James Maddison’s public declaration makes crystal clear Leicester’s hidden fire

Personality is a key word at Leicester City under Brendan Rodgers, and James Maddison has it in spades.

The playmaker has been shining for the Foxes recently, having endured a slow start to his season as he worked his way back to full fitness following injury.

And the irrepressible England midfielder produced a Man of the Match display on Tuesday night as Leicester eased to a comfortable 2-0 win over Chelsea at the King Power Stadium.

First-half goals from Wilfred Ndidi and Maddison himself – his fifth in seven games – piled more pressure on under-fire Blues boss Frank Lampard.

But more importantly for the hosts, it moved them to the top of the Premier League table.

Interviewed post-game, Leicester’s No.10 was his typically chirpy and forthright self as he discussed their victory, taking advantage of Chelsea’s shortcomings at set-pieces and taking his game to greater heights with more goals and assists after listening to analysis from Jamie Carragher.

But asked whether Brendan Rodgers’ men are genuine contenders in an open title race, there was swiftly a change of demeanour and tone from the 24-year-old.

His initial declaration of “I’m going to have to be boring with my answer here” was pressed upon rightly by Sky Sports' Geoff Shreeves, briskly giving way to something much more steely, decisive and telling.

He declared: “We’re top of the table at the minute because we don’t think like that.

“As boring as it is, and I’m sorry I have to say it, is the next game. It was Southampton last week, Chelsea this week and it’s Brentford in the FA Cup; as cliché as it is, that’s how we’ve got to work and that’s why we’re top of the table – because we have that mentality.

“And that’s where we want to be. We’re not up there by fluke. We’re up there because we work hard.

“People might talk about the Uniteds, the Liverpools and Tottenhams or whatever, but lets let them talk.

“We’ll do our business in the background and come the end of the season hopefully will give us a chance of being right up there.”

The boyish grin and playfulness promptly returned as Shreeves posed, “It’s a nice feeling though isn’t it?” to which Maddison admitted “I’ll probably go and check the table when I go in there [the changing room]”

In that four minute interview, it was those 30 seconds that were most telling.

Maddison, a footballer who enjoys being the centre of attention, who thrives in the limelight – he celebrated making it 2-0 by finding a TV camera and pointing out the name on the back of his shirt for viewers – made it appear that Rodgers’ side are more than happy being overlooked in this season’s fight at the top.

But it’s crystal clear that being forgotten is firing up the high-flying Foxes from within.

Leicester have learned from last season’s disappointment, which saw them miss out on a Champions League spot – having been in the top four for much of the 2019-20 season – on the final day.

There’s a harder, more ruthless edge about them this term, despite becoming more youthful with the outstanding progress of both full-back James Justin and phenomenal teenage centre-back Wesley Fofana.

That duo, plus Timothy Castagne, cost little more than the £50million recouped through Ben Chilwell’s exit, and the England left-back hasn’t been missed, while both Harvey Barnes and Youri Tielemans have kicked on too.

Jamie Vardy, Kasper Schmeichel and Marc Albrighton are all still in place and all know how to win the title after the miracle 5,000/1 triumph of 2016. Jonny Evans – three titles at Manchester United – has previous too.

Publicly, Rodgers has largely dampened expectations throughout the campaign, but even he is now clear about how high they're aiming.

“It is going to be a huge challenge for us to be up there but we are happy to take on that challenge.”

Maddison and co. have no intention of getting too far ahead of themselves, and remain very much in 'taking each game as it comes' territory.

But then again, so did Claudio Ranieri's side in 2016.

That triumph frightened not just the Premier League but Europe's elite – so much so that they continue to push to make the Champions League a closed shop.

After beating Chelsea, Maddison let slip that the Foxes have no intention of being kept in the background.

The message was clear: Overlook them at your peril.

Source: Read Full Article