Dumped Clau­dio Ranieri’s sack­ing is sad but mod­ern foot­ball means Le­ices­ter couldn’t af­ford to be ro­man­tic

The Economic Times - - Sports: The Great Games - Miguel De­laney

The party is over, that bell has fi­nally tolled­forClau­dioRanieri…what­ever line you want to use from last sea­son that has now been com­pletely in­verted, not even this story could evade foot­ball’s own bot­tom line. It is sad.

One of the sport’s great­est achieve­ments, a fan­tas­ti­cally en­dear­ing tale that was sup­posed to defy so many of the cap­i­tal­is­tic trap­pings of the mod­ern game, has merely re­in­forced just how bru­tal foot­ball is in the fiercest way. Not even its clos­est equiv­a­lent to al­ife-af­firm­ing­mir­a­cle­could­granta stay of execution.

All of that means, from a sen­ti­men­tal and emo­tional per­spec­tive, Le­ices­ter City’s de­ci­sion is an un­be­liev­ably­har­shand­may­beeve­nun­fair de­ci­sion. Bambi, to bor­row for­mer New­cas­tle United chair­man Freddy Shep­herd’sphrase,has­been­shot.Isit harsho­run­fair­froma­pure­ly­foot­ball or­log­i­calper­spec­tive,though?That’s a lot more dif­fi­cult to say – if not quite as dif­fi­cult as Ranieri might have found it to keep Le­ices­ter up.

The bot­tom line with this team is that some­thing was fun­da­men­tally bro­ken within it. Some­thing there-

AP fore had to change. While this doesn’t mean the play­ers should be ab­solved, the re­al­ity of foot­ball - not to men­tion its le­gal struc­tures - en­sure it is much eas­ier to just get rid of the man­ager. Thatwill­be­comeallthe­clear­erwhen you’re dras­ti­cally run­ning out of time, as Le­ices­ter are. One fair ar­gu­ment through­out all of this has been that they could have picked a more un­der­stand­able time, es­pe­cially since it was lit­er­ally the day be­fore - and Jamie Vardy’s rous­ing away goal in the 2-1 de­feat to Sevilla - that Le­ices­ter fi­nally had some­thing to of­fer en­cour­age­ment; fi­nallysome­thingth­at­sug­gest­edthis sit­u­a­tion might be fix­able. Danny Simp­son even said af­ter that game that he could feel the con­fi­dence re­turn­ing af­ter Vardy’s strike. “You could tell by the way we played af­ter that.Some­ofthestuffwe­played,maybe we could have got 2-2. You know, 2-1 and a good per­for­mance, we have give­nour­selvesachance­back­home.”

The­strong­counter-ar­gu­ment­toallof thatisthatit­would­be­lu­di­crous­to­base such a de­ci­sion on one mo­ment’s play and a punt on “men­tal­ity”, when there are hours of ev­i­dence to the con­trary, not least the other 89 min­utes of this match. In­stead, the de­feat to Sevilla prob­a­bly defini­tively dis­played why this sit­u­a­tion was un­fix­able.

The height­ened at­mos­phere of the Cham­pi­ons League didn’t, in fact, re­store a height­ened level of per­for­mance in Le­ices­ter. They were dis­mal. The de­fence was so ex­posed, the team se­lec­tion was wrong with the choice of Ahmed Musa, and there didn’t seem any kind of pos­si­bil­ity what­so­ever that Ranieri could out­think Jorge Sam­paoli to some­how go through. It was merely blind luck, great goal­keep­ing and some poor fin­ish­ing that the English cham­pi­ons - a sta­tus that now seems even more sur­real — didn’t get hu­mil­i­ated.

It­woul­dal­sobe­wrong­tosaythatthe play­ers haven’t been try­ing. These sit­u­a­tions are rarely so sim­plis­tic.

It’s just that the con­nec­tion that was so key to mak­ing it all work last sea­son is gone. Whereas ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing clicked to­gether then and Ranieri supremely surfed and di­rected a fine club struc­ture, he just hasn’t known how to re­act to any of it this sea­son, par­tic­u­larly the changes to that struc­ture. He hasn’t come close tofig­uringouthow­tostartre­shap­ing the team with­out N’Golo Kante, and thathas set a pat­tern whereby al­most ev­ery de­ci­sion he’s made has wors­ened the sit­u­a­tion.

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