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Leicester City are left in search of a new identity after Craig Shakespeare’s sacking

Martyn Cooke

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Leicester City

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.

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

Leicester City

Who is Leicester City’s new signing, Ricardo Pereira?

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Photo: Getty Images.

He may come to the Premier League as a regular in a league winning side set to travel to the World Cup as a Champions League regular, but few had heard of Porto full-back Ricardo Pereira when it was announced that terms have been agreed for him to join Leicester City.

The deal was confirmed on the club’s official website as the 24-year-old put pen to paper on a five year contract which will be confirmed on June 9th, when the international transfer window opens.

Yet, those who know Pereira well will not be surprised. The right-back was Claude Puel’s undisputed first choice at OGC Nice during his spell in France and was one of the first names on the current Leicester boss’ team-sheet week in, week out.

(Photo credit should read FRANCISCO LEONG/AFP/Getty Images)

Then, Pereira was deployed as both a right-back and a left-back, with his versatility being one of his biggest strengths in the eyes of Puel. Since then, he has added another dimension to his game, improving his attacking play and featuring in a more advanced role in midfield and even as a forward on the right hand side for Porto.

The Portuguese side have relied on the number 21 as they returned to the top of Liga NOS this season and his fine form has earned him a spot in his national team, adding to his two caps from 2015 with another in November and then being selected ahead of Barcelona’s Nelson Semedo for Fernando Santos’ World Cup squad to travel to Russia.

A strong dribbler who likes to overlap down the flank, he is a clear upgrade on Danny Simpson provided he can rapidly adapt to the pace and physicality of the Premier League.

With a WhoScored rating of 7.59 in 2017/18, Pereira is one of the most highly rated full-backs in Europe and possessed some of the best statistical returns in the world in his position. His signing for the Foxes represents a step in the right direction in the club’s quest to return to European football.

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Leicester City

Leicester City will hope Kelechi Iheanacho can live up to price-tag next season

The Nigerian striker still has to prove himself at Leicester City.

Mathew Coull

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Leicester City played out a scintillating final game of the season against Tottenham Hotspur this weekend, losing 5-4 at Wembley in a game where defending appeared to be abandoned. One of the highlights of the game was a magnificent strike from Leicester striker Kelechi Iheanacho. He picked up the ball from 25 yards out and fired a rasping left-footed drive into the top corner of Hugo Lloris’ goal. It was, simply unstoppable.

For Leicester fans, it was probably just as frustrating as it was pulsating to see this strike go in. Because every Foxes fan is acutely aware that this is what the Nigerian is capable of, yet he struggles to do it on a regular basis.

(Photo by Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images)

In August last year, Leicester beat off a host of competition to sign the striker from Manchester City. According to ESPN, the Nigerian set the club back £25 million. But it was an investment in what is clear talent.

The former wonderkid had shown in his brief appearances for Manchester City and with the Nigeria senior team that he is a ruthless finisher in front of goal. If given chances, surely he would be a lethal Premier League striker.

But his application is often not at the right level. This season, Iheanacho managed just three goals in 21 Premier League appearances.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Yet this strike against Tottenham highlighted the fact Leicester have a potential star on their hands. He was brilliant in the Foxes FA Cup campaign, with four goals in five games. This summer he will lead the line for Nigeria at the World Cup and has a fine record with the Super Eagles.

Leicester paid £25 million for a player they hope can become a top talent. Incidentally, the 21-year-old’s middle name is ‘Promise’. If he can deliver on that next season, Leicester’s investment will not be in vain.

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Does Arsenal win justify stay for Claude Puel at Leicester?

Josh Kerr

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Claude Puel
Photo: Getty Images

Claude Puel helped Leicester secure their first win over Arsenal in 24-years on Wednesday night to round off their home campaign in spectacular fashion.

However, does the win do enough to justify why the Frenchman should stay at King Power for next season?

The Foxes ended a miserable run of five games without a win and six at the King Power Stadium by inflicting a first-ever defeat to the Gunners.

The victory, courtesy of goals from Kelechi Iheanacho, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, ensured Puel’s side now cannot finish lower than ninth.

After the win, Puel dedicated the final home game of the season to his Leicester supporters, despite many fans wanting a change of management in the East Midlands.

Puel took over from Leicester with the Foxes sitting third from the bottom – a position that had resulted in the sacking of Craig Shakespeare back in October.

Puel was a breath of fresh air for the former Premier League champions and got them quickly flying up the league table.

However, his poor form in recent weeks has also seen fans unhappy with his unimaginative style of play, and some have called for their fourth managerial change in just over a year.

The current Leicester boss found himself in an almost identical position last season when he was sacked by Southampton on the final day of the season, despite guiding the team to an impressive 8th place finish.

It comes as a cruel reminder to Puel that wins just aren’t enough in the modern game. Fans still want to see their team playing a positive brand of football that lifts them off their seats each weekend.

Puel’s obsession with results had clearly upset the Leicester dressing room, who looked jaded and unimpressed with the manager’s tactics in recent weeks, but Wednesday’s win may inspire the board to keep the 56-year-old in charge of the Foxes for next season.

Leicester can’t afford to keep going through managers and Puel’s style may not be the most imaginative, but the former Saints manager has dragged them up the table dramatically when they looked a serious contender for the drop just months ago.

The supporters need only look to Burnley for inspiration, with the Clarets recording a stunning seventh place finish that has secured them European football for next season.

Puel has an 8th and 9th place finish on his managerial CV, and supporters should be delighted with the progress made since his appointment back in October.

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