Gary Neville thinks Brendan Rodgers has the managerial ability to take over at Manchester City when Pep Guardiola’s time at the helm eventually comes to an end.

The Northern Irishman led his Leicester City side to an impressive 9-0 victory on the road at Southampton on Friday night, a win that moved them temporarily second in the Premier League table.

And that result has led Neville to talk about the former Liverpool boss as a potential successor to Guardiola.

“I think if you look at what he achieved at Liverpool and then Celtic and now what he is doing at Leicester, we always talk about international coaches having philosophies and values, but he improves teams and plays great football,” Neville told Sky Sports.

“He is quite innovative and he does seem to be a great coach, the players enjoy working with him, and I’m asking the question now, why wouldn’t he be seen as a coach of one of the big clubs?

“You look at Manchester City changing to Pep Guardiola and you probably won’t see Brendan Rodgers‘ name linked with that job because people at the club will be thinking, maybe, someone else.

“But why not? If you look at what he’s done in terms of the football he plays and the improvement he has on players on the pitch.”

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Brendan Rodgers has denied Steven Gerrard’s claims that he was “over-confident” in Liverpool’s push for the title in 2013/14.

Gerrard told The Guardian that Rodgers’ approach to the Chelsea game in 2013/14 – the 2-0 defeat that lost them the title – played into their opponents hands.

Gerrard told : “I’ve never been able to say this in public before but I was seriously concerned that we thought we could blow Chelsea away.

“I sensed an over-confidence in Brendan’s team talks. We played into Chelsea’s hands. I feared it then and I know it now.”

Rodgers returns to Anfield on Saturday for the first time since his Liverpool exit in 2015 and said that he “doesn’t lose sleep” over the Reds narrowly missing out on the title and denies Gerrard’s claims.

He told The Telegraph: “I have heard the other one about us being overconfident. When you look at it before that game I did and said nothing different.

“We had won 11 games on the spin going into that game, making a quick start and playing attacking football. That was what put us in that position, including beating Manchester City at Anfield.

“We could not have played any other way and I have no regrets about sticking to that. Of 14 games at the end of that season we won 12.

“You know, when you watch it back we played well in the game for 70 minutes, Chelsea doing nothing. Then we lost a goal in very unfortunate circumstances before half-time.

“Even at the start of the second half we were doing okay. The only thing I would accept is maybe a more experienced team would have been calmer in the last 20 minutes chasing the equaliser.

“We only needed a draw and then obviously conceded another chasing it at the end.

“The story that went unnoticed was Jordan [Henderson] was unavailable for three of the last four games because of a last minute sending off against City.

“He was a huge miss for us that day. But as time goes on and you see the images and you realise how well we played that season so I don’t lose sleep about it.”

 

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Calum Chambers
“I’m delighted Calum has extended his stay with us,” said Unai Emery in July 2018. “He played an important role last season and will be part of my plans this season.”

What the Arsenal manager failed to disclose is that his “plans” involved Calum Chambers taking his new Arsenal contract with him across the city to Fulham. But as strange as the apparent U-turn was, Emery’s justification that a second loan spell “will be an important part of his development” seems particularly pertinent.

While the 24-year-old added a second Premier League relegation to his CV at Craven Cottage, the boy returned as a man. A campaign that started with him featuring at centre-half included some brief sojourns at right-back before carving out a role in defensive midfield. Upon his being named Fulham’s Player of the Season, the club’s official website described him as ‘one of our most popular ever loanees’.

And so to Tuesday, where Chambers was in sensational form against Nottingham Forest, assisting a goal apiece from either flank and balancing his new-found attacking instincts with a defensive resolve not often seen in these parts. His physical improvement in particular was eye-opening.

Rob Holding, Kieran Tierney, Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson and Gabriel Martinelli all impressed at the Emirates, but only one player was “amazing” enough to be singled out by the manager. He might well have earned a start against Manchester United in their 12-12 draw on Monday.

 

Taylor Harwood-Bellis
‘Man City already have a Harry Maguire-style centre back in Taylor Harwood-Bellis’ read the Manchester Evening News summer headline. But if one performance in a League Cup third-round game against lower-league opposition is anything to go by, the 17-year-old will surpass his new city brethren within a month.

The comparison carries little weight beyond height, of course, with Harwood-Bellis marrying obvious aerial prowess with calm and comfort on the ball against Preston. Only fellow central defender Eric Garcia completed more passes (90) than his 84, and his partner on Tuesday was making a fourth League Cup start of his career, having appeared in last season’s quarter-final and semi-final.

Pep Guardiola saw fit to praise both of his “exceptional human beings” after the 3-0 win, but for a player who only turned 17 this year, a professional first-team debut was a monumental step forward.

Regular Premier League football remains a distant objective, and Fernandinho will likely return by the weekend. But Harwood-Bellis at least justified his place in the central defensive queue, even if it is towards the back after pushing in front of Guardiola himself.

 

Danny Ings
It’s safe to say that Danny Ings expected his Southampton career to go a little differently. His gentleman’s bet that he would outscore Mo Salah was “just a bit of banter” with no money involved, but a final result of 7-22 won’t have been great for his confidence.

There was a silver lining of 23 Premier League starts, a tally beaten only by his first campaign in the competition with Burnley in 2014/15 (35), and almost four times as many as he made throughout his entire Liverpool career (6). With those injury issues thankfully and hopefully behind him, the 27-year-old is looking to push on.

Ralph Hasenhuttl ensured to freshen his competition this season with the signings of Che Adams and Moussa Djenepo, but Ings has risen to the challenge. Two goals in the derby win over Portsmouth takes his seasonal tally to three with one assist and a respectable return.

Perseverance – and a quite wonderful first touch – laid on his first strike against Pompey, while the deft finish applied to Michael Obafemi’s excellent through ball made for a rather pleasing second, and a boyhood dream realised.

Hasenhuttl has started Adams as a lone striker and alongside Nathan Redmond in Saints’ last two Premier League games, with Ings afforded 16 and 13 minutes as a substitute. He will fancy his chances from the start against a panicky Tottenham on Saturday.

 

James Justin
Somewhat lost amid Leicester’s excellent start to the season is that continuity, not revolution, has been the key. The eight Foxes with the most minutes played were all at the club in 2018/19, with Ayoze Perez the only player in the top 13 not to have been signed this summer – January arrival Youri Tielemans notwithstanding.

While Dennis Praet will need more than one Premier League start and one and a half League Cup games to prove that his purchase was not at least a little pointless, James Justin will be afforded a considerable amount of time. The 21-year-old joined under no pretences: two of the Premier League’s best full-backs are well ahead of him and Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell would both take some shifting. The versatility of being able to play on either flank mattered not.

So it proved. Six Premier League games have passed with Justin acclimatising to the bench as an unused substitute in each. Even against Newcastle in the League Cup second round he watched on from the sidelines. But when former club Luton played host to Leicester on Tuesday, Brendan Rodgers gave him the nod.

A goal, four chances created, two tackles, two clearances and what the Leicester Mercury described as ‘a dream debut’ justified the call. The opportunities for such a naturally gifted and supremely talented player will come, particularly if he makes a habit of taking them in such an impressive manner.

 

Dominic Calvert-Lewin
The standard of the opposition will likely be used as a stick to beat him rather than praise him with. There always tends to be an asterisk next to the name of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who is constantly willing but not always able.

Perhaps a Premier League defence would not have afforded him the freedom of Hillsborough to score his first goal, nor would they have suffered the lapse in concentration that preceded his second. But Calvert-Lewin showcased both a fine touch and unstoppable finishing technique, as well as an awareness and instinct to put Everton through to the next round.

It will take more than that to convince many of the sceptics, but only a fool would suggest the 22-year-old is responsible for a shoddy record at set-pieces and an inability to win away. Richarlison (17) and Gylfi Sigurdsson (15) are the only other Toffees to register double figures for goals in all competitions since the start of last season, with Calvert-Lewin – who neither cost upwards of £35m nor has been allowed to settle into one position – on 11.

Whether he is part of the solution remains to be seen – although every club tends to have a similar style of player in their ranks somewhere. But Calvert-Lewin is most certainly not the problem.

Matt Stead

 

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1) Eight months after winning at Stamford Bridge, Leicester returned emboldened by that result but aware that the public perception of them has changed. Brendan Rodgers has arrived to guide one of the most talented group of players in the country and with that comes expectation.

Ordinarily, a visit to Chelsea in August would be no kind of context, but Frank Lampard’s side are very much a work in progress. If Leicester are a credible threat to the top six, which should be their aim, then these are the days on which to prove that that’s built on something more than Rodgers’ frothy optimism.

 

2) Chelsea’s objective was simpler. Lampard could legitimately claim positives from that defeat to Manchester United and many more from the Super Cup on Wednesday night. But while it’s accepted that the club are now between eras and that this transition to something more organic will take time, the native expectations have been tempered rather than changed entirely. Leicester at home is a match to win and so, for Lampard, this was the first game with real pressure.

 

3) With that in mind, his selection of Mason Mount was significant. How refreshing to see a Chelsea head coach not just give cursory minutes to a young player, but to actually offer a proper opportunity. Mount will have good days and bad over the course of the season and most likely his potential will show as often as his naivety.

But that’s okay, because Lampard’s patronage means that he isn’t one bad game from the substitutes’ bench. Young footballers need that. Particularly one like Mount, who has to be expressive and cannot be inhibited by fear over how misplaced passes could impact his short-term career.

 

4) That faith instructed his performance; he didn’t look like someone making a home debut.

That first Premier League appearance at Stamford Bridge came with a first Premier League goal and swift vindication of Lampard’s decision. Mount might actually have scored earlier than he did, breaking between the Leicester centre-backs but choking his shot into the ground. When his goal came, though, it was really his own work, robbing Wilfred Ndidi and cutting a shot across and beyond Kasper Schmeichel.

Lampard will have been delighted. With the goal, of course, and Chelsea’s quick lead, but also because it showed the rainbow of Mount’s abilities and his capacity to follow tactical instruction. Modern coaches love a press, particularly when it’s led by technically gifted young players showing a determination to impose themselves on a game.

 

5) The opening 20 minutes saw Chelsea in furious mood; there was no Istanbul hangover. Key seemed to be Olivier Giroud’s inclusion. He has his limitations and he’ll never be a prolific goalscorer, but there are few Premier League forwards who play quite as selflessly.

An urgent tone was set right from kick-off – that was very important – but there was so much activity around Giroud, too. He smartly chested into Pedro’s stride for a volley which crashed into the side netting and, minutes later, it was his movement which allowed Mount to snipe in for his early chance. On 25 minutes, his cute, clever backheel might have created a rare goal for N’Golo Kante.

Maybe it’s a little unkind on Tammy Abraham, but at the moment there’s no debate about who should be Chelsea’s starting centre-forward. With Giroud in the side, the supporting players all look more potent.

 

6) About that frothy Rodgers optimism…

Leicester’s foundation wasn’t right here. In the 15 minutes before half-time, there were a few of the sharp exchanges you’d expect to see from this group of players, but not nearly enough to present a proper challenge. Jamie Vardy was barely involved, save for that strange Kepa moment, and neither James Maddison nor Youri Tielmans was much of an attacking presence. But that seemed tied to the more general problem of security.

Chelsea moved the ball up the field with little difficulty. Even when their opponents were in proper shape behind the ball, the ease with which they were able to fashion space around – and sometimes inside – the box was alarming. Maybe this is an early season problem, perhaps it’s a consequence of Harry Maguire’s recent departure, but it was still concerning.

 

7) There isn’t an obvious diagnosis for it either. Caglar Soyuncu looks a bit immobile – that’s probably not ideal – but Hamza Choudhury and Ndidi were equipped to protect their defence better than they did and, outside the centre-backs, Ricardo Pereira and Christian Fuchs are hardly security risks, even if the latter has seen better days.

The intensity was wrong. That’s woolly and tenuous, apologies for that, but this wasn’t a side determined to control the middle of the pitch and – clearly – that’s a prerequisite to competing at these grounds.

 

8) An observation, one obviously wise with hindsight: it was interesting to note the body language during Leicester’s warm-up. Lots of smiles, all very casual. When players are pointing and laughing at team-mates for slashing their shots over during shooting practice, maybe that’s not indicative of an appropriate focus.

There’s no value in going too far down this road, because it’s over-analysis based on very little, but it certainly tallied with what followed.

 

9) And another lurching, knee-jerk reaction: has James Maddison been over-estimated?

Originally, before the equaliser, this was a deeply frustrated paragraph bemoaning his inability to release the ball earlier and also his tendency to make bad decisions at important moments. Let’s be fair, though: he got a lot better and, by full-time, he had become a big influence on the game.

Some of the issues are still pertinent, though. There’s a lot to like about Maddison, not least that ebullient self-belief which allowed him to adapt so quickly last season. On Sunday, he also played predominantly from the left, which doesn’t seem to suit him. However, if he is to have a England future, then his ratios still need to change. He cannot waste four opportunities for every one he creates and, at the moment, that’s still the difference between what he is and how he carries himself.

 

10) The shame of Leicester’s start was in how well they began to play after half-time. Chelsea lost their way and while Ndidi’s (splendid) headed equaliser wasn’t exactly ‘coming’, it was reward for their significant improvement.

Suddenly, there were the slick interchanges between the attacking players. Tielemans became a factor, Vardy’s back-shoulder running began to frighten Christensen and Zouma and, at last, Maddison started to become much more productive.

Credit to Rodgers and his players for that: Stamford Bridge is one of those places where it’s easy to roll over and accept defeat. Leicester didn’t.

 

11) And Maddison should have won it for them. On reflection, his stumbling run across the box and wild finish over the bar was an encapsulation of the issues described above. He’s so nearly a very good player.

 

12) What is the difference between Giroud and Abraham? Probably that the latter has no one outstanding attribute. He’s quite skilful, but not very. He’s quick, but not exceptionally so, and his finishing is quite good, but not all the time.

Giroud isn’t an all-round forward in anyone’s eyes, but the reliability of his hold-up play is such that it gives Chelsea a constant base around which to build.

By contrast, Abraham’s contributions remain erratic. He can do some of what Giroud does, but not to a high enough standard to engender any real confidence. Without that, his supporting teammates are unable to play around him in a pre-emptive way and, as a result, Chelsea inevitably lose their attacking fluidity with him as their pivot. If he is to have a future here, then that has to change.

 

13) Whether Jorginho has a long-term future here is a different issue. After a year in England, his tendencies are well established: when Chelsea are secure in games, he looks composed and impressive. When they’re not, he doesn’t.

There are bigger issues at work in Lampard’s team, because the regularity with which Leicester were able to transition out of defence and into attack – and the space they enjoyed when they did – suggested a serious imbalance somewhere. Against a more ruthless opponent, this would almost certainly ended in defeat.

So while the more frequent debate is over N’Golo Kante’s role and whether his abilities are slightly misused further forward, perhaps the better way of framing the issue is to ask whether Jorginho is really suited to being the deepest man. Is he good enough defensively? Is he athletically capable of coping when counter-attacks develop?

We’re still waiting to find out.

 

14)  It’s in those Leicester transitions that Rodgers’ best work can be seen. With the advantage of having two or three players who can occupy a traditional No.10 role, the range of movement around the ball-carrier – particularly on the counter-attack – is hugely impressive. Those runners splay out in every direction and they create panic in a defence; it’s exciting to watch and, as and when the passes are attuned to exploiting it, the goals will follow.

It’s possibly why Maddison is subject to such scrutiny. When those options exist and there’s an obvious path to goal, the right decisions have to be made. Leicester aren’t capitalising on that at the moment, but the framework is at least in place.

 

15)  And what are they, more broadly?

A threat to the top six, but probably not more than that at this stage. It would be easier to assess if we knew what Chelsea were and what this point was actually worth. Nevertheless, some of the associations they grew under Puel clearly remain – not least that bizarre tendency to look like three different sides within the space of a single game.

That has to go. They need to be more efficient in front of goal, that’s a given, but the teams at the top of the table are typically very consistent and keeping pace with them requires a high baseline of performance. Leicester don’t have that yet; they still play well for periods, rather than for entire games.

 

16) And Chelsea?

Don’t underestimate the size of the project Lampard inherited or how many problems Eden Hazard’s form was able to disguise last season.

The defence has been rebuilt and remains without Antonio Rudiger. The midfield continues to be nebulous in definition. And the attack is having to compensate for the departure of the best player in the country without the benefit of investment. It’s difficult and it’s probably going to look unconvincing for a while longer.

 

Seb Stafford-Bloor is on Twitter.

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