Headline writers will have a field day alluding to a Shakespearean-style betrayal of Claudio Ranieri, as well as the fact that getting rid of the Italian was harsh and now, to maintain a theme, may be tempted to say “All’s Well That Ends Well.”
But the truth is that, despite a recent upturn in form, Leicester aren’t safe from the threat of relegation and will be underdogs against Sevilla on Tuesday in the Champions League, despite having scored an away goal in Spain. Therefore, Shakespeare’s first task will be to remind his squad of underperforming Premier League champions that they are not out of trouble yet.
Shakespeare is definitely the right choice to take charge until the end of the season. He commands the dressing room and has reverted to simple 4-4-2, counter-attacking football; going back to basics has yielded instant results.
This is still Ranieri’s team but the genial 65-year-old had lost the confidence of some influential players. The likes of Jamie Vardy, Robert Huth and Kasper Schmeichel have and will continue to respectfully deny any rift, but Shakespeare had seemingly become the middle man between the former manager and players.
By the end of his time in charge, Ranieri didn’t know his best XI or formation and, although a dressing-room revolt never officially happened, perhaps it might have had he been kept on any longer.
Shakespeare is part of the furniture at Leicester. He was assistant to Nigel Pearson and his experience with a lot of the same players during the so-called “great escape” of 2014-2015 is one big selling point to the board.
He might not be the most subtle tactician but Leicester won’t lack grit or passion under him and that’s pretty much all they will need to escape their current plight. Moreover, Leicester have always flourished under bold yet obvious tactics.
Beyond this season, though, the club’s owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha is in a tough position, though. If Shakespeare keeps Leicester up then it will be difficult to replace him over the summer, but the truth is a new manager should be brought in during the offseason.
Shakespeare would still have a valuable role to play but he’s not got the experience or player-pull to lead in the long term. He will find things a whole lot tougher as the man in charge. Suddenly the scrutiny is focused firmly on him.
Better options are Garry Monk, should Leeds not go be promoted from the Championship, or former Bayer Leverkusen boss Roger Schmidt. Even an unpopular appointment like ex-England manager Roy Hodgson would be a more prudent call than sticking with Shakespeare after May.
Shakespeare is popular, excellent under pressure and has the respect of his squad, but that’s all on the training ground or in the dugout. If called upon to persuade Vardy or Riyad Mahrez not to leave, does he have the negotiating skills or persuasive powers of a bigger name? That said, he might argue he deserves the chance to work on these skills.
Shakespeare will likely keep Leicester up and be handed the managerial reins on a permanent basis by way of reward, but he probably shouldn’t get too comfortable in the hot seat. As the owners proved when sacking Ranieri, they won’t be swayed by sentiment.
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