Leicester City Football Club, who won the Barclays Premier League last year at 5,000-to-1 odds, are no strangers to surprises. Last week the team surprised Premier League fans all over the world yet again by sacking their manager, Claudio Ranieri, effectively killing off their fairytale storyline that climaxed in May of last year when they beat out the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur for the title.
Leicester, whom some pundits have described as being “everyone’s second favorite team”, are paradoxically doing way worse than they did last year domestically yet at the same time are playing according to expectations. After last year, the common opinion around England was that Leicester would drop off from their 2015-2016 form this year, but few could have predicted that they were going to suffer this much.
Currently sitting at 15th in the table (they only managed to escape the relegation zone earlier this week against Liverpool), the reigning champions have gone from rags-to-riches and then back to rags extremely quickly. Their fall from grace can not be attributed to only one source though; individual players have looked sluggish when compared to their lively play last year, the team has had to deal with some rigorous European competition (which ironically was afforded to them due to their stellar play last year), and key player N’Golo Kante left the team for Chelsea FC over the summer (where he is currently on top of the league, further rubbing salt in the wounds of his former club).
But Leicester City’s board has seemingly placed all blame on Claudio Ranieri, who only a month ago won the Best FIFA Men’s Coach of the Year award and has gone down in club history as one of its greatest managers ever given his accomplishment last season. The Italian manager was fired two weeks after receiving a vote of confidence from his team’s board of directors a mere two weeks ago.
This monumental shift in the board’s opinions of Ranieri raises the question of why they flip-flopped on their support of their talisman leader. Some believe that Leicester’s 2-1 away loss to Valencia in the Champions League last week was the “straw that broke the camel’s back”, but that seems illogical. Leicester still has the home fixture to get their goal back since they grabbed an away goal, so the prospect of dropping out of the Champions League surely would not have been enough to convince the board to sack Ranieri.
The much more believable prevailing theory is that Ranieri’s own players caused him to be fired. A meeting between certain players (including maverick striker Jamie Vardy) took place sometime before Ranieri’s firing and probably influenced what happened next.
Leicester won their first game without Ranieri as they beat Liverpool 3-1 on Monday, but the fight is still on for the team to continue to improve and evade relegation without their now legendary former manager. One can only hope that Ranieri’s dream is the only one that died.