Back in 2016, Leicester City captured the imagination of the football world when they, against all odds, won the English Premier League title; their first in 132 years.
They achieved this with a very talented, skillful and hungry squad that worked their socks off week in, week out under the keen eye of one of football’s most experienced managers in Claudio Ranieri.
It was an unforgettable moment then, but they stumbled the following season and didn’t look like the team that had lifted the title then.
A lot has happened since then. They lost some of their top players notably N’Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez, who have since gone on to win the Premier League title with Chelsea and Manchester City respectively.
Wes Morgan, or simply Captain Morgan, Robert Huth, Shinji Okazaki, Danny Simpson, and Danny Drinkwater also left, same as manager Claudio Ranieri.
In came Brendan Rodgers. The experienced manager has since put in some good work over the past two seasons, and fast forward to 2019, he has The Foxes ticking again.
Upgrading from the past
The Foxes have wonderfully gifted, who seem to be an upgraded version of those in the team that won the league four seasons ago.
The side then was built on hardworking individuals right from the back to the striking department and relied on quick counter-attacking football.
Wes Morgan and Robert Huth were the rocks that the foundation was built on, and in N’Golo Kante, they had a midfield engine that could power from box to box with ease.
Then they relied on the then lethal Jamie Vardy’s goals The striker took the league by storm, finding the net in the opening 11 matches.
On the wing, the Algerian-French born Riyad Mahrez was a revelation, then the foot soldiers in midfield that easily won games with devastating attacks.
Rodgers has taken time to improve his team, to get the right players and instill his brand of football in the side, and has managed to get the right players for just that.
He has moved from the title-winning side's brand of football where possession did not matter as such and has concentrated on instilling ball-possession mindset and they are winning beautifully.
He does not seem to rely heavily on individual brilliance but has got his boys playing as a unit.
Rebuilding from the 2016 rubbles
In the base of midfield, where Kante shone and became the world’s best, he has Wilfred Ndidi, one of the best tacklers and hardworking midfielders in the world and clearly the glue that binds the Leicester side together.
In defense, Rodgers lost arguably his best center-back in Harry Maguire to Manchester United in the summer, but that did not bother him much as he has turned Caglar Soyuncu and Manchester United reject Johny Evans into world-class defenders.
Ben Chilwell at left-back is one of the best in his position in the league and by large, Europe. He has attracted attention from top teams, and he clearly gives balance to the side.
He is lethal going forward as well and has added a few goals to his name already this campaign.
James Madison and Youri Tielmans have a perfect combination in the middle of the park and have shown a great understanding in rotating and changing roles whenever needed.
Vardy has reincarnated. Nine goals in the opening 10 matches is clear that the slippery forward that shot the Foxes to the title back then is back to his former best, and if he carries on with the form, he will easily surpass the 24 goals he scored before the end of the season.
Playing a better brand of football
The title-winning side had 19 points after 10 matches, and interestingly, Rodgers’ boys are one better this campaign as they sit third on 20 points, eight off leaders Liverpool.
They’ve shown resilience in the opening matches, match by match, they have demonstrated that their performances are not by luck, rather from the hard work they put in every day in training.
Their recent 9-0 thrashing of Southampton was one of their best performances in recent seasons, and even though the hosts were reduced to 10 men, Rodgers’ men went to St. Mary’s with clear intent and they left there with three points and having sent a statment.
They have dropped points in matches they could have easily won, and could be over the 20-point mark. They were the better side against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in a 1-1 draw in August, and painfully lost to Manchester United through a Marcus Rashford penalty in a match Man United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted they were second-best.
Against Liverpool at Anfield, a 94th-minute penalty broke the Foxes’ hearts as they lost 2-1, and we could be talking about them leading the table, perhaps.
The Rodgers effect
Rodgers has everything to do with their form, and as Christian Fuchs, who was part of the title-winning team notes, he understands his players, and that's key.
"It's the mentality Brendan gives us - we want to go in every day and work," said the 33-year-old defender in an interview with Leicester Mercury.
"It was very important he had a pre-season with us. You could see last season that our game improved a lot.
"Where we are right now, our game is on a different level to when we won the Premier Leauge. It's two different teams.
"This one is built on possession. When we won the Premier League, I think we had 25 percent possession. It's crazy.
"Brendan is right up there as a manager. He wants us to understand why we are doing certain things on the field.
Well, they might not win the title this campaign because of Manchester City and Liverpool’s strength, but they are in for a top-four finish if they can maintain the momentum.
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