We’ve all seen it happen before; team in danger of relegation, manager fired, team goes on a run that sees them stay up. In fact, we even have managers that specialize in this great escape. But rarely have we seen a club go through so many changes in fortune as Leicester have done in the last two years.
This is a club that was staring down the barrel of relegation in April 2015 before going on a run that saw them take 19 points out 24 available in the last eight matches of the season. Their top flight status secured, all looked peachy at the King Power Stadium until that video in Thailand saw then manager Nigel Pearson’s son dismissed along with two other players. Pearson’s relationship with the owners never recovered, and he was soon replaced by Claudio Ranieri, and we all know what happened next.
For ten glorious months, Vardy et al. reminded us what the modern game was missing. It was a spectacular season that we might never see the like of again. Leicester had found their manager, and he had found his team. It’s an overused phrase, but this really was a match made in heaven.
Then it all went wrong.
This season Leicester have only shown glimpses of the form that won them the league, and it begs the question; What is going on? Did the footballing Gods decree that enough was enough and put Leicester firmly back in their place? Or was it that the players simply stopped listening to their manager?
Whatever the reason, the entire squad, with the exception of Kasper Schmeichel, seemed to forget how to play football. Unfortunately, the buck stops with the manager, and no matter how callous it may have seemed, the owners had no choice. It was either demote half the squad to the reserves or fire Ranieri, and while it wouldn’t have been easy, it now looks like they made the right choice.
Nine points and nine goals in the three Premier League games since Shakespeare took over the reins from Ranieri tells its own story. This is a team that couldn’t hit a barn door for much of the season but are now scoring for fun. They even scored a couple against Sevilla to set up a Champions League quarter-final with Atletico Madrid while they were at it.
Say what you will about the reasons for Ranieri’s sacking, the fact is that Leicester are a different team now that the Italian has left the club. While no one in their right footballing mind believes that Shakespeare has introduced a new and innovative training regimen that has lifted the club out of the mire, Leicester are looking pretty good to stay up. BetStars currently has them at 25/1 for the drop which is a big change from the 5/2 they were not so long ago. In fact, these are the same odds you would have got at the start of the season.
Are they out of the mire? Not yet. They’re still ten points short of the magical 40 which should ensure their survival and who knows, perhaps they’ll forget how to score again, but it seems unlikely.
To the objective observer, there has never been a more clear-cut case of player power at its worst. Whatever went on with Ranieri, the players weren’t playing for him and in doing so put the club at risk of relegation. And now that they have their new manager, they’re back to winning ways, let’s just hope for the fans that it stays that way.