Brendan Rodgers is giving his Leicester players a mountain to climb… literally | Leicester city


DOn a pre-season trip to France, Brendan Rodgers, eager to get his Leicester side out of their comfort zone, set out with his players on a glacier walk and climb Mont Blanc. After a few difficult days of double sessions, they left Évian-les-Bains at 7:30 a.m. for Chamonix, at the foot of the highest peak in Western Europe, to equip themselves with crampons and helmets, before hiking in the Italian Alps.

“I think they all enjoyed the experience,” Rodgers says. “Vards [Jamie Vardy], like him, likes to prey on the most vulnerable on the cable car and there were some screams… when you go up, it’s high! The whole thing is that this season can be a difficult season for us. But if you want to succeed and reach the highest possible point, you have to go through these times.

The players were split into different teams, each with a guide, and Leicester could take comfort in the fact that their expedition leader, Raj Joshi, was an accomplished adventurer who guided David Beckham through the Amazon. But a little worry was inevitable given that some members of the group had never experienced snow before, and the club’s photographer was attached to Rodgers, wary of the implications of a false move. For Rodgers, who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro while manager of Swansea to raise money for the fight against cancer, it was an opportunity for his team to bond closer.

“I just wanted to do something different to break up the week. Normally they wouldn’t do anything like this, but they will remember. I always try to give them some kind of life experience. Many of these young people are in a bubble: they train and work. It was something different and it just opened their minds.

It’s 15 months since Leicester missed out on a Champions League place on the final day of the campaign and Rodgers is determined to get his side back into the European places, after a frustrating season hampered by injuries to Vardy and the first-choice defensive duo. . of Wesley Fofana and Jonny Evans finished with an eighth place. The only current absentee with a long-term injury is defender Ricardo Pereira, who has undergone surgery for a ruptured Achilles and will be out for six months.

Leicester’s Jonny Evans prepares to lift the pre-season Corendon Cup. Photography: Ed Sykes/Action Images/Reuters

Rodgers was keen to give his side a healthy shake-up but that has yet to materialize – Leicester are the only side in Europe’s top five major leagues not to have signed – despite wanting to add a centre-back playing on the ball and a right-handed striker, with among his targets England Under-21 winger PSV Eindhoven, Noni Madueke, who Leicester faced in the Europa Conference League last season. “I knew exactly what we needed six months ago, what we wanted, what the team was asking for,” Rodgers said. “If I can’t get it, I have to do my best.”

Leicester are in a tough spot where they have to sell to buy, hence Rodgers’ insistence they won’t be parted by their rivals. Leicester’s next set of accounts are set to show significant losses and a bloated squad, amid Financial Fair Play issues, need to be trimmed, but ideally not at the expense of losing their biggest assets. Chelsea have made no secret of their interest in Fofana and Newcastle have played for James Maddison and Harvey Barnes. Arsenal could wait until late to move for Youri Tielemans, who is free to sign a pre-contract deal with a European club in January. The departure of Kasper Schmeichel, one of their highest earners, to Nice after 11 years eases the wage bill, but they could be content to offload fringe players such as Jannik Vestergaard, Boubakary Soumaré and Ryan Bertrand, who have made a total of 22 league starts since their arrival. last summer. Hamza Choudhury and Ayoze Pérez are also considered consumables.

One of Rodgers’ goals has been to better Leicester’s record from set pieces, from which they conceded 19 goals last season, including a league-high 16 from corners. After doing the math, Rodgers says they would have finished in the top six had they conceded half as many goals from set pieces. The club are hoping to finalize the arrival of a specialist set-piece coach, but the move has been delayed by red tape due to Brexit regulations.

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“It was horrible last season, that’s the reality,” Rodgers said. “There’s no escaping this – we can’t hide, it wasn’t good enough. We saw a difference in that regard in pre-season. It’s really to raise the mentality of the players and know that each situation is a chance to win or lose a match on a free kick.

In Maddison, who scored 12 goals and registered eight assists last season, Leicester, who host Brentford on Sunday, have also been a game-changer. “He approaches every game with the confidence and personality to play – he doesn’t wait for the pressure to drop in the game,” Rodgers said. “You see [some] the players, they wait for the match to end with one or two zeros, then they start playing and you see their talent. The hallmark of the best players is that they want to assert themselves in the game early on and that’s something James has a particular knack for. He goes into every game believing he can make the difference.


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