I wonder what was going through the warped mind of Leicester City’s chairman when he sacked the history-making Claudio Ranieri earlier today. Whatever it was, it can’t have been guilt or compassion. Likewise, I would love to have seen poor Ranieri’s reaction to what will surely go down as the most unfair and most callous Premier League sacking this generation will ever see.
He brought the Premier League crown to the King Power stadium and etched the names of his players into the history books forever. The feat was easily the most remarkable story to come out of football since the Hillsborough tragedy of 1989. It showed smaller clubs, and fans, the world over that money was indeed not everything. It proved that to break into the crop of top Premier League teams was achievable even by the written off.
Whatever your club’s colours, today is a dark day for football. One has to wonder where simple human values, like fairness and decency, and giving your fellow man a second chance lie in the modern era. For his wondrous efforts last season, Ranieri deserved the chance to re-promote Leicester in the (now highly likely) event of relegation, or if he managed to keep them up, then the funds to compete or improve for next season.
Of course, the irony is that Ranieri is now a victim of his own success. Success he brought to a club used to battling it out for promotion in the Championship and relegation in the Premier League. His dismissal, unspeakably cruel and thoroughly undeserved even if Leicester are struggling this season, exposes the uncomfortable fact that football is now run by the impatient, the disloyal and the heartless.
The only comforting part of the news was my renewed faith in and respect for the values expressed by my own team, Arsenal: a focus on the bigger picture, loyalty and having a long-term vision. These aspects to the club are frequently derided, but in times such as this it is worth thinking about the merit that they still have in football. This, if any, is the comparison that Arsenal fans ought to be making.
Arsenal’s noisy Twitter contingent, ever in the mood to make a story all about them, have been quick to use today’s news to take unwarranted jabs at Arsene Wenger, who – as I shall reiterate – I do not think is the man to take the club forward. ‘Ranieri sacked 9 months after overachieving with Leicester, Wenger still in a job after 13 years of underachievement’. This is a false distinction and an unnecessary comparison. I think this for two reasons.
Firstly, 13 years of ‘underachievement’ is blowing things a little out of proportion. Bigger clubs entered the sphere of ‘top teams’ and did so wielding huge financial resources. Arsenal struggled to adapt in this period, admittedly, but also had financial restrictions and the loss of big players of their own to deal with.
Secondly, it is precisely the lack of loyalty and shocking impatience that, in the context of things, should be the focus of today’s anger. This is not to say that Wenger hasn’t made mistakes and should necessarily remain at the helm for another ten years, but Ranieri’s sacking should serve a powerful reminder of the inherent value in fairness and gratitude. It is Leicester’s board, not Arsenal’s, that have it wrong on loyalty.
The odds on Leicester winning the league last season were 5000-1. After today, the odds on any manager staying at a club for more than eighteen months will be roughly the same.