Leicester city were never going to win the league this season. That much is obvious. But what has happened over the last few weeks has got me thinking about the situation they find themselves in.
I want to go back first to the night Tottenham drew with Chelsea. Sky had cameras all convened to Jamie Vardy’s party. In my time watching football it was the first time this had been shown. I’m not saying it hasn’t happened before, I’m fully aware that Man United players have been round each other’s houses to watch the demise of their nearest challengers fall by the waist side. The Leicester squad were in uncharted waters. Never have any of them been in that situation. Winning the league was their Everest. Like a 5-year-old on a sugar high, adrenalin kicks in and wage demands are met without thinking.
Over the summer of 2016 things more or less stood still. The ‘hangover’ was being quietly dealt with. The glow of a new season dawned and players needed to be bought.
N’Golo Kante was seemed destined to leave. He offered something to other teams that they didn’t have. An engine that never stops running. A quiet player whose performances shout louder than a Jamie Vardy pointing at himself and letting others know what he has done. But no matter how good a player is, a team shouldn’t be down as far as Leicester were.
I say ‘were’ because as we all know Claudio Ranieri became the ‘victim’ of a comedown. The high wasn’t there anymore. Apart from some flickers of life in the Champions League and thunderous performance against Manchester City, Leicester have fallen a long way from partying in the front room. Vardy was almost drawn to Arsenal and I’m sure Mahrez was courted by some very good teams across Europe. Hindsight suggests moving on would have suited both parties.
But to put the blame on those two is unfair. The whole squad has taken a step back. No longer are we seeing the giants at the back Huth and captain Morgan clearing the decks with ease. Danny Drinkwater’s passing range has disappeared. Players all over seemed to down tools, only the big games seemed to stir any emotion. Whether the ‘tinker man’ changed formation too much and signings like Musa haven’t pulled up any trees. But would Zlatan have gone to the champions? No. No news of any adventurous bids was mentioned.
The owners should have known, with this in mind, it was going to be a season of struggle. On February 18th, they hit almost rock bottom. A 1-0 loss in the F.A Cup to Millwall summed it all up. A lack of anything on the pitch. Fans were worried, no wins in the league or even a goal in 2017 bar 3 against a second-string Derby County side could take the heat of the club. A few weeks before the club issued a statement that they backed the manager. A slow death was in place. A glimmer of light was shone in a spirited display against a very good Sevilla team. A late Vardy goal meant a 1-0 win at the King Power would send them through. But the following night as I watched my Spurs team struggle against Gent, it was announced
that Claudio was gone. How fickle sport can be. This man gave City something they never had. Gave players attention from outside watchers they never had experienced.
We all have bad days at work, but to go so long without doing what they did last season will be seen as disrespectful to their former manager. The deafening silence from players was broken by a very odd, in my opinion, interview by Kasper Schmeichel. The fans deserved better, then one of those annoying screen shots of a message was put up on Jamie Vardy’s social media feed. Why not front up to the cameras? Anyone could have written that his behalf and sent it to him.
Craig Shakespeare is treading a tight line at the minute. Public opinion is that he comes across as the cat who got the cream and is pleased to tell anyone about it. Continuously saying he wants the job with a smile and twinkle in his eye does portray almost bad guy in a movie qualities. I doubt for one minute he is, but maybe refusing to answer the question would be more dignified.
The change in performance must make the Italian scratch his head in bewilderment. The same players, same voices bar one. Also where were these messages from the assistant manager before? No way he could have been silent in the dressing room? Surely, he wouldn’t have held back any ideas from the boss or the players?
Leicester won’t go down now. But I doubt anyone will be in for their players this summer.