After just escaping relegation last campaign, Leicester City sacked manager Nigel Pearson. It was an unthinkable move from the City board, as Pearson masterminded somewhat of a Houdini act to get the Midlands club out of the relegation zone during the last 10 games.
However, as we all know, no manager is safe in the EPL for a sustained period regardless of their stature at their respective club. And although Pearson was held in high regard by his peers at the King Power Stadium, and by the club’s loyal fans, his off-the-field bust-ups seemed too much for the City hierarchy to take.
Cue veteran Italian manager Claudio Ranieri to return to the EPL to take the City hot seat. Ranieri hadn’t managed in the EPL since his stint at Chelsea where he spent 4 years between 2000 and 2004. He’s fondly remembered by the Chelsea fans for signing club legend Frank Lampard from West Ham – he went on to become the club’s all-time leading scorer – and giving John Terry his debut at the club.
After chairman Roman Abramovich brought an end to Ranieri’s time at Chelsea he went on to manage Valencia, Parma, Juventus, Roma, Inter Milan, Monaco and Greece before ending up at Leicester City. And this is where the Italian’s story gets interesting.
No one expected Leicester City to even penetrate the top half of the EPL this season. Therefore, what Ranieri and his City team have managed is nothing short of extraordinary. On what could be considered a shoestring budget in EPL terms, he’s managed to sign N’Golo Kante a player in the same mold as the former Chelsea defensive midfielder Claude Makélélé, Japanese attacker Shinji Okazaki, and left-back Christian Fuchs for next to nothing. He added these to the in-form Jamie Vardy, roaming winger Riyad Mahrez and solid defender Liam Moore, which has meant City, have reached unparalleled heights this season.
While the EPL has become enamored with Ranieri style once more, top goalscorer and current England international, Jamie Vardy has even gone on record that the Italian is the best manager he’s played under. In a recent interview he praised the veteran manager for his tireless work ethic and attention to detail.
Ranieri was once labelled the ‘Tinkerman’ by the English press, however he seems to have shrugged off that title as he now sticks with a tried and tested team at the King Power. Injury permitting, he deploys the same XI week-in-week-out. But has the experienced manager got enough to see City over the line and accomplish the biggest feat in EPL history?
Unfortunately, City slipped up against Tony Pulis’s West Brom midweek when they were held to a 2-2 draw at home. A Craig Gardner free-kick on 50 minutes was enough to stop City extending their lead at the top and keeping us wondering whether the impossible was in fact, possible.
Although, it wasn’t to be against West Brom, City have extended their unbeaten run in the EPL to two games after an unfortunate loss to Arsenal at the Emirates. That particular result was in part caused by Danny Simpson getting sent off for City and then Danny Welbeck scored a late winner for the Gunners resulting in them losing 2-1, in a game which they were ahead.
Before the Arsenal game, City had beaten Manchester City and Liverpool – exhibiting title-challenging form. Though the problem remains City’s tough run in. They still have Everton, Chelsea and West Ham to play as well as a host of teams scrapping for their lives.
Have Ranieri’s men got a chance of winning the EPL this season? We can dream can’t we?