Brendan Rodgers said he was “bitterly disappointed” with James Maddison, Hamza Choudhury and Ayoze Pérez after dropping them for Leicester’s 3-2 defeat at West Ham for a breach of Covid-19 protocols.
Rodgers took a dim view of the breach, which took place last weekend and surely ends Maddison’s slim hopes of making England’s European Championship squad. The Leicester manager stressed that some things are “bigger than football” and although he promised the trio would return for the FA Cup semi-final against Southampton next Sunday he had no regrets about leaving them out against West Ham, who took fourth place off Chelsea with a resilient win.
“My objective coming into Leicester was to create a standard on and off the pitch.” Rodgers said. “The standards fell way below what we expect, in particular at this stage of the season when we’re fighting to finish off an exciting season. The guys who weren’t involved in the squad today would have been. As a consequence of the behaviour they weren’t.
“That’s how strongly I felt. There are some things that are more important than football. You have to respect what the nation are going through. We have to respect what our values are. It’s gone now and they’ll rejoin us next week. I was bitterly disappointed. But it’s a mistake. I won’t hold it against them.”
Rodgers, who will not fine the trio, was just as unhappy with his side’s performance. Although Leicester remain third, they are under pressure after two consecutive defeats. After squandering Champions League qualification last season, they are a point above West Ham and two clear of Chelsea.
“We were too passive, not aggressive enough when we didn’t have the ball,” Rodgers said. “We made it easy for West Ham. We were too negative. In 24 hours we’ll get back on track again. We’ve got an exciting week ahead of us: we’re preparing to go to Wembley for a semi-final.”
Kelechi Iheanacho’s double almost inspired a late fightback. West Ham, in command thanks to two goals from Jesse Lingard and a fine strike from Jarrod Bowen, were relieved after struggling to protect a 3-0 lead for the third successive game.
“I’m disappointed with the way we finished the game,” David Moyes said. “For 60 minutes we played really well. But we’ve got to get out of the habit of going 3-0 up and conceding goals. I’ve made the players aware.”