EPL

Talking Point: Would Rodgers have been a better choice for Chelsea than Lampard?

By Sports Desk January 29, 2020

Chelsea head to top-four rivals Leicester City on Saturday aiming to close the eight-point gap on the team directly above them in the Premier League.

Leicester have overperformed under Brendan Rodgers this season and are on course to play Champions League football next term for the second time in three years.

Finishing above the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal in fourth would also be considered an achievement for Chelsea, who are enduring a period of transition.

Hampered by a transfer ban at the start of his first campaign at the Stamford Bridge helm, Frank Lampard's charges have had a mixed time of things in 2019-20.

A run of just four wins in 12 top-flight outings has seen Chelsea's youngsters lose ground on Leicester and they are now left looking over their shoulder.

But would the Blues be any better off had they turned to former Celtic boss Rodgers instead of iconic midfielder Lampard? We take a closer look with the help of Opta data.

RODGERS FINDS THE RIGHT BALANCE

Leicester's style of play has caught the eye since Rodgers was named as Claude Puel's successor in February 2019, the Foxes combining a vibrant attack with a solid defence.

The east Midlands side have scored three or more goals in six league games this term, including 5-0 and 9-0 wins over Newcastle United and Southampton respectively.

Chelsea, by comparison, have done so five times, but just twice since October's international break.

Leicester put four goals past West Ham last week and have scored 11 more than Chelsea overall this season, with the division's top scorer Jamie Vardy responsible for 17 of those.

Vardy has regularly made the headlines but his scoring stats would not be as impressive if not for the creative licence Rodgers has given to those playing around him.

Harvey Barnes and James Maddison have earned lots of plaudits, while Ayoze Perez has been directly involved in 11 goals since arriving - all three players providing something different.

And while Tammy Abraham has stepped up this season by scoring 13 times, Lampard recently admitted to being concerned by his side's low xG - expected goals - this term.

A talented striker alone will only take you so far. It is about getting the most out of the players available to you and setting out your side accordingly, as Rodgers has achieved.

DEFENSIVE STATS STAND UP

Likewise, a good attack alone is not enough for sides with top-four aspirations, and Rodgers has managed to tighten Leicester up at the back despite the loss of Harry Maguire.

Leicester have conceded 24 goals in 24 matches this season compared to 30 at the same stage 12 months ago when languishing down in 11th place.

Chelsea have shipped nine goals more in 2019-20 and have just five clean sheets this season - the same amount as Brighton and Hove Albion and three fewer than Watford.

Keeping out the opposition has been far less of an issue for the Foxes, whose tally of eight shutouts - including four in a row at one stage - is bettered only by Liverpool's nine.

Chopping and changing centre-backs has not helped Lampard, whereas Rodgers has tended to stick with Caglar Soyuncu and Jonny Evans.

And if proof was needed of Rodgers' ability to get more out of players look no further than Soyuncu, who struggled for minutes last term but has been immense this season.

IS LEICESTER'S FORM SUSTAINABLE?

Many expected 2016 title winners Leicester to drop off the pace as the season went on, particularly having made it to the latter stages of the EFL Cup.

Successive losses to Southampton and Burnley earlier this month suggested the wheels were about to come off, but they responded with an emphatic 4-1 win against West Ham.

That, incidentally, is only the second time Leicester have lost back-to-back league matches under Rodgers in his 11 months at the King Power Stadium.

Chelsea lost four games in five matches in the closing stages of 2019 and, understandably given the youngsters in their ranks, have lacked consistency over the last two months.

Ultimately, Leicester can lose this weekend's clash with Chelsea and still hold a comfortable five-point advantage on their fourth-placed opponents.

That alone is not enough to suggest Rodgers, who spent time coaching in Chelsea's academy, should have been given the job over the inexperienced Lampard.

But if nothing else, the Ulsterman has proved on his return to the Premier League that he is more than capable of managing one of the division's elite clubs.

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