As an Arsenal fan and a Wenger admirer, I wasn’t sold on the Leicester Premier League win last season. Yes it was a fairy tale as we have been told for the one millionth time but the fact that Arsenal defeated Ranieri’s team home and away despite some skulduggery from the referee especially in the match at the Emirates meant Leicester winning the Championship wasn’t really a big deal for me.
13 years ago, I disliked Ranieri intensely. He was the man who prevented Arsenal & Arsene from wining the Champions League that year and sparing the whole world the egotistic narcissism of Jose Mourinho. If you think egotism and narcissism cannot be combined in one person, you clearly do not know Jose Mourinho.
When Ranieri was sacked by the arriviste Chelsea owner, although I found the decision weird, I didn’t shed a tear for Claudio. His subsequent sojourn in club and international management prior to his appointment at Leicester turned him into something of a laughing stock. When he was appointed at Leicester, every single person (pundit, commentator, friends etc) I have read or heard from thought it was a disastrous appointment. One well known journalist even said Leicester will be relegated last season for appointing Ranieri. I think the owners only appointed Claudio because they thought he had less of a baggage than Nigel Pearson.
Did Leicester & Ranieri win last season’s league fair and square? My emphatic answer is NO. Their win was very much one that was signed off in the EPL Executive Management suite and by the PGMOL Leadership. The EPL needed something exciting, something new and shiny, a fairy tale to sell their wares to a wider audience for more money. They needed to sell this ‘anybody can win the league’ Disneyesque story and Leicester fitted in perfectly.
You might have noticed that referees didn’t take a stand against Jamie Vardy’s diving until the West Ham match on April 17 at the King Power when Referee Jon Moss (the PGMOL ‘go to man’ for special jobs) sent off Vardy for simulation. This is something the ever so ‘nice’ Jamie had been doing for 2 seasons. By this time, Leicester were already 8 points clear at the top of the table with other competitors a distant second.
Spare some time to again watch the Manchester City v Leicester City match at the Etihad (a year ago this month) and see the blatant fouling by the Leicester pair of Huth & Morgan. They got away with murder in that game and got away with the same murder the whole season until the PGMOL changed their guidance this season and Huth & Morgan the 'best' central defence pair from last season became a pair of spectators.
To be a somewhat open minded, misfiring Man City, lethargic Arsenal, addicted to the past Liverpool & a forever unreliable Totteringham played their part in helping Leicester win the Championship. At least Arsenal played their part by defeating Leicester home and away but what did the others do. Zilch.
So yes. Ranieri was crowned a champion for the first time in his almost 40 years coaching career. Arsene Wenger haters used this to beat up on Wenger not realising that Wenger achieved the same thing Claudio just achieved 4 years into Arsene’s Managerial career. Wenger haters also didn’t realise that the fact Ranieri could ever win a Premier League title signposted the possibility that Wenger could bring back the league winning glory days.
Less than 10 months after achieving the unbelievable, Ranieri has been fired, he was let go ignominiously. The football punditocracy have been apoplectic in their hysterical condemnation of the firing of Ranieri. The same people who criticised his appointment, who were dismissive of the appointment of Pochettino at Southampton, Marco Silva at Hull etc. are now criticising the firing of Ranieri. Why anybody pay our so called pundits serious attention fails me.
Personally, I think the day Ranieri won the league with Leicester and collected all his bonuses, he should have walked away. There was ever only one way to go from that point and it was DOWN. Similarly with the players as well. You have to imagine Kante’s decision was inspirational and Vardy and Mahrez were too sentimental to remain. The same with the club who did not buy new players of the same calibre with some of their key performers in the title winning season.
It would appear the Leicester owners did not expect their team to win the League again this season but they didn’t quite expect a relegation scrape and fearing the dreaded drop, they pressed the sack button and let Ranieri go. The sad thing is that Ranieri’s sack does not guarantee survival.
I wonder if the losses to fellow relegation scraper Swansea and to a League 1 Millwall made up of only 9 outfield players were the final straw that meant Ranieri had to go. Some newspaper reports indicated the decision was made before the Seville game while more recent reports suggests that the sack decision was made after. The latter appears unbelievable as all match reports suggested that the players played the game of their life in the 2nd half of that Champions League match in Seville. Maybe that 2nd half performance in Seville was inspired by knowledge that the owners had already sacked Claudio. Who knows. I don’t know but it is instructive that many had speculated about Ranieri’s firing before the owners pulled the plug. So much so that he was given the dreaded vote of confidence.
What I however find strange is the wailing when Ranieri was then fired. Results were piss poor. The title defence was the worst of its kind in modern times. All of the 'superstars' of last season had disappeared. One season wonders the lot of them.
Ideally you will imagine that a manger who wins an unprecedented title should be allowed to manage the whole of the next season irrespective of the threat of relegation as long as he hasn’t deliberately lost the dressing room through his egotistic narcissistic ways like Jose Motormouth and that the results are understandable although not welcome. That wasn't the case for Ranieri. Did Claudio lose the dressing room? Did he fall out with his backroom staff? Did the players shop him?
In case the pundits and their sheep are willing to eat some humble pie and be balanced in their opinions, they should realise that no manager goes from hero to zero in one season or vice versa. Claudio was a good manager before he came to Leicester despite what the pundits said when he was appointed, he remains a good manger despite the sacking irrespective of this season's results.
I have been advocating in my writing and in conversation with friends that a number of factors must come together to help you win the league and some of these factors are totally outside your control.
For long, pundits and sheep - like football fans have pushed the ‘only winning matters’ narrative. Now a manger that has stopped winning is fired and there is an outpouring of outrage. Pundits need to chill and take several seats. They have created the environment where owners & fans buy into the ‘sack the manager’ philosophy. All you need to do is have a bad run of results and their is some shyster pundit even in the national media advocating for a change of manager.
Pundits claim Ranieri’s sacking is a sign of what is wrong with football but lead a baying mob to force Arsene Wenger out of Arsenal because he has made consistency look effortless. SHAME ON YOU PUNDITS.