Life gets no easier for Brendan Rodgers. There was more than a hint of self-preservation to his well-publicised comments in the media this week, but the distraction-cum-excuse of the transfer window is no longer available.
A squad that Rodgers has on multiple occasions emphasised needs a refresh, looks stagnant. Having been resoundingly picked apart by the high-flying Brighton, they remain rock-bottom of the Premier League.
Graham Potter’s side could even afford to give up an early lead, Kelechi Iheanacho putting the visitors ahead inside a minute. A Luke Thomas own goal and Moises Caicedo’s strike reversed the deficit before Patson Daka levelled.
After the break, and following more VAR controversy, Leandro Trossard and Alexis Mac Allister – first from the penalty spot and then with a magnificent free-kick – secured a much deserved home victory.
Both clubs made healthy summer profits courtesy of Chelsea, but that is where the current similarities end. These teams are on very different trajectories. Brighton’s under Potter is very much upward. Despite having lost arguably their three best players from last season – Yves Bissouma, Marc Cucurella and Neal Maupay – they look in sync, and, unlike in past years, they are finding goals from multiple sources. Mac Allister is providing their sparkle from the base of midfield.
Leicester need to learn to swim again but are currently splashing around wildly. Pointless since the opening day, Rodgers spent the past few days recalibrating both Leicester’s expectations and his starting lineup.
Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall and Jamie Vardy were both rotated out of the team beaten by Manchester United, replaced by Iheanacho and Daka. Those two were given their first league starts of the season and Rodgers’ decision was instantly justified.
Supporters had barely taken their seats when Youri Tielemans outmuscled Solly March and fed Harvey Barnes, who in turn slipped Daka away down the left. Iheanacho tapped in and the visiting fans were in raptures.
Leicester’s joy was short-lived, though. Brighton also lost midweek, and have blown hot and cold under Graham Potter. But their newfound swagger means heads did not drop. Instead, they swarmed Leicester.
The equaliser came when Trossard kept an overhit cross from Pascal Gross alive. He stood the ball up at the back post for March who nodded in via Luke Thomas. It was wing-back perfection, and atonement for March.
Brighton went ahead when Enock Mwepu cut out a pass James Maddison simply should not have attempted on halfway. Mwepu stormed forward, Caicedo finished calmly, and the Amex erupted. Just 15 minutes had elapsed.
When Wilfred Ndidi’s back-pass was miscontrolled by Danny Ward, Danny Welbeck almost put Brighton further ahead. From a cute angle, Welbeck’s attempted finish ended on the roof of the net. But Ward was representative of Leicester: a toxic cocktail of nerves and sloppiness. He had earlier caught Thomas short attempting to play from the back, leading to a booking for the left-back. A like-for-like replacement for Kasper Schmeichel, Ward is not.
Soon after, and completely against the run of play, parity was restored, and the ease with which the goal came irked Potter. Barnes intercepted Adam Webster’s punt forward and Tielemans clipped a high ball through for Daka. Lewis Dunk was caught off guard and, a perfect first touch later, Daka curled past Robert Sánchez.
The second half almost started as rapidly as the first. Mac Allister’s first-time strike was sensational, flying past Ward after Leicester had half-cleared. But after a lengthy delay, Chris Kavanagh on VAR advised Tony Harrington to review the pitchside monitor for a possible offside from Gross’s initial free-kick. Mwepu was adjudged to have interfered with play, and the scores remained level.
When it takes multiple people more than four minutes to reach a conclusion, plenty would argue no clear and obvious error has occurred. A shame, as the strike would have been a challenger for goal of the month.
Fuelled by injustice, Brighton poured forward and retook the lead when Gross stabbed forward to Trossard, who finished across Ward. The fourth came when Trossard jinxed his way past Ndidi on the byline and was brought down inside the box. Mac Allister drilled the resulting penalty down the middle.
Mac Allister compounded Leicester’s misery by curling a sublime effort into the top-left corner with the final kick of the match. Rodgers simply folded his arms and looked skyward.