After only taking an interim managers position after the sacking of Claudio Ranieri, Craig Shakespeare has earned the job as full-time manager.
When Claudio Ranieri was sacked in February after Leicester had lost 2-1 to Sevilla in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16, Craig Shakespeare had an almost impossible task ahead of him. Leicester, coming off a miracle season in which they won the Premiership against every conceivable odds, had found themselves in the relegation zone and looked as good to be relegated.
Claudio Ranieri had won Leicester the Premiership using a counter-attacking system that exposed the space most teams who were they were playing and exploited the brilliance of Kante in being able to win the ball along with the frightening pace of Vardy.
When Chelsea bought Kante in the summer, Leicester lost a pivotal part of their team and Ranieri tried moving Leicester away from what made them successful in the previous season and this proved to be disastrous for Leicester with the team down the drop zone and looking certain to go down. Ranieri couldn’t motivate the team at all and it became very obvious that he had lost the dressing room.
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Going down to the Championship could have been disastrous for Leicester as the club would have likely lost several key players – namely Kasper Schmeichel, Jamie Vardy, Islam Slimani, Demarai Gray and Riyad Mahrez along with having an aging team who are already on very high wages.
The Championship is a very tough league to get out with a number of good teams down there and as we’ve seen over the years, it isn’t always as easy to come back up with the likes of Southampton, Blackburn, Bolton, Fulham and Queens Park Rangers all failing to come back up immediately and Leicester will know this themselves as the club spent years down in the Championship after failing to secure promotion after being relegated and even got relegated down to League 1 at one point.
Leicester may not have been expected to match the feats that they have achieved last season or come anywhere close to doing so but the club would have been expected to stay up and establish themselves as a permanent fixture in the league.
There is far too much money in the Premiership for clubs with the enormous amounts of revenue that clubs gain from the TV money that they simply cannot afford to drop out of the division, especially given the wages that they have already paid out on wages on the players currently at the club after giving a number of players massive wage increases after last season’s heroics to ensure that they stay at the club.
Craig Shakespeare was the man appointed to be the interim club manager at the time when Ranieri was sacked while the club looked for other options. Shakespeare began by defeating Liverpool 3-1 in his first game before helping the team to win five games out of five in the Premiership and turn them around from being in the mix of a relegation battle to being mid-table and safe from relegation. Along with these victories in the league, Leicester defeated Sevilla in the second leg of their Champions League tie to see them go into the Quarterfinals of the Champions League, where although they may have gotten eliminated at the hands of Atletico Madrid – Leicester took the game right to them and did themselves proud.
Once Leicester had score their first goal in the second half after Shakespeare had made two brilliant substitutions at half-time, they had Atletico right on the ropes and several times came close to scoring again and although they may have ended up eliminated from the competition, they went out with their heads held high compared to the embarrassing way in which Arsenal, PSG and Barcelona went out, despite the gulf in quality and budgets between those three teams and Leicester.
Shakespeare hasn’t reinvented the wheel or done anything that will be considered revolutionary in his time so far at Leicester. What he has done is convert Leicester back to the same tactics and style of play that they used last season and it would appear that this style of player – hitting teams on the counter suits the players at Leicester completely.
Leicester may opt to go with a bigger name manager in the summer to try to entice players to make the move to Leicester but Shakespeare has done more than done enough to warrant the job full-time, he knows the players and the style of play that suits Leicester perfectly. His job when he took over from Ranieri was to at the very least keep Leicester above the relegation zone and keep them safe which he has exceeded and it is far more likely now that Leicester will finish mid-table.