In a business where everything is pinned on results, Claudio Ranieri deserved to be sacked, despite winning the Premier League nine months ago. Leicester City’s title winning campaign was very clearly a remarkable anomaly in a sport where shocks normally occur over 90 minutes, not the course of a season.
When the board offered Ranieri their unwavering support, alarm bells started ringing in Leicester. The dreaded vote of confidence from the board is often a sign of impending doom for the manager. Ranieri joins a long list of successful managers who have been sacked after a vote of confidence from the board: Jose Mourinho (Chelsea); Louis Van Gaal (Barcelona); Brendan Rodgers (Liverpool) and Roberto Mancini (Manchester City) to name a few.
Ranieri’s tenure at Leicester was cut short with them just one point above relegation. As a result, the Leicester players became the subject of a large amount of criticism from fans and the media alike.
This criticism was entirely undeserved, as football is a results-based business and, simply put, Ranieri was not achieving good enough results.
Nine months is a long time in football and, while Ranieri will forever be a Leicester legend, he deserved to go. Just five league wins in 25 games is enough for any manager to be faced with the sack. Winning the league the year before does not make you exempt from this.
Fans and media who point to the club still performing well in the Champions League need to re-assess their priorities. Premier League survival is far more important than the progression through to the latter stages of the Champions League. Leicester’s Thai owners persisted with Ranieri for so long because of a sense of loyalty. Sacking the man who won them the Premier League is dishonourable and unfortunate, but necessary if Leicester want to stay in the Premier League.
Leicester’s form under the Italian has been dire and there is a desperate need for results to improve. The Foxes’ 3-1 victory over Liverpool last Monday is testament to this. Interim manager Craig Shakespeare has injected a sense of urgency which suggests that the players were growing tired of Ranieri’s methods.
There had been reports of discontent amongst the Leicester ranks this season. Ranieri’s treatment of Leonardo Ulloa did not help matters, and things came to a head when it was reported that Jamie Vardy, Kasper Schmeichel, club captain Wes Morgan and Marc Albrighton, who all starred in Leicester’s title win, met with the chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. This meeting proved to be decisive for Ranieri and Leicester’s future as the manager was sacked soon after.
Things under Ranieri must have been much worse than first thought for four of his senior players, whom he made stars last season, to go behind his back and discuss his future and the future of the club with the chairman. Clearly, he had lost the dressing room. Often for managers, unless radical measures are taken, there is no coming back from such discontent among players. Managers need to retain the respect and attention of their players and if these factors desert the manager then results will only get worse.
Only time can tell if this turns out to be the right decision for Leicester. All the signs under Shakespeare seem to point to a turnaround in fortunes. Leicester will never forget winning the Premier League, but they need to realise that it was a one-off accomplishment and now need to focus on Premier League survival. The departure of Ranieri will always be a touchy subject, and the manner of his sacking will leave a sour taste in what was one of the best underdog stories ever, but Leicester were left with little choice.
Image courtesy of Peter Woodentop