Opposition view: Leicester fans loving life under Rodgers and hoping they can keep Maddison
- Credit: PA
Norfolk-raised Leicester fan Jake Watson, a presenter and producer for Talksport, is delighted with the work of Brendan Rodgers since he joined the Foxes earlier this year.
Just how good does it feel to be a Leicester fan at the moment?
Pretty good! This has all been a little bit unexpected to be honest and it's really quite enjoyable. Obviously I can't answer this question without mentioning the title winning season as that was and always will be the biggest surprise of all time. However, as incredible as it was, I was actually unable to enjoy watching the final third of that season as there was just so much riding on it. This time there is no pressure and if I'm completely honest, the football we are playing right now is more enjoyable. Liverpool are a well oiled machine but I'd go as far as suggesting we are currently better to watch.
Dare you dream of another title challenge, or are Liverpool too good?
Honestly, no, I'm not dreaming of another title. At the start of the season we were being talked about as one of a few sides who could potentially challenge for the top six this season, which I honestly thought was a bit too ambitious, so to find ourselves where we are now is quite incredible. Liverpool are quite comfortably the best side in the division and I'm comfortable with that. Although, Leicester play Man City and Liverpool back to back in December and if, and it's a huge if, we won both, coupled with Liverpool's hectic festive schedule then that current eight point gap could quickly disappear. Actually, let me stop there before I start actually believing!
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Brendan Rodgers has proven an inspired appointment, what are the main changes he implemented?
There are a few things which he has introduced to make us so good right now, so bear with me. It feels unfair to bring our previous manager Claude Puel into this but it's not really possible to highlight the change we've seen without highlighting where he went wrong. Puel had pretty much the exact same squad as we have now and when you consider we sold our supposed best player (Harry Maguire) in the summer it makes it even more remarkable what Rodgers has managed to do. I think the main one is belief. Brendan has a huge amount of self belief and his enthusiasm is infectious and this group of young players are flourishing under that. The philosophies of Claude Puel and Brendan Rodgers are not actually that different but Rodgers has this incredible ability to make players want to play for him and enjoy their football. Communication was another huge pitfall of Puel which has been transformed since Brendan arrived. Puel was nicknamed 'the whisperer' and any journalist who has ever sat in one of his press conferences will be able to vouch for the fact that you can barely hear him and you can only imagine how hard that must have been for the players to first of all listen but to also buy into his ideology. Finally it's the quick-one-touch football in the final third which is currently slicing Premier League defences apart. Under Puel we were able to dominate possession but when we got anywhere near the opposition penalty box the move just died out. Full backs were told to sit and midfielders told to keep possession at all cost but Rogers has released the shackles and allowed the players to go out and express themselves without the pressure of knowing they will be hauled off if they give the ball away.
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City fans have kept a close eye on James Maddison's progress, how much has he impressed you?
Having covered Norwich for a number of years I can confidently say I am not in anyway surprised by how good Maddison has been since he joined us. To say he filled a creative void that had been desperately lacking since Riyad Mahrez left to join Man City should probably tell you all you need to know about how highly he is rated by Leicester fans. Every time he gets the ball he looks to do something positive and the stats when it comes to chances created tell you that there are few better than him in the Premier League in that position.
How much would it take to persuade Leicester to sell Maddison, do you think?
It would take a huge amount of money, perhaps more than the £80million we managed to prize away from Man United for Harry Maguire. Leicester are a very cash rich club with ambitious owners and with Maddison set to sign a new contract rumoured to be worth £100,000 per week and you couple that with his age then it's hard to see his price tag being below Maguire's. However the fear that fans of Leicester and others outside the top six will always have is that the price and likelihood of someone leaving can lay in the hands of the player. If Maddison made it clear he wanted to leave and downed tools (like Mahrez did) then Leicester's hand suddenly becomes a lot weaker.
Jamie Vardy is in incredible form, is there any way of stopping him?
Probably not! Vardy is god in Leicester and can do little wrong. I will bang the Vardy drum until I'm blue in the face that I honestly believe he is world class. If you take away his first season in the Premier League, when he made a lot of substitute appearances and often played on the wing, and his goal scoring record is incredible. He is now on course for his third season of hitting 20+ league goals which is amazing and even more so when you consider he's done it in a side that has regularly been finishing mid-table. He's labelled as a one trick pony with his pace but his all-round game including his heading ability and hold up play is massively underrated. He's a goalscorer but by the same token Vardy could play 10 games without scoring and still be the man of the match in each because he offers so much more than just goals. He's not quite in the form of his life as he is 'only' currently on a streak of 10 goals in eight consecutive games but you wouldn't bet against him making it nine on Saturday.
Who else has impressed? Caglar Soyuncu seems to have filled Maguire's boots rather well?
The emergence of Soyuncu is just another great example of good scouting and recruitment at the club. He was brought in twelve months earlier, when Man City and Arsenal were rumoured to be interested, because the club knew that they were not going to be able to hold on to Maguire for any longer than one more season. When Maguire did eventually leave there was a clamour from the media for us to go out and buy a defender but that was never going to happen as Soyuncu was always the plan. That being said there was huge pressure on him to deliver and from the first game of the season against Wolves, where he picked up man of the match and a clean sheet, he has just continued to impress. He has absolutely everything you want in a defender - he can tackle, he is powerful, he is comfortable on the ball and is lightening quick. Just like Maguire did he has become a cult figure among the fans and those same fans, including myself, will tell you he has everything Maguire has and more!
Everything points towards a Leicester win against Norwich, does that worry you at all?
I think it goes without saying Leicester will be heavy favourites. Our home form is impressive under Rodgers, losing just once - a shock 0-1 defeat to Newcastle with a certain Ayoze Perez, now a Leicester player, scoring the only goal. Couple that with Norwich's away form which isn't great and it will be seen as a home banker on most people's slips this weekend. Norwich have a set way of playing and whilst we all like to see a team go away from home and try and play positive football it does feel like that has been Norwich's problem at times. There is of course always a chance but ultimately complacency will probably be Leicester's biggest hurdle. I mean this all with the greatest of respect, of course.
Have you been surprised to see City's struggles to adjust to the Premier League?
I think we all knew it was going to be challenging for Norwich this season. Barely a penny spent and a manager and group of players with next to no Premier League experience. I did hope that could play into Norwich's hands that they could play with this freedom that so few have but maybe a naivety and an injury list as long as my arm put a dampener on that momentum gained from promotion last season. It's obviously far from over but the signs are that Norwich will be facing a battle to survive for the duration of the season.
And finally, what is your prediction?
We have the in form striker in Vardy and the league's best defence. If Leicester keep up the levels of recent weeks then it should be comfortable. But after the game Saturday I truly do hope Norwich have a strong rest of the season and stay up. 3-0.