It took them a while, but Leicester finally saw off a surprisingly resilient Fulham to claim all three points on Saturday afternoon at the King Power.
After losing his first game in charge against Watford, Brendan Rodgers should have been confident of a comfortable victory against lowly Fulham; it was indeed comfortable in the end, yet some moments may give the new Leicester manager cause for concern.
The Rodgers revolution will take time
It would not be difficult for Brendan Rodgers to eclipse his predecessor in the charm and attitude departments; although Claude Puel was a man of high respect and discipline, he did not inspire his players nor the fans of the club, who quickly deemed him to be lacking interest and passion. Rodgers is a manager who prides himself on a close bond with fans and will no doubt win over the Leicester supporters quickly.
Yet patience must be advised. Rodgers has changed formation for both games that he’s managed, switching to a back-four against Fulham, and some of the defending in both games has left a lot to be desired (although his decision to drop Wes Morgan is long, long overdue by the club). Yet with talent like James Maddison and Youri Tielemans playing decisive, clever balls through the channels it is clear to see Rodgers has a lot to work with and they are immediately a more interesting side to watch.
Parker solidifies Fulham but is incapable of miracles
In terms of performance, this was almost a good result for Fulham and Scott Parker. They were one incredibly stupid mistake from frustrating Leicester to a 1-1 draw here, before a misplaced pass led to Vardy’s first goal, breaking Fulham’s resistance with ten minutes to go. By Fulham’s standards this is almost an achievement, to lose with only ten minutes remaining, and perhaps Scott Parker has already done some good towards restoring Fulham’s ability to defend and their ability to organise themselves.
But also, maybe not. The first two Leicester goals are down to shocking errors of judgement from Fulham, with the first in particular being so bad it resulted in Leicester performing an almost mocking 2 on 1 situation by walking it into the net. The confidence of this team is so bad, and mistakes are so ingrained at this point that Parker has very little chance of turning things around until the summer.
Vardy’s 100th and 101st goals ask more questions of Claude Puel
It couldn’t have been a more Jamie Vardy goal for number 100; we’ve seen him do it countless times, get played in behind the defence, narrow angle to the goalkeeper, powering it into the opposite corner with age. He is a Leicester icon, and deservedly so, and Rodgers clearly has identified him as one of the first players on the team-sheet.
And yet for all of Vardy’s obvious qualities, Saturday was almost a comeback story for him, such was the way that Claude Puel seemed disinterested in playing him. Much of the fans ire towards Puel seemed to stem from his treatment of Vardy; especially with the other striking options being so uninspiring in comparison.
Again, Saturday exhibited that Vardy and Maddison have a natural understanding, something that Puel seemed to figure out early in the season but why he did not give those players the opportunity to demonstrate that understanding more often remains a bit of a mystery.
Signing Youri Tielemans permanently should be Leicester’s summer priority
Seen as a bit of a coup when signed in January, Youri Tielemans arrived from Monaco known as an extremely talented midfield dictator; a spreader of play; a man with an eye for the pass. He has lived up to that billing immediately, exhibiting an extensive range of passing, a fierce shot and most importantly, a really crucial creative element to Leicester’s midfield alongside the more bruising Ndidi.
Alas, as it stands that loan deal is set to expire in the summer, with Tielemans back to troubled Monaco. Monaco’s valuation for him is apparently £40m, steep even when considering his excellent ability, and Leicester will be hoping that asking price slips down a little bit. He is clearly the kind of player Rodgers absolutely thrives on, depends on even, to keep that midfield ticking as well as play the killer balls for strikers like Vardy to latch onto. Can the deal be struck?
Do Fulham dare to begin planning for the Championship?
In short; yes. Thirteen points is the gap now with eight games to play, a gap that is as insurmountable as it sounds (especially with a caretaker manager in charge). Is Parker being lined up for the job on a permanent basis? When does the team selection start to represent those who will be staying for the Championship? Will those supposedly ‘elite’ signings from the summer have any admirers to be offloaded to in the summer? We may see the line-ups get younger, more attacking, more inventive, as Fulham head nearer the drop; the allure of playing those signings that have so badly let the club down is dimming rabidly, and Parker has no reason not to drop most of them.