Jamie Vardy has been the scourge of Manchester City over the years, scoring a hat trick in Leicester’s 5-2 win at Etihad Stadium in September to bring his total goals against the Premier League leaders to 11 Attention on Saturday.

Kelechi Iheanacho also hopes to play against his former club in the form of his life. Seven goals in four games turned his season around and revitalized Leicester, right at the point where injuries looked like they were going to take their toll.

Brendan Rodgers is clearly delighted. “He’s been fantastic since joining the team,” he told Sky Sports. “I’m happy for him because he’s such a conscientious guy, such an honest guy and, as you can see now, a very talented player.

“If you think of his journey, he was the young man in Manchester City after being the player of the tournament at the U17 World Cup. He’s breaking down, scoring some goals, but there are talented players ahead of him.” It’s difficult to get this game time.

“Then he moves to Leicester, where he has Jamie Vardy, one of the best strikers in the Premier League. You can also leave Manchester City and move to another club so it always costs something.” Time.

“I know when I got here that there were probably times when there was grumbling when he played, but he got people over very quickly. It’s just because of hard work, resilience and talent. What you see is a young player at the top of his game. “


WATCH FOR FREE: Kelechi Iheanacho’s hat trick against Sheffield United

Iheanacho’s own satisfaction is evident – his scream after winning the man of the game against Manchester United in last year’s FA Cup quarter-final win in Leicester was caught on camera. It summed up the passion the Nigerian brings to the group.

“He’s not holding back,” says Rodgers, a warm smile crosses his face. “He’s very charismatic. He comes with a smile on his face every day. He loves his football. It’s a great starting point. He’s maxed out every day. He works hard every day.

“I can’t remember missing a day of training since I’ve been here. He helps our center-backs do their jobs better because he’s very aggressive with them.”

“That wasn’t always enough to see him start, but he’s a player with a great attitude. He’s very much a team player. Some people, especially strikers, may just think of themselves and be individualistic. Soloists. He is very much a team player.

“All guys love him. Now you see all of his qualities. How he receives the ball. His strength. His finishing ability. His anticipation as a striker. You see all of these things now because he’s playing.” with confidence. I’m happy for him. “

As Rodgers points out, Iheanacho’s talent was never in doubt as it was identified as one of the game’s most gifted prospects even as a teenager. Now the potential is being tapped. His batting average this season is superior to that of the Premier League’s best strikers.

“I remember talking to Ian Rush when I was in Liverpool and he told me that it gives him confidence no matter how a striker feels, whether he’s tired in the game or in training. There is give him energy, I’ve never forgotten that.

“It’s like any striker, if you are able to get to a rhythm of the games and gain that confidence in that rhythm, you will play the game at a higher level. I think it’s just that continuity of games that exist. ” really helped him improve. “

Kelechi Iheanacho's shot card for Leicester City in the Premier League this season

Indeed, Iheanacho’s starting line-up against Manchester United was his fifth straight start for Leicester. Notably, at the age of 24, he was selected for the first time in his career by his club to play five games in a row.

Why did he have to wait so long?

“When he’s played in a diamond structure or a 3-1-4-2, he’s always played well and combined with another striker. He’s probably best suited for that. But I’ve played most of the time.” this season with a center forward and two long strikers. “

Injuries brought opportunity. Harvey Barnes was injured. James Maddison was out too. Rodgers had to find an alternate solution, and a formation change would reap its rewards.

“When we lost our attacking players,” Rodgers explains, “we lost our wingers, our really creative players, and it was just about figuring out how to balance the team, to give ourselves a really creative aspect . ” Maintaining defensive stability.

“We played a game against Arsenal and I didn’t like the way my team played in that game. It was 4-4-2, but it wasn’t flexible, it wasn’t dynamic. It all got straight when we did our players failed. ” I felt like I had to watch this to change the dynamics of the team.

“In essence, I’m not someone who played 4-4-2. Just really with the diamond shape. So we decided to play 3-4-1-2 and then go to 3-1-4-2. We looked at different aspects of how they can play together and it worked very well for us.

“It was because we had to bring that creativity into the team. With the players we had, we had to find the balance that allowed us and then give them real clarity about their positions with and without the ball.

“It’s about being open-minded. Sometimes when you’re younger you see that as a compromise. It’s not that. When you gain experience and wisdom, you realize that there is evolution as a coach.

“What we had to do this year because of the number of injuries we’ve sustained over time was that flexibility. We had to find that system to stay creative and then it became a case that had benefits within Systems. That’s the game. “

The Iheanacho and Vardy partnership has been a revelation lately, especially considering the pair haven’t started a single one of the first 37 games of the season at Leicester.

“It was just the tactical idea,” says Rodgers. He’s quick to point out that there was a 4-1 win over Aston Villa last season in which the two worked well together. Because of their vastly different abilities, there’s no real reason why they can’t combine.

“The connection, the synergy between the two is very good because they are both slightly different. Jamie likes to penetrate the back line. Kels can do that, but he can also come underneath and play. In the end you need the intelligence of them Player to make it work. “

The important thing is that Iheanacho was ready to take his chance.

“When you’re not playing, you may not feel that involved. But he’s always ready to contribute, from the start or from the start. That’s important. His mindset and attitude made it possible for him to be ready to be when asked to. ” play.”

Saturday, April 3, 5 p.m.

Start at 5:30 p.m.

Rodgers also deserves credit for not losing a player who was substituted on during his Premier League career at Leicester.

“It’s just communication. You need to communicate. That’s key. Take the time in practice to talk to them about certain aspects of their game and certain exercises to complete them. Try to help them gain that confidence . I’m trying to reinforce this. ” especially with Kelechi.

“Just because someone doesn’t always play I still try to show the player respect by having that communication so that he always feels part of what you are doing. What I’ve always tried to acknowledge with him is his Meaning to the team. “

Now there is talk of a new contract and a new career. Since he did not report back from international service until Friday morning, the next start may not be on Saturday. But there is an awareness that Kelechi Iheanacho’s best is yet to come.

“No doubt about it,” says Rodgers. “He’s not nearly as old as his asset age. That will come later in his career. He still has so much development but I think he enjoys his football which is important. He comes in, you see him smile and enjoy it .

“He’s someone we obviously want to keep working with.”