Even 5 years ago, if you had mentioned Leicester as a club in serious contention for the Premier League title, you would have been laughed out of the pub in disgrace. Yet, here we are. They won the title last year, thanks in no small part to Claudio Ranieri’s management, and some spectacular playing from Silva and the rest of the squad.
I’m a Manchester City fan, as anyone following this site well knows. But as an outside observer, I’ve been rooting for Leicester all season. Sometimes, I think it’s important for us to remember that half of watching football is just about having fun. They’ve been an underdog squad, who’s played well and with a fiery spirit, come out on top last season, and that’s all I really need to be on their side. Frankly, they’ve been more interesting to watch than City for most of the year.
So, I found it really disheartening that less than a year after he somehow turned Leicester into a winning squad, Ranieri got the sack after one key loss this year. It’s also frankly sad that the squad, the players, and even the club owners didn’t have the backbone to express any of it publicly or directly before the man was already out the door. That’s got more to do why a lot of fans are angry, more than the business of getting Ranieri out in the first place. There’s a great column in the Guardian talking about how the money gum has made everything so risky that clubs are making rash decisions like this more and more often.
There’s an interesting column in FiveThirtyEight which essentially proves that statistically, managers don’t have much of an effect on teams. It’s mainly about money, which I suppose anyone could tell you. But the point is that on average managers leave league teams after a year or less, which is an insanely short amount of time compared to coaches in other sports. One season is realistically not enough to make a significant difference in a team dynamic or in the club’s strategy. I think it’s why so many clubs are so static year to year–they don’t change anything structural, just the person at the top. The column argues that the results this season, with some missed opportunities and general bad luck were exactly that, and that the general trend of the up-and-coming squad, like focusing on recruitment, analytics, and new techniques on the field, were mostly there before Ranieri and will be there now that he’s gone.
It’s a hard one to argue because according to that logic, the team won’t be any worse off after Ranieri’s gone, but this logic that firing is the answer to every problem is really tedious and I find it’s just a cheap distraction from the real dynamics that matter in a club’s corporate strategy and long game.
My point is that football becomes a lot less fun to watch and get involved in when these sort of back-room corporate deals take precedence over the spirit and camaraderie that drew us all in in the first place. Thoughts?