A year after making football history, Leicester City need a revolution to avoid a repeat of a nightmare campaign that nearly ended in relegation
Exactly a year ago one of the greatest footballing achievements of all time was sealed with the lifting of the Premier League title. Leicester City were crowned Champions of England, with Jamie Vardy and the the rest of the Englishman’s teammates becoming heroes and Claudio Ranieri made King of Leicester.
Just 365 days later, an awful lot has changed for the Foxes. Claudio Ranieri is no longer there anymore, the Italian’s former assistant, Craig Shakespeare, is leading the team to the end of season, having saved it from the toxins of a relegation battle. N’Golo Kante was sold to Chelsea in August, Vardy has not been the same striker as last year, and neither has Riyad Mahrez. The Champions League was a dream for a while, but it has come to an end. The miracle is over.
Despite all of this uncertainty, one thing is for sure: the team reacted positively to the controversial sacking of Claudio Ranieri. Something unexpected, considering how King Claudio was hailed at the end of last season. Since Ranieri’s dismissal, Leicester have won eight games out of 13, losing just three times, securing a Champions League quarter-final berth and avoiding the drop in the Premier League. It was a clear sign. But what that sign meant is remains a mystery.
Were the players against Ranieri, or was the Italian simply not the real coach of the team in the first place? Shakespeare always had a big say in the changing room, even under Ranieri, and with the Italian gone, Leicester have re-started playing with the same zest as last season. To suggest Ranieri wasn’t really coaching them seems harsh, but possible. Nobody can take away last year’s fairytale, in any case, and the classy way he left the club without accusing anybody will always be remarkable.
The players were punching above their weight a year ago, and below in the first half of this season, having now found their feet mid-way. Where do the Foxes go from here? The King Power will see a small revolution in the summer, as probably a new manager will be brought in, and further investment will be made in the transfer window.
Money doesn’t seem to be a problem for the owners of Leicester City, and a big change is needed at the end of this season. One of Ranieri’s true mistakes was to underestimate this campaign after the miracles of the past one. More was needed from last summer’s transfer market, but he decided to give faith to the men that helped him make history.
The same mistake cannot be made twice. Leicester need fresh legs in the team, more quality, players who want to win again, to try and maintain that top level of football. It will be harder, without European football, to convince players to join, but the cash is there to do it. On top of this, getting rid of players who have nothing else to give the club will be central. Starting from Mahrez, who can still be sold for a decent sum despite a disappointing season, Leicester will need to revolutionise the squad, to return to European football as soon as possible.