Why Claudio Ranieri’s Sacking Was The Correct Decision
Posted by Daniele Accurso | Published on February 26, 2017
On the 7th May 2016, Andrea Bocelli serenaded the King Power Stadium with a magical rendition of “Time to say goodbye” but fast forward 9 months, it’s his fellow Italian, Claudio Ranieri whose had to say a tearful goodbye.
‘The dream is over’ is what Ranieri wrote in his farewell letter to the Leicester fans after the players and board turned on him. After an impressive, gritty display in the second half against Sevilla on Wednesday evening which resembled the defensive solidarity shown last season as the Foxes went on and won the league, the time of Ranieri’s sacking was surprising. Vardy’s goal, which ended a nine goal drought for the Englishman, all pointed to the signs of a team fighting for their manager and the fans.
Thus, come Thursday afternoon when the news broke of Ranieri’s sacking, most in the footballing world were shocked and angered by Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s decision to let go the manager who led his team to the most seismic footballing feat ever seen in the Premier League and probably ever seen in football history.
With Leicester fans and most footballing pundits dumbfounded by the decision, why do I believe Ranieri should have been sacked? The simple reason that if Leicester continued playing the way they did, Ranieri looked like taking his side down which, with the riches of the Premier League the chairman had to think about.
If I were a Leicester fan, I can understand why they would’ve wanted Claudio to stay. The man who managed to guide a bunch of average footballers to the title, beating off the likes of Arsenal, Spurs and Manchester City who all had players worth 10 times more than Leicester’s squad. As a football fan, it does hurt to see Claudio go, a gentlemen, who remained classy and loyal to his players and the board throughout his tenure but sadly, results have not been good enough.
I must say this before I delve deep into my reasoning that, although I don’t think Ranieri would have been able to save Leicester, the Leicester players are the ones who should be blamed for their demise. He turned most of their careers around and made them look like world beaters and this season for whatever reason, the players have lost interest and no longer looked like playing for the manager. Once the manager has lost the dressing room, that’s it i’m afraid. It’s easier to replace the manager than it is the dressing room which for Ranieri has meant the end of the fairy tale between himself and the midlands club. Ranieri made many mistakes this season which he has to own up to but, it’s the players who have disowned him and they should feel ashamed.
People compare the Italian to Nigel Pearson, in that Pearson was given the whole season to resurrect Leicester’s league position which he done by winning 7 out of the last 9 games. It can be argued that the mental strength shown by Ranieri and his team last season means they could easily replicate the feat shown by Pearson and produce another miracle, this time saving the club from relegation. This comparison to me, however, is floored.
Firstly, the squad Pearson had and the one Ranieri had in his first season had a cohesion and battling attitude created from their Championship promotion season in 2013/14. Ranieri brought in numerous new additions which has damaged the squad’s togetherness, best shown by Leonardo Ulloa’s willingness to public state he wanted to leave in January even though he was only a bit-part player last season. Have Musa, Slimani, Fernandez, N’Didi all settled in the squad? From the way the players had acted on the pitch, it seemed that communication and cohesion had deserted Leicester in the past two months.
Secondly, the signings made by Ranieri have fallen short of expectation for the prices paid. Islam Slimani was purchased for a hefty £25.50 million and should be scoring for fun in the league alongside a record breaker in Jamie Vardy. However, the Algerian has only managed 6 goals in 18 goals and on the whole has failed to impress. Ahmed Musa, signed for £16.50 million, has also unperformed with only 4 goals and no assists in 29 games in all competitions. Whilst playing upfront he looks weak as fails to have the aggression Vardy has in order to bully and intimidate defenders. Central midfielders Onyinye N’Didi and Nampalys Mendy, bought for £15 million and £13.1 million respectively have both failed to replicate the form shown by ex- Leicester centre midfielder N’Golo Kante. Luis Fernandez was signed on a free but was sold in January after only six months having also not impressed Ranieri during his short stint at the club,
Whilst playing upfront he looks weak as fails to have the aggression Vardy has in order to bully and intimidate defenders. Central midfielders Onyinye N’Didi and Nampalys Mendy, bought for £15 million and £13.1 million respectively have both failed to replicate the form shown by ex- Leicester centre midfielder N’Golo Kante. Luis Fernandez was signed on a free but was sold in January after only six months having also not impressed Ranieri during his short stint at the club, suggesting that Ranieri got another transfer wrong. Don’t get me wrong, Ranieri can’t take all the blame. Slimani and Musa have missed easy chances which Ranieri can’t affect whilst on the sidelines but if a transfer does fail to live up to expectation, you usually can only point the finger at one person sadly.
Don’t get me wrong, Ranieri can’t take all the blame. Slimani and Musa have missed easy chances which Ranieri can’t affect whilst on the sidelines but if a transfer does fail to live up to expectation, you usually can only point the finger at one person sadly.
Thirdly, the Tinkerman tag came back to haunt Ranieri. At this stage last season, Ranieri only had 15 players who played 20 matches in the Premier League or more. Hardly changing his starting x11 earned him many plaudits as the chemsitry and unity amongst those who started most games was high. However, this season 20 players have played 20 games or more which has meant the unity and thorough understanding between players isn’t as strong. Although Claudio has had to rotate due to Champions League football, the constant changes upfront has not helped Vardy whilst the continuing changes on the wing between Musa, Albrington and Gray along with Mendy and N’didi fighting to start alongside Drinkwater has seemingly affected Mahrez’s and Drinkwater’s game.
On this, I back Ranieri as the players have to be strong enough to come together and perform to a higher standard than seen but, the Tinkerman’s constant tinkering has played its part in Leicester’s collapse this season.
Ranieri’s stubborness to change his tactics and lack of bravery to change it sooner has for most of the campaign led to their dismal performances. Being brave by playing 4-4-2 was what impressed so many last season as Leicester charged to the title but this season, the 4-4-2 was found out and exploited nearly every game. N’Golo Kante intercepting opponents passes and allowing Drinkwater to set Vardy and Mahrez away on the break was the trademark way Leicester played but without the tenacious little Frenchman, the foxes midfield and most importantly their centre backs have been exposed.
Wes Morgan and Robert Huth have been dreadful this season with their weaknesses being shown. Without Kante in the middle, Morgan has gone further up the pitch in order to try to win the ball back early whilst Huth has dropped back more as opponents try and run at him with no-one stopping runners like Kante did.
The partnership between the two huge centre-backs has deteriorated and opposition strikers are having a field day against them. Without Kante running around in the middle, breaking up play, Leicester’s defensive solidarity and hallmark clean sheets have been non-existent. Now, Ranieri should have tackled this by either taking Huth out and trying someone else alongside Morgan or making a midfield three to add another body to protect the defence. Ranieri tried out a back three against Chelsea and then deployed a midfield diamond with a back four against Southampton, conceding 3 goals in both games.
Ranieri’s tinkering didn’t pay off but had he changed it sooner with the players still having faith in their manager, would these formation changes have come off? Who knows but from what it seems, he stuck with the 4-4-2 for too long and when he did change it, it became even worse with Ranieri saying,
“I think the last two matches I changed the shape to try to help my players to play better to find the right solution. But maybe I make mistakes. I was wrong against Chelsea with three at the back and also today when I wanted to play with the diamond.”
The constant leaking of goals has meant that away from home, Leicester only picked up a measly three points from 13 games, failing to win a single away game. Their home form is credible with 18 points from 12 games making them 14th in the league based on home form but on away form, they sit in 19th position, 2 points behind Hull City! Ranieri has to take the blame for not changing the tactics which worked so well last season, with teams now knowing how to play against them unlike last year.
Finally, their current form has plummeted since the start of January, with their last Premier League victory coming on new years eve against West Ham United, 1-0. Since then, they’ve played 6 league games having failed to score a single goal;
• Middlesbrough 0-0 Leicester
• Leicester 0-3 Chelsea
• Southampton 3-0 Leicester
• Burnley 1-0 Leicester
• Leicester 0-3 Man United
• Swansea 2-0 Leicester
Playing against Manchester United and Chelsea is tough, with both sides in fine recent form but losing to relegation threatened Swansea and drawing against a Middlesbrough side who themselves have been in very poor form is not good enough. Conceding 3 goals in three games and 12 goals in those 6 matches has destroyed what Leicester were so effective at last season. Was Ranieri going to lead Leicester sleeplessly into the relegation zone with the question that’s been asked all season still being asked, “Can Claudio turn it around?”. It seems their recent form was going to continue and only get worse as the players continued to lose faith.
Therefore, what were the board meant to do? With Nigel Pearson, it seemed like the players still had faith in him thus the chairman allowed him to stay on but with Ranieri reaching such heights last season, the players have seemingly lost faith in the Italian, knowing they haven’t played anywhere near that standard. What I say is this, Ranieri during his time was nothing but dignified, he inspired thousands of lower league players to strive for better having made players like Mahrez and Vardy look world class and most importantly, he made fans fall in love with the game again.
The timing of the departure was wrong in my eyes with such a credible result away to Sevilla being obtained however, his sacking will be the right decision if the board appoint the right man and then he keeps the club up. So thank you, Claudio.
Thank you or all that you achieved over the past year and a half, Leicester City’s title-winning campaign with you in charge will be spoken about for decades. All the plaudits will go your way and if you do decide to call it a day in management, you can leave with your head held high, achieving the inconceivable and becoming the most loved figure in the world, on a sunny day in May 2016, when you held the title high above your head!
Featured Image taken by Michael Regan, Getty Images Europe, February 21st 2017