Less than eighteen months ago Leicester City were celebrating the astonishing achievement of winning the Premier League title. It was a remarkable achievement and one that will go down in the annals of football history as being one of the greatest underdog stories of sport in the modern era.
Fast forward to today and The Foxes now find themselves searching for their third manager in eight months after Craig Shakespeare’s brief reign in charge was ruthlessly cut short on Tuesday afternoon.
The 53-year-old was just four months into a three year contract and had been completely unaware that his future was in jeopardy, to such an extent that he had spent the morning observing a handful of fringe players and some youth team starlets compete in a behind-closed-doors friendly.
Leicester currently sit in eighteenth place in the Premier League table and have slipped into the relegation zone after picking up just six points from their opening eight games.
Whilst the early results have not been ground breaking, neither have they been disastrous. The Foxes have had to face Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool in their opening run of fixtures and were able to pick up points in the contests against more evenly-matched opposition.
However, in truth Shakespeare was always walking a thin tightrope at the King Power Stadium and in all honesty he was unlikely to have been the board’s preferred choice to succeed Claudio Ranieri in the first place.
The Italian was dismissed in February, despite winning the Premier League title the previous year, and the club were rumoured to be seeking out a big-name manager to step in as his successor.
Shakespeare initially took up the reigns in a caretaker capacity but such was his success, guiding the team into the safety of mid-table and the quarter finals of the Champions League, that the board had little choice but to hand him the job on a permanent basis.
The 53-year-old would not have been top of the board’s list of candidates and it is perhaps little surprise that they have taken the opportunity to dismiss him at the first sign of poor form.
Now the search for a high-profile successor begins, although it is difficult to pick out realistic figures that carry the prestige that Leicester are looking for in their new manager.
Carlo Ancelotti’s name has been whispered, although it is more likely that he will wait for a more elite club to show an interest in his services, whilst David Wagner, Sean Dyche and Marco Silva would all take some persuading to leave their current projects.
In search of an identity
The problem for Leicester City is that, although their Premier League triumph remains one of the greatest moments in the club’s history, it has also left the club uncertain of its standing in the modern game.
When the dust had settled and it became apparent that the superpowers of English football were ready to use their financial weight in the transfer market to prevent any future incursions into the so-called big-six, The Foxes were left facing the reality of mid-table mediocrity but with a taste for greater things.
The club may possess players who have claimed a Premier League winners medal but, on paper, the current squad fails to inspire and looks distinctly average.
Beyond the duo of Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy, who have both failed to maintain any real consistency in their level of performance since the title triumph, who else in the current Leicester team would be guaranteed a place in the starting eleven of the big-six? How many would get into the Everton’s team? Into Southampton’s team? Not many, if any.
In their Premier League winning season Leicester’s success was built on team spirit, work ethic and a counter attacking system that perfectly suited the players at their disposal.
The club have invested heavily in new talent, including the likes of Islam Slimani, Vicente Iborra and Ahmed Mussa, but have failed to significantly improve the overall quality of the playing squad.
The team spirit and grit that characterised The Foxes under the first year of Claudio Ranieri’s reign has all but disappeared and neither the Italian or Craig Shakespeare were able to blend the existing players and new personnel into an effective system.
Shakespeare’s departure may now allow the Leicester board to move forward and employ the big-name manager that they so desperately crave and yet the bigger issues will still persist.
There needs to be an acceptance that the title triumph was a flash in the pan and that the club now needs to focus on the here and now. That means developing a new identity and looking forwards, rather than reflecting on the glamour of the past.