A nine-hole golf course will be one of the most eye-catching features of Leicester’s new £100million training ground yet before a shot has been played, the club’s owners must feel they have already struck a hole in one.
In a little more than seven months as manager, Brendan Rodgers has transformed Leicester from a club drifting in the bottom half of the table to candidates for the top four.
They face Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday as the best of the rest in the Premier League: fresh, exciting, disciplined and energetic. The challenges that faced Rodgers — to improve the style of play and recover Jamie Vardy’s best form — have been achieved with flying colours.
Brendan Rodgers is reaping the rewards of diligent work on the training ground at Leicester
Speak to anyone about the Rodgers effect and the phrase ‘high standards’ is used repeatedly, but what really catches the eye is the former Liverpool and Celtic boss’s attention to detail.
Training sessions are planned meticulously, with folder upon folder of colour-coded documents charting each stint. There are individual drinks stations for each player, so how much fluid is being taken on board can be monitored. It also reduces the chance of infections being passed between the players.
The ‘counter-press’ is key for Rodgers, who adored from an early age the Barcelona/Dutch school of football advanced by Rinus Michels and Johan Cruyff. He demands the ball be won back before the opposition have completed four passes. Vardy, who has five goals in seven games, sets the tone, haring to close down the opposition and urging his team-mates up the pitch.
Rodgers speaks to Jonny Evans, Marc Albrighton and Jamie Vardy on the tour of France in July
To hone this skill, Leicester do rapid exercises in which a point is awarded to the circle of six players when they complete four passes, and one to the two in the middle if they win it back before this has been achieved. In training matches, the size of the pitch is altered through the week to work on different aspects, such as sprinting and changes of direction.
Under Rodgers’ predecessor Claude Puel, players complained that training was aimless. They felt too much time was wasted between exercises. With Rodgers, sessions are short and sharp, with everything recorded using GPS trackers to monitor speed and distance covered.
The Northern Irishman’s staff — among them assistant Chris Davies, first-team coaches Kolo Toure and Adam Sadler, head physiotherapist Dave Rennie and head of fitness Matt Reeves — ensure everything is prepared, so as soon as one drill is finished, the players are straight on to the next.
Premier League winner Kolo Toure (left) has taken to the role of first team coach this season
The ball is used