That’s the thing with success: it is soon forgotten about when the going gets tough. No truer words have been spoken to summarise the rather awful campaign that Leicester City are experiencing, and the fall guy – as ever- is likely to be their manager, Claudio Ranieri.
Less than a year after being crowned the unlikeliest Premier league champions of all time, the Foxes are now sitting in 16th position and just two points above the relegation zone. More worryingly, the teams around them – Swansea and Crystal Palace principally – are starting to win games.
Progression to the last 16 of the Champions League is a small crumb of comfort, but relegation would be unthinkable for the best team in the land just eight months ago. Something has got to give, and it might just be Ranieri, whose price has dropped from 20/1 to 4/1 to be the next Premier League manager to leave their post.
The Italian Job
If asked what has gone wrong at Leicester, it is hard to really put a finger on exactly the cause of their woes. Certainly, their players have regressed to their mean in terms of their performance level; don’t forget, this is a squad that flirted with relegation in the 2014/15 campaign. Perhaps they are simply now performing as expected.
The downturn in the performances of the likes of Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy and Robert Huth haven’t helped either, with Danny Simpson and Marc Albrighton going from the brink of an England call-up to the brink of playing Sunday league football in the space of a few months.
The absence of N’Golo Kante is hitting hard too; the diminutive midfielder is an absolute gem of a player. You cannot quantify his output in terms of goals and assists, but in seeing Leicester’s defence struggle so badly we can see the impact that the Frenchman’s loss has had in technicolour. The players brought in to replace him have simply not hit their mark.
So how much of this is Ranieri’s ‘fault’? Well, he certainly could have recruited better, although how much of an input he has on that remains to be seen. Also, his genial personality is perhaps not what is required at the moment – the Italian has never been in a relegation battle as a manager, and right now you suspect these Leicester players need a metaphorical boot up the backside and some fire and brimstone, rather than that cheeky grin and hard-luck tales.
Will he get the sack? Something has to change, that’s for sure…..
There are a few contenders for Ranieri to tough it out with in this market, and at this point in the season these are inextricably-linked to sides in the relegation mire. So, naturally Aitor Karanka at Middlesbrough and David Moyes at Sunderland must come under scrutiny.
Here’s a question: what would be the point in sacking Moyes? The Black Cats have looked doomed to failure from day one, and in truth have been treading on thin Premier League ice for some time. Could any other manager on the planet keep this squad of players in the division? Unlikely, and if the Sunderland owners had any intelligence they would leave the Scot be for now.
Which leads us to Middlesbrough, who have made a pretty good fist of Premier League survival up until now. But the rumours surrounding Aitor Karanka’s position – he nearly resigned almost a year ago to the day – have been ongoing for months on end. The Spaniard is a fiery character but much-loved on Teesside; will he keep his job that bit longer yet?
You would imagine that Ranieri will probably leave Leicester in the summer – the 65-year-old has earned his retirement, that’s for sure, which gives the Boro board about four months to sack Karanka for this market to have a winner. Will they take the plunge? The Spaniard is available at 7/4.