The biggest moment in the Premier League this season was when the Premier League Champions, Leicester City, announced the sacking of their miracle man Claudio Ranieri. It was almost universally criticised by fans of other teams, experts and football writers but was it the right decision? Was it player power? After a nightmare season that has seen Leicester plummet off cloud 9 and back into the grim realities of being a football supporter.
In the wake of Leicester’s 3-1 win over Liverpool on Monday Night could have provided a reason that Ranieri lost his job. They were inspired. They were ruthless and they were dominate from start to finish. It was the kind of performance we saw all of last season. Ranieri was given plenty of time to turn things round and he was rightfully given as long as the board felt they could give him before they had no choice. He had earned the right to try and keep Leicester in the Premier League but he couldn’t turn the sinking ship around. Momentum works both ways in football and the plummeting confidence in the Leicester team was evident. They no longer believed they were champions.
Was it down to the manager? or did the players believe their own hype? Were Mahrez and Vardy unhappy that they stayed with The Foxes? If two key pieces (that ended up staying) were unhappy then it was a problem for Ranieri. Player power is often scoffed at in football, particularly with how prevalent it is at clubs like Chelsea where it has been controlling the club for almost a decade, but it is important to keep star players happy. Yes, Ranieri won the Premier League with a relegation favourite. Yes, Ranieri made lots of his players superstars but he was never going to replicate it this season. The players had no chip on their shoulders. No reason to prove everyone wrong. It was a miracle but miracles don’t happen twice. Claudio should be remembered for what he did with Leicester but to stay he was untouchable on the inevitable slump to The Championship is short sighted. Football is no longer about loyalty. Football is about results. Football is about what have you done recently. Not what did you do for me last season. Overall he did a great job but there was no reason to keep Ranieri based on their performances this season.
Craig Shakespeare made the players battle. He had them motivated and ready to prove a point. If the players were unhappy with Ranieri then it was their night to prove that they are still capable. They produced. Was it harsh? Maybe but it wasn’t undeserving. They needed to avoid the indignity of being the first Premier League Champions to be relegated the season after winning the title and if this is the first sign of life in this Leicester team then they have the chance to hit a run of form and get out of trouble. They have better players than the relegation candidates and they are starting to show it. Whether that was a one off remains to be seen but there is a sign of life amongst the players we haven’t seen for 9 months.