What Claudio Ranieri was able to achieve at Leicester City during the 2015-16 campaign will likely never be matched in the English game while world football will certainly struggle to produce a better fairytale than the Foxes winning the Premier League title.
But, as the dust settles on a new year period during which Ranieri himself picked up almost every management award possible for 2016, the unthinkable is suddenly becoming a realistic possibility. Leicester’s current form has them destined for relegation, and sacking ‘The Tinkerman’ may be the only way to save them.
Though some have compared handing Ranieri his P45 to shooting a puppy, there is no getting away from the fact that this season is turning into a disaster at the King Power Stadium. Following defeat by Burnley on Tuesday, the champions sit just two points above the drop zone in 16th while all the teams around them picked up crucial points in their own battles against relegation.
Only one side have gone onto be relegated the year after winning the English top-flight (Manchester City in 1937-38), but Leicester’s current form, as well as the upturn in fortunes of others, has left them looking precariously over the cliff’s edge and facing up to a return to Championship football next term.
Despite the sale of N’Golo Kante to Chelsea, this is otherwise the same group of Leicester players that captured the collective hearts of football fans the world over in 2016. Factor in that almost £60 million has been invested into adding to that squad, and the least that was expected was that everyone’s new second team would be able to secure a top-half finish before establishing themselves as a side worthy of challenging the super-rich top six again in years to come. Instead they have made the worst start to the season of any defending champions. Given the money spent and the drop in both performances and results, any other manager in Ranieri’s position would have been sacked long before now.
The current Leicester team is almost unrecognisable from that which swept all before them last term. Though Ranieri continues to employ the virtues of playing on the counter-attack, the defensive stability that characterised their run-in to the title last spring has completely evaporated.