Claudio Ranieri : Fairytale turned Nightmare
There's been plenty of debate as to whether Claudio Ranieri was rightfully sacked. The traditionalists would argue that Claudio should have been given at least until the end of the season. However, it is easy to sit on the sidelines as a neutral and accuse the Leicester City owners of being heartless. The reality was that the team were horrific. No goals since the turn of the year in the league, the Leicester ship was quickly sinking.
The repercussions that would follow relegation from the Premier League in this day and age are downright catastrophic for football owners. Premier League clubs receive a MINIMUM of 100 million pounds in TV revenue. Aston Villa, who were relegated last season will be earning a MAXIMUM of 8 million pounds of TV revenue this season in the EFL Championship. The difference is astounding. With Leicester players on lucrative contracts after last season's heroics, being relegated would have meant they would absolutely have to sell their stars. It could then be years before we see them in the Premier League again. The decision to sack Ranieri was obviously not an easy one but I believe it was the right and necessary one.
What Went Wrong
My conclusion as to why Leicester were so poor under Ranieri is a rather simple one. They had simply forgotten that they are Leicester City. Lets revisit last season. What made Leicester City so special? It was their ability to sit back, soak up the pressure and then hit the opposition on the counter attack. They treated every single team as the favorite when they faced them. Whether it was Sunderland, Aston Villa or Arsenal. This season however, they are the defending Champions of the Premier League so they had to take the game to the opposition right? Wrong.
In doing so, Leicester City not only exposed their defensive frailties, they also nullified their own attack and what made it so effective last season. By pressing high up the field and trying to put their opponents on the back-foot, centre-backs Robert Huth and Wes Morgan were exposed for their pace, or lack thereof. The loss of N'Golo Kante to Chelsea obviously played a role but Leicester did nothing to help their case. Moreover, Jamie Vardy was unable to exploit the opposition's defense despite his blistering pace and relentless energy. There was simply no space in behind the opposition for him to run into with teams sitting back versus Leicester. Jamie Vardy is the type of striker who needs those long through balls he can chase onto instead of having the ball played into his feet with his back to goal.
The sad reality of today's football is that player power has a great influence on the manager's future. With results not going their way, Leicester players had lost their faith in the manager and it was showing on the pitch. Zero fight and zero commitment to the cause, Leicester then found themselves in the midst of a very real relegation battle just 9 months after writing the greatest tale in modern day football.
What Has Changed?
Let's face it, current boss Craig Shakespeare is no magician. He has simply gone back to basics. They are again allowing teams to come at them, relying on their newfound defensive stability while making full use of their few chances created. All of which evident in recent wins over Liverpool, Hull City, Sevilla and West Ham. The signing of Wilfred Ndidi has no doubt added some fight and presence in the Leicester midfield. Mendy, Amartey and King have all tried to fill the void that was left by Kante but Ndidi is the first to look at home in that role. Craig Shakespeare has got his players believing in themselves again and the players look in full confidence as they look to battle on two fronts, the Champions League and the battle for survival in the Premier League. Suddenly, 4 back to back wins has them feeling like the Leicester of old again. The 'Fearless Foxes' are back.