half barrage, it was the first time in 2023 that the Foxes hadn't conceded the opening goal of a Premier League game as familiar defensive frailties crept back into the team's rearguard.

Only the promoted duo of Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest - two clubs which find themselves above the Foxes - have conceded more goals than Leicester this season. Despite hiring a coach specialising in set pieces, Leicester once again rank among the worst in the division for concessions via dead balls.

The departure of Kasper Schmeichel has bitten more than most suspected - another consequence of the club's lacklustre recruitment - as Danny Ward has endured a dreadful campaign; only two first-choice goalkeepers have recorded a lower save percentage than the Wales international this season.

And to think, it all started so well.