Brendan Rodgers led Leicester to its first FA Cup final in more than 50 years. Michael Regan – The FA / The FA via Getty Images
Brendan Rodgers has already experienced the crucial moment in his career as a manager. Rightly or wrongly that Leicester City The manager’s achievements are always seen through the prism of what happened in spring 2014 as his Liverpool Steven Gerrard’s team, Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling stumbled on the home stretch of the Premier League title race and finished second after having won the championship for sure.
History has judged Rodgers harshly since then. Although Rodgers has recovered from his disappointment in Liverpool and has won seven major awards as a Celtic manager in less than three years, he has yet to convince his doubters that he has what it takes to rise to the coaching elite, which is why the The last two weeks of the 2020-21 season have become so important to mark the next stage of his career.
If Rodgers can lead his stalled Leicester team to a Top 4 result, an FA Cup Final win, or both, then he has silenced his critics with a resounding success. But if Leicester again misses the Champions League qualification and loses to them Chelsea this Saturday at Wembley (Stream LIVE at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN + in the US) it will be difficult to evade the reality of another loss of form and belief in the late season under Rodgers’ management.
If Gerrard’s infamous slip against Chelsea in April 2014 was the culmination of Act 1 of Rodger’s career – the slip was allowed Demba Ba To score a goal and put Chelsea on the 2-0 win that derailed Liverpool’s title bid – Leicester’s end of this season is the defining moment for act 2.
Starting with the Premier League clash on Tuesday with Manchester United At Old Trafford, Rodgers must find a way to restart a season that a year after her miss for Leicester is in danger of going horribly wrong in Champions League qualifying.
It’s a simple equation in the league. Seven points from the last three games guarantee a top 4 result. Less will be enough if Liverpool don’t win all four remaining games, but Leicester’s final three league games are against United, Chelsea and Tottenham HotspurThis is a daunting schedule for a team that has only won two of their last seven league games. Can Rodgers arrest Leicester’s break-in and get the job done?
The 48-year-old can build exciting teams that play stylish football. He trusts young players – Sterling in Liverpool, Wesley Fofana in Leicester – and he undoubtedly improved his three previous clubs – Swansea City, Liverpool and Celtic. He’s clearly following the same pattern in Leicester. He is fighting for the qualification for the Champions League for the second time in a row and is preparing for his first FA Cup final since 1969.
Leicester is on the verge of its most successful season since winning the 2015/16 Premier League title. Michael Regan / Getty Images
But Leicester’s recent loss of form is a reflection of last season’s breakdown when they surrendered a spot in the Champions League on the last day of the season after being in the top four all season. When you factor in the losing Liverpool title in 2014 when a Rodgers team failed to cross the finish line again, it’s not difficult to spot the biggest question mark about their reputation: why can’t their teams deliver when it counts?
This question won’t go away until it’s answered in the affirmative. That is why the last two weeks of this season are just as important as the entry into the Liverpool title race in 2014. Already in 2013/14 in Liverpool I missed the title even though I won 15 and drew three of the last 19 games of the season. The only loss to Chelsea opened the door for Manchester city to win the title by two points.
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To say Liverpool fell away under Rodgers would be tough. For most seasons, Liverpool’s form would have guaranteed a title in the second half of the season. Their undoing was ultimately their defensive record. The team conceded 50 goals in 38 games versus City 37. Despite Liverpool stats suggesting Rodgers maintained strong form in the second half of the season, the end result was a failure and he continues at Leicester.
Last season, when the COVID-19 pandemic caused a 100-day hiatus in the Premier League campaign, Leicester won just six of its last 19 league games. They slipped out of the top 4 for the first time when they lost to Manchester United on the last day. Only four league wins after the New Year caused Leicester’s fall, but Rodgers lost key players James Maddison, Ben Chilwell, Wilfred Ndidi and Ricardo Pereira Long-term injuries and lack of depth contributed to poor results.
It was similar this season, although the slump was flatter and less lengthy with seven wins and five losses from 16 games in the second half of the season. Injuries were again a key factor at Maddison. James Justin, Harvey Barnes, Jonny Evans and Jamie Vardy any missing important periods.
Recent results have highlighted Rodgers’ old mistake on defense. Twelve goals were conceded in seven games. When the time comes to close the shop with a more pragmatic game plan, Rodgers will stick to his principles of attack despite the risks. Maybe that’s why he hasn’t got a chance to run a Big Six club or a big European team because the ability to defend properly is just as important as producing a team that inspires the fans.
However, if the Rodgers football brand can thrive in the form of trophies or Champions League football, it will be viewed by club owners as a game of chance worth playing. He just needs to find a way to take this next step. Rodgers and Leicester can do it together in the next two weeks, but it will be a great test of his coaching ability to get there.