Leicester City finally earned their first win of the restart on Saturday.
Here, we analyse five of the key talking points from the 3-0 victory over Crystal Palace.
Rodgers disproves ‘no plan B’ critics
A haircut? That can wait. A pint at the local? Not fussed. Three points? Thank you very much.
Locked down Leicester residents finally saw City claim victory on Saturday, ending a four-month wait, and while they may not have the same freedoms as the rest of the country, their team showed signs they are no longer restricted.
To get the creative juices flowing again, Brendan Rodgers changed formation. Or rather, he stuck with the set-up introduced for the second half at Everton.
And this is not just a tweak or a tinker. Three centre-backs, two wing-backs, a number 10, two strikers, the 3-4-1-2 formation is a thorough shuffle of the pack from the usual 4-1-4-1.
But it worked extremely well and for the first time since the restart, City produced a performance that was very good for more than 20 minutes of the game.
It also showed Rodgers recognises problems and is willing to take risks to solve them. One of the criticisms levelled at the manager during City’s slump – this was just their second league win since January – was that he did not have a plan B.
That’s now been disproved, and City have a set-up to see them to the end of the season.
Fall guy Tielemans earns recognition
Making things tick in the new formation was Youri Tielemans.
For struggling to live up to the heights he reached during his loan spell, the Belgian has received some stick this season, but that’s often because he selflessly sets himself up to be the fall guy.
Tielemans is always thinking forward and looking to break lines with his passes. He is not 100 per cent successful in this approach and his performances can look worse than they are because of the number of audacious through balls that are picked off by the opposition.
But City need players like Tielemans to get them onto the attack, to break down defences, which will get them goals and win them games.
It was his teasing cross that caused hesitation in the Palace rearguard and set up Kelechi Iheanacho for the opener. For that, and many other pinpoint passes, his contribution was not under-appreciated this time, the 23-year-old named man of the match by supporters.
Perez prospers in the pocket
Playing intricate passes further forward was Ayoze Perez. It’s become a fact of the Spaniard’s City career that he performs better in a central role, and he showed that once more in a performance that alleviates fears over James Maddison’s injury.
In this set-up, the role behind the two strikers brings the best out of Maddison, but with the England international out with a hip problem, somebody needs to fill in, and Perez did an exceptional job.
He knows how to position himself in the pockets of space, he is aware of the runs strikers tend to make, and he has neat footwork – all qualities that will see him thrive in the position.
He will also remain in Rodgers’ good books for his work-rate, Perez reading the game well enough to pinch possession high up the pitch on more than one occasion.
Had Jamie Vardy’s touch been sharper in the first 75 minutes, the Spaniard would have walked off with a couple of assists to his name.
If he overcomes his ankle knock and Maddison remains out of action, Perez should start against Arsenal.
The Vardy debate: is he the greatest?
Moments before he scored he became a Premier League centurion, Vardy beat his fists into the turf. He had blown another good chance, this time snatching at a goal kick after a quick-thinking Kasper Schmeichel pumped one long.
It did not look it would be his day – he had already booted the goalpost in frustration at his inability to bring a Perez through ball under control.
But he was in the right place to profit from Mamadou Sakho’s slip and Harvey Barnes’ generosity to write his name into the record books again.
Immediately, he looked a different player. Without the restoration of his confidence provided by a simple tap-in, he would not have timed his run expertly and finished with aplomb to grab City’s third.
The debate is now about how many Vardy can get before he has to hang up his boots. He is 33, but is not getting slower, while game intelligence and all-around ability seems to improve by the season. Is 150 possible? Certainly a few more this season wouldn’t go amiss.
Another debate, probably for another time, is whether Vardy is City’s greatest-ever player. It won’t be an accolade he concerns himself with, but it’s a very real possibility that, say, in 2034, on the 150th anniversary of the club’s founding, there will be a vote to determine who is best to ever turn out in blue. Given his longevity and what he’s achieved since his step up from non-league, it probably is the current number nine.
One win swings momentum
In the dressing room straight after the match, Iheanacho was filmed checking Manchester United’s score from their clash with Bournemouth.
City have been encouraged by Rodgers not to check over their shoulder, but it’s an inevitability at this point. City are in a race and they’re bound to check how close those in their rearview mirror are.
What’s clear now is that City are not the flounderers. Over recent weeks, they have been tipped to be the team to fall away with Chelsea, Manchester United and Wolves all powering ahead.
One win changes all that. Another win against Arsenal would make Champions League qualification a very real possibility again.