The last time the top-flight champions were relegated after winning the title was Manchester City in 1938. Leicester City might join the infamous list.
The Champions have lost their attitude, drive, hunger and quite frankly anything good. We are still waiting for Leicester City to arrive this season. But what has arrived has been the imminent danger of relegation. They are yet to win in 2017. What’s more alarming is that they are yet to score this year — the only team in the top four divisions of English football to do so. Ouch! Jaime Vardy, the predator who closed down defenders is a shadow of himself. The silky Riyad Mahrez has lost his mojo. Danny Drinkwater seems clueless without N’Golo Kanté. The defense, well, let’s not go there.
The reigning Premier League champions are in troubled waters.
In light of recent speculation, Leicester City Football Club would like to make absolutely clear its unwavering support for its First Team Manager, Claudio Ranieri — Leicester City Football Club
This was last week. Since then, the champions lost. Again. This time to Swansea. That’s relegation threatened Swansea. It’s been a disastrous title defense for the Premier League winners. Worse than the Chelsea team that turned up last season. Leicester are in a dog fight to keep their top flight status as they sit just one place and one point above the bottom three after a run of five successive defeats.
It was certain that Leicester would find it hard to defend their crown. Claudio Ranieri himself set sights on a top 10 finish for the season. That’s a fair objective. After all, the crux of the team including the likes of Captain Wes Morgan, Robert Huth, Vardy, Mahrez and Kasper Schmeichel remained at the club. From the title winning team of last season, only the superhuman Kanté departed. Its not like Ranieri doesn’t have options. Remember, Leicester spent £60m last summer attempting to replace Kanté and upgrading their squad to cope with the demands of the Champions League. Islam Slimani and Ahmed Musa have come onboard. The fact is no amount of tinkering has worked for the Italian. It’s quite inexplicable to explain why Leicester have fallen so low this season. Players, Champions League, fame, pressure, Kanté, what is it?
Is It The Tinkerman?
I admired what Ranieri achieved last season and no one can take that away from him. It was inspirational. But right now what’s perhaps keeping the Italian in the job is an emotion. The club is riding on that. That’s a gamble if you ask me. Football, it’s a harsh business.
Let’s look at it hypothetically;
a) The Foxes were eliminated from the group stages of Champions League while relegation struggle continues. Will the ‘Tinkerman’ be given the same vote of confidence by the club?
b) Here’s another situation. Say Leicester hadn’t won the league last season. If the were in the same wretched run in relegation battle, would Ranieri still be in charge?
The defeat against Swansea would have been ‘ciao Claudio’
One wonders if Ranieri has hit saturation point. The loveable Italian enjoyed a great rapport with the players and perhaps still do. But a manager will face a situation where he is unable to motivate his players. Right now, that seems to be the issue for the Foxes. The football and the body language would suggest so.
Fixtures, form and result this time around forced Ranieri to switch personnel and tactics. He shifted from his successful 4–4–2 to the diamond formation. When it didn’t work, he blamed his tactical switch and fell back to the two striker system that worked wonders last season. Since mid-December he has not named the same starting eleven.
Tactics have left his players scratching their heads. There’s also the rumors that he has lost the confidence of his players. In the final half of the season, that’s not what you want to hear.
The Italian does not have much experince is pulling a team from relegation. But the same cannot be said of his players. Most of them battled to keep their league status in 2015. Let me remind you there was no N’Golo Kanté in that squad.
Is Change the Order?
Sometimes a change works wonders. Look at relegation strugglers Swansea. Paul Clement is the third manager this season at the Welsh club. He has improved the club by miles. Marco Silva at Hull City has done the same to the Tigers. The hierarchy at Leicester must be weighing up their options. Sure, they would want to progress further in the Champions League but it would be illogical to do so at the expense of the Premier League. Right?
I believe the next three matches will make or break the season for the manager and the club. That’s one cup tie and two league fixtures. The trip to Sevilla will throw a sterner test. Liverpool and Hull come visiting next. That match against Hull can be a real knockout. If the club plans to pull the gun on Ranieri, then it should be after the Hull fixture.
Unless things take a positive turn, it’s hard to see Claudio Ranieri lasting the season. I know that the success he delivered last season is unparalleled. But it remains to be seen if hierarchy at the club will be that tolerant. The ‘Tinkerman’ is on thin ice. Leicester City might fall down the same crack with him.
P.S. I wonder what are the odds at the start of the season for the champions getting relegated. Anyone?