Early loser: Brendan Rodgers struggling like Ole for answers

Ian Watson
Brendan Rodgers greets Jonny Evans after Leicester's defeat to Chelsea.

Brendan Rodgers is certainly playing the United Way. Unfortunately for the Leicester boss, his side are imitating Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s current rabble rather than following any of the Red Devils’ finer traditions.

Leicester fell to yet another home defeat on Saturday lunchtime while failing to lay a glove on a Chelsea side so immaculately drilled by Thomas Tuchel that the contrast was inescapable. The Blues triumphed 3-0 while having another three chalked off and 6-0 would not have flattered the European champions.

Leicester had no answer to Chelsea’s dominance, in much the same way Manchester United have been so thoroughly outclassed recently to put Rodgers at the top of the list of candidates to take over at Old Trafford.

But right now, Rodgers has more in common with Solskjaer than those forwarding him for the United job may wish to acknowledge.

Both managers are presiding over underperforming outfits, seemingly bereft of confidence, while continuing to make the same mistakes week after week.

Solskjaer has been panned for United’s defensive struggles and his failure to implement a functioning system that gets the best out of his individuals, but the same accusation could be made against Rodgers and Leicester. The Foxes haven’t managed a clean sheet since the opening day of the season and before the 3pm kick-offs, only the bottom two have conceded more goals.

Like United, yet again they paid for their inability to defend set-pieces when Antonio Rudiger wandered off Kasper Schmeichel’s toes into a pocket of space to glance a header into the far corner of the Foxes net. That was the defender’s fourth goal against Leicester – a third of his total Chelsea goals have been scored at the King Power, or as it shall henceforth be know, the Rudiger Bowl.

You could credit Jorginho for blocking off Wilfried Ndidi or Tuchel and his staff for formulating the plot. But Leicester have suffered the same misfortunate so often this season that poor planning rather than bad luck must be at the root of their problems.

Chelsea’s second goal highlighted the other huge flaw in Rodgers’ plan and another similarity with Solskjaer: a failure to adequately man his engine room.

With Youri Tielemans missing with a calf injury, Rodgers paired Ndidi with Boubakary Soumare and both spent the first half playing piggy in the middle, neither closing down Jorginho and N’Golo Kante or blocking off the routes into Chelsea’s front three. Kante was the beneficiary when Ndidi and Soumare pressed high and locked on to yellow shirts in the 28th minute, but one simple turn from Reece James took both out of the game, allowing the France midfielder a run at Jonny Evans. Evans, wondering where the hell his screen had disappeared to, backed off all the way into his own box, allowing Kante a sight of the near post, inside which the France midfielder shot beyond Schmeichel.

Leicester v Chelsea

Like Solskjaer, Rodgers waited too long to address the problem. The Leicester boss made a double change at half-time that saw James Maddison lend Ndidi and Soumare a hand and while the hosts rallied briefly, never did Chelsea look flustered. Ben Chilwell continued to fly forward unrestrained while Thiago Silva saw no need to put down his pipe or change out of his slippers.

Also like Solskjaer, Rodgers had to listen to boos at half-time from the home supporters and a resigned hush upon the full-time whistle. Because the Leicester fans are used to this now. Since the start of last season, they have seen their side lose at home more often than they have won.

Leciester’s lethargy has lasted too long to be a blip – they could finish the weekend in 14th place after a dozen games. Rodgers has been widely praised for positioning the Foxes in the Champions League places – though not when it really matters – and while that might qualify as overachievement, their current form is anything but. The Leicester manager must address his own problems before anyone should think how he might deal with United’s.