Derby County
7:45 PM UTC Jan 16, 2019
Game Details

Craig Shakespeare saved Leicester, now they are looking for a new saviour

It is a tragedy for him, a comedy for his vanquished foe and marks the completion of an extraordinary story in the history of the Premier League. Craig Shakespeare, the assistant who stepped forward to replace his manager Claudio Ranieri at Leicester (after he was sacked a few months after winning the title in 2015-16), has been sacked. It is a tale just three witches short of a Macbeth reboot.

Shakespeare's demise comes as a huge surprise, but this is not the first time that the Srivaddhanaprabha family have stunned the football world with an unexpected ruthless decision. More often than not, their boldness has vindicated.

They bucked public opinion by not firing Nigel Pearson when the club was at the foot of the table, doing it instead when safety had been secured. They were mocked for appointing Ranieri and, while they were roundly pilloried for it, their decision to sack him almost certainly kept the club in the Premier League as the title defence turned sour. For all the oft-mooted concerns about foreign owners, they have an incredible record of success with the big decisions.

The Foxes' failure to beat West Bromwich Albion at the King Power Stadium on Monday had brought Shakespeare's winless run to six games. He went five without a win last season, but as two of them were against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League quarterfinal, it was rather less of a problem. But make no mistake, Leicester, Premier League champions just 17 months ago, have problems now.

Initially, the Foxes' inability to win could be put down to a cruel fixture computer throwing them up against Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool inside their first six games.

Their only win of the season, against Brighton in August, was seen as a sign that Shakespeare's side would be fine against the division's less glamorous names. But they've played Huddersfield, Bournemouth and West Bromwich Albion in the last four weeks and they haven't beaten any of them. They are in the bottom three for a reason.

And yet, it didn't feel like last season's crisis. Nothing should be considered a crisis in October. Even Crystal Palace, whose record after seven games would only have been marginally worse if they had stayed in bed and had every game awarded against them 3-0 on default, are not that far away from redemption. But evidently the Srivaddhanaprabhas felt differently.

Shakespeare took over and made an immediate impact, now someone else has to do the same.

Speaking before Monday's game on UK television, Peter Schmeichel had refused to blame Shakespeare for the slump, and defended his performance as manager. Ordinarily, the views of retired ex-players would carry little weight, but this ex-player is, of course, the father of Leicester goalkeeper Kasper, so it's a reasonable assumption that he would be less inclined to speak in favour of the manager if there really had been a problem behind the scenes.

Schmeichel Sr. suggested that the failure to recruit properly, and in particular the failure to replace Danny Drinkwater, who left for Chelsea for £35 million on deadline day, was the real issue. This seemed a little harsh. Leicester did move to replace Drinkwater. They signed Adrien Silva from Sporting Lisbon for £22m. It's just that they missed the FIFA Transfer Matching System deadline by 14 seconds, leaving the midfielder in a state of limbo, unable to even train, let alone play for his new club until January.

They also signed Kelechi Iheanacho, then on the fringes of the Manchester City squad. Sadly, the Nigeria striker's introduction to life in Leicestershire has been disrupted by injuries. Sevilla captain Vicente Iborra arrived too, and was similarly inconvenienced by a groin problem. At £17m, Hull defender Harry Maguire makes up a foursome of expensive summer signings, but he's the only one who has been able to come through preseason and find his stride in the first team.

There had been bright spots to the season. Along with Maguire's excellent start, Jamie Vardy had looked back to his best form once again. So too had Riyad Mahrez, at least until the transfer window closed and his chances of a move to Roma were extinguished. But it wasn't enough.

The question now is where Leicester will turn next. Alan Pardew's name will be in the frame and Sam Allardyce's commitment to retirement will surely be tempted, if he isn't more tempted by a move to the United States.

Last month, the Srivaddhanaprabha family appointed Pearson as the manager of their Belgian side OH Leuven, so there just happens to be an obvious and experienced replacement close to hand. But, with Leicester in the bottom three, the club know they need someone to come in and make an immediate impact -- much like Shakespeare did himself in February. That already seems like a lifetime ago.

Iain Macintosh covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @IainMacintosh.


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