Hubert Lawrence | Arriverderci, Claudio! - Italian coach leaves reigning champion team
There is one unending truth in football. The manager's contract isn't worth the paper it's written on. With very few exceptions, the only way for a manager to keep his job is to keep on winning.
The statement of facts allows us to view the unpleasant departure of the charming Italian Claudio Ranieri from the reigning champion team of England, Leicester City. City had barely stopped getting awards and accolades for a perfect 2015-16 English Premier League (EPL) triumph when its board dropped the bomb on Ranieri. The decision comes at what seems to be an inopportune time.
Jamie Vardy, who has been a shadow of the danger man who terrorised defences last season, broke a long goal-scoring drought in the European Champions League match that became Ranieri's last game in charge. With the Italian bombed out of work on the team's return from that game, Vardy scored twice more when Leicester beat Liverpool 3-1.
The drought was bound to end and give some respectability to Leicester's defence of the EPL title. Winning is out of the question, but with Vardy scoring again, relegation is unlikely. It's a shame for Ranieri's sake that the speedy English international didn't find the mark a few matches earlier.
Leicester City did themselves no favours by letting midfield dynamo N'Golo Kante leave. He was key to the Leicester City title run last season and he is an important cog in the dominant play of Chelsea this season. He operates like a pint-size Patrick Viera, incisive in attack at one moment and, thanks to his greyhound speed, decisive in defence at the next.
Creative attacking force
In Leicester blue, he released Rihad Mayrez to be a creative attacking force while also protecting centre-halves Wes Morgan and Robert Huth at the other end of the field. Now he is doing the same job in Chelsea blue.
Ranieri once managed Chelsea. He must rue the irony of it all.
The real truth is that with the European Champions League a new assignment for Leicester, significant strengthening of squad depth was needed. While Leicester made it through Champions League first-group play unscathed and qualified for the knockout stage with a match to spare, they have lumbered and lurched through their Premiership fixtures.
With Kante gone, so too have the 9.58 speed counter-attacks that made Leicester a terror last season. To top everything, the players seem unable to generate the emotional energy that gave them a cutting edge. Perhaps, that is understandably tough after the dream campaign of 2016.
Manuel Pelligrini was the high-profile victim of the previous EPL campaign. During his stay at Manchester City, he won the EPL and took those Blues to the Champions League semis. The City board pressed the eject button to make way for the undeniably great Pep Guardiola, but he has struggled to get City playing consistently well.
He probably will succeed as he has at FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but as any manager knows, getting work teams of people to mesh can take time.
Leicester City needed time for Ranieri to help the squad to adjust to the demands of an expanded playing schedule. Sadly, his departure serves as a reminder to all football managers of an unending truth. Simply put, last season is history.
- Hubert Lawrence has made notes at track side since 1980.