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Oliver McManus has an alternate viewpoint on the Claudio Ranieri sacking and why the decision was the right one
It’s not often that I start articles with a warning, but I shall do this time; if you’re someone who is going to be offended because I’m about criticise Premier League Champions, Leicester City and, their darling, Jamie Vardy then, click away now. Actually, don’t, I’d like you to read this.
You see, I don’t buy that last season was all that it’s sold as.
“Leicester City, Premier League Winners”, no-one would have ever imagined it possible – I certainly didn’t. It is an incredible achievement, I’m not detracting from that, it deserves to go down in history as a brilliant accomplishment, because it was wildly unexpected.
Is it the greatest upset in sport history? No. Not at all.
When I think of the greatest upsets, I think of Greece at Euro 2004. I think Buster Douglas against Mike Tyson. Boris Becker at Wimbledon 1985. Danny Willett at the 2016 Masters. Japan against South Africa at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Holly Holm against Ronda Rousey. But I don’t think of Leicester City.
It’s so easy to remember Leicester as champions but, at the end of the day, almost everything went in their favour. Leicester played good football, they played great football but they didn’t play world class football. Everyone around them was struggling, Chelsea were a disaster, Manchester United couldn’t gel under Van Gaal, Tottenham choked, Liverpool fatigued and Arsenal were just Arsenal.
Fair play to them, they deserved it, on paper it’s a miracle but dig deeper and it’s not a huge surprise – they took their only chance at glory and seized it.
So when Claudio Ranieri got sacked and uproar ensued, I was befuddled to say the least. People talk about sentiment but since when has a football fan cared about sentiment.
Rightly or wrongly (for what it’s worth, I think wrongly), football fans don’t care if you’re a nice person. You could be the footballing version of Nelson Mandela, but if the performances aren’t up to scratch, they want you gone. I’ll be honest, I think the decision to sack Ranieri was far from shocking and, in my opinion, justified.
We’ve established that their success last season was nothing short of astonishing but that can’t be dwelled upon.
Come the start of the season, there was a change in attitude amongst the players. From an outside perspective, I’d say it was arrogance. Not from all the players but from a core few.
This has been exemplified recently in a Twitter spat between Danny Simpson and Jamie Carragher. Now, if you missed it, Carragher criticised the attitude of the Leicester players, whilst on Sky Sports. In response, Simpson tweeted Carragher with a picture of Danny Drinkwater and himself holding aloft the Premier League trophy.
It sounds like harmless banter but when he’s goading one of the best defenders of all time, it suggest to me that the mentality of the player, indeed, of the team, has yet to move on from their achievements last season. Almost as if it doesn’t matter what happens this season.
Besides, in 20 years time, who will fans remember more? Simply, Jamie Carragher.
I’m not pinning the blame on Ranieri for this, but it all builds up to the culmination of his sacking. As a manager, you would expect him to be able to motivate his players into actually wanting to perform and, based on what they’ve done, they just didn’t care enough.
For some reason, expectations were heightened for this season. Now, even the most naive of Leicester fans would tell you last season wasn’t going to be repeated – it was a fluke occurrence and yet they still believed anything could happen.
Let’s not forget, the same title-winning squad were bottom of the table for, virtually, the whole of the 2014-15 campaign. In the space of 12 months, they went polar opposite so there was no consistency to them.
Be honest, if you offered Leicester City 12th place at the beginning of last season, they would have bitten your hand off. That’s the realistic expectation and it is from that they should have gauged their fortunes for this season.
To neutrals, it was blatantly clear that Leicester would be lingering around 15th, 16th this time around and, really, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to die-hard fans either.
Claudio Ranieri is no god as a manager, either. He’s very much mediocre. Aside from last season, he’s achieved very little as a coach. In facts, let’s scan through his resumè quickly;
Look, I am sorry to break to you and I’m sure he’s lovely, but he’s just not an outstanding manager.
More often than not, Ranieri has had a decent winning percentage but it’s never been of the standard for him to achieve anything outstanding – sure he’s won Serie C titles, Ligue 2 titles and, even, the 2004 UEFA Super Cup.
He’s at a good level, nothing outstanding, and he should be applauded for that but he shouldn’t be held in esteem above which he warrants. And that Super Cup, by the way, he virtually inherited it as soon as he took over.
The difference last year was that he was an underdog and, for once, he decided not to rotate. He stuck with a core team and only changed around when necessary. It was refreshing but, this season, he reverted to his old ways.
There was no chemistry in the team, you didn’t get the impression that anyone knew their best team. And, inevitably, bad results followed, as did an early bath in the FA Cup.
People point to their performances in the Champions League as a sign that they’ve still got quality but that’s not true at all, they had a weak group and it merely gave the impression they were progressing.
Brugge, Copenhagen and Porto are far from a challenge. They struggled against Copenhagen which highlighted their weaknesses, they were beaten 5-0 by an out of shape Porto team and yet, still, they topped the group.
I’ve heard it said that “they didn’t become bad players overnight” but, deep down, as hard as it is to admit, they were always bad players. Average at best.
And yes, they did well against Sevilla but that’s because they knew Ranieri was under pressure and, for once, they actually dug in.
Football is a business, like it or not, that’s a fact. That business is reliant on the income associated with being in the Premier League, it’s somewhere in the region of £300million more than in the Championship.
It’s vital, then, that Leicester stay in the Premier League. Their summer dealings certainly gave that impression – £76.5 million spent on transfers. Now that’s about 3x more than the season before and, obviously, you’d expect them to perform.
But they haven’t and, at the root of that is Ranieri. He was poor at recruitment and he has to take the blame for the financial hit the club were taking. Ask yourself, were they heading for relegation? Only a fool would say no.
To enhance their survival chances, a change was needed. The player’s got a kick up the arse in sacking Ranieri because it made them look at themselves and rethink how they’re playing.
The manner in which they hung their heads after beating Liverpool 3-1, shows the guilt they feel in being complacent.
It’s a harsh reality of football but Ranieri had to go.
It’s hard to know to end this, but rather bang it will be with a whimper – in tribute of Ranieri’s exit.
Don’t take what you have for granted, be thankful for what you’ve got. Don’t do a Leicester and get lost in your self-indulgence.