Craig Shakespeare’s Leicester City exit: Unexpected but no longer a surprise

By Lewis Michie

Craig Shakespeare’s exit from Leicester City was one that wasn’t necessarily expected, but was as shocking as any sacking in this age of football really can be.

Assistant manager at the time, Shakespeare is another piece of Leicester’s title winning puzzle that has now been removed.

Questions will almost certainly be asked in the coming week: did Shakespeare deserve to go? Is the haste of this sacking all that out of the ordinary? Who will now take the reins at the King Power Stadium?

 

Sitting 18th, having picked up six points in the opening eight Premier League fixtures, Shakespeare’s sacking came the day after a draw with West Brom at The King Power stadium.

This difficult start to the season followed Shakespeare – initially as caretaker – taking over from title-winning hero Claudio Ranieri in February last season.

Shakespeare engineered a five-game winning running, picking up a further eight points before the end of the season, and saving the east midlands side from relegation after Ranieri had left the club one point outside the relegation zone.

The dramatic turnaround set up Shakespeare for a three-year deal but with a summer spend upward of £60million there were always going to be certain expectations of the club.

 

While Leicester have only picked up six points from a potential 24 since the start of the season that stat is more threatening when used without context.

Of their eight games played, half of them have come against sides that finished in the top six of the Premier League last season.

Additionally, two of the other four teams finished in the top ten – West Brom and Bournemouth.

When looked at in that context, with the extra detail of progression to the last 16 of the league cup via a win against Liverpool, the start doesn’t seem quite as bad. It’s also worth considering the transition the side are under.

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It was clear how much of a struggle replacing N’Golo Kante was for Leicester last season. This season has had the extra challenge of replacing his midfield partner in the premier league winning season – Danny Drinkwater.

Shakespeare has had to try and fill that void with the likes of Vincente Iborra and he may have looked to play Adrien Silva there, had Leicester not missed registering their new Portuguese signing by mere seconds.

Kelechi Iheanacho – a striker lacking confidence after falling down the pecking order at Manchester City – and Harry Maguire – a new signing at centre-back – have both been shoehorned into a side that just a year and a half ago was one of the most consistent in terms of selection throughout the entire league.

Following Leicester’s draw with West Brom at the King Power Stadium, the night before Shakespeare’s departure, there was no question of a sacking.

Sometimes it’s very clear when a manager is on the edge – just four games in at Crystal Palace the speculation had already started for Frank De Boer.

As seems to be the trend with many club owners now, the Shakespeare sacking appears to be a case of an itchy trigger finger from Leicester’s Chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

 

As noted, however, this really isn’t something new.

In fact, as unanticipated as the decision was, there really wasn’t the level of shock this type of decision may have gathered as little as five years ago.

Frank De Boer was sacked four games earlier as he became the first managerial casualty of the Premier league season last month.

In the previous campaign Swansea coach Francesco Guidolin was sacked two weeks earlier than Shakespeare, while sitting a position above the 18th place Leicester currently occupy.

The trend is even further apparent when you see both Dick Advocaat at Sunderland and Brendan Rogers at Liverpool had both seen the exit in the early stages of October the year before.

With pressure mounting on various Premier League managers, it doesn’t appear this trend will be ending anytime soon.

Before mentioning names, it would seem sensible for Leicester to consider what they want from a successor for Shakespeare – considering playing style, tactical approach and the message the appointment would send.

 

As is often the case with struggling Premier League sides looking for a manager mid-season, many will suggest an experienced head that can bring stability and will get the basics done right.

You just need to look at Crystal Palace’s appointment of Roy Hodgson to get the idea of this particular approach.

It may not be particularly long term, but it will hopefully secure a team’s short term Premier League future.

Another way to look at the situation is to consider there are still 30 games to be played, and possibly it’s too early to go the safer route.

The alternative would be to look slightly more ambitiously. Look for a coach who is coming in to push the once Premier League winners further than just securing safety.

This route can of course backfire and is generally considered more risky, especially depending on the level of coach brought in.

The more expensive option is to bring in someone both ambitious and with a proven track record, the cheaper option is to do as Hull did last season with Marco Silva and bring in someone with big ideas but less in terms of experience.

 

The expectations of the club’s chairman must really be questioned however. If a new appointment is expected to once again win the league for the foxes, then it’s very possible the managerial merry-go-round at the King Power could continue for a long time to come.

In terms of betting odds, one of the managers synonymous with avoiding relegation, Sam Allardyce, has fallen down the odds after initially being made favourite. This is due to persisting links with the United States national team role.

The former England manager has been replaced as favourite by current Wales’s manager Chris Coleman. Coleman presents a middle ground. While Coleman has enjoyed success with Wales, taking them to the semi-finals of the Euro’s last summer, the Welshman has not enjoyed the same success at club level.

Coleman has managed one Premier League side, Fulham, with whom he only enjoyed one truly successful season.

Coleman was sacked at Craven Cottage in 2007 and, between that sacking and taking the Wales job, had bleak spells in Spain, Greece and with Coventry City.

 

While this could be seen as a potentially risky appointment, the memories of Coleman’s Wales’ sides performances in France won’t be forgotten quickly and those may get him his first role in club management in over five years.

Sean Dyche of Burnley has also been linked with the job. While Dyche would bring the experience of two full seasons in the Premier League he would also, as a relatively young coach, bring a desire to push the club further.

An appointment of Dyche would not come without risk. Dyche has spent all but one season of his managerial career with Burnley; questions will be raised as to whether ‘ginger Mourinho’ can settle in somewhere other than Turf Moor.

There are also questions on whether Dyche himself would want to leave a relatively safe position with Burnley to takeover a far less secure job.

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With any managerial opening, there is generally a glamorous option and right now there are not many jobs in the top football leagues in Europe that Carlo Ancelotti won’t be linked with.

Bayern Munich sacked Ancelotti late last month and, as a former Serie A, Bundesliga, FA Cup, Premier League and Champions League winner, the Italian would be a highly interesting prospect for any team.

Ancelotti is considered by bookmakers to be in the top five most likely candidates, so certainly cannot be ruled out. However, with the former Chelsea manger only recently leaving the German giants Bayern, it’s believed the Italian is looking to use the remainder of the season to rest and he would likely have more high profile offers in the future.

 

It appears Chris Coleman is the most likely to take over at the King Power. While that hiring would be risky, his knowledge of English football would certainly be a bonus.

Coleman will know he is taking over from a man who could easily have been given more time and he will have to expect, with the current sacking culture in the Premier League, that he will also be under the same constraints at Leicester if he is to achieve his goals.

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