Thursday 22 March 2018 / 07:32 AM


Leicester won again at the weekend, beating West Ham 3-2 at the London Stadium.

It almost beggars belief.

This is the same team that couldn’t buy a win under Claudio Ranieri, and they’ve just won their third game on the bounce.

I was of the opinion that Ranieri did need to be given his marching orders, but I’ve got to be honest and say that I feel a bit sorry for him now.

This team simply didn’t play for Ranieri, but now they’re playing their hearts out for Shakespeare; a man who was there during the calamitous run of form.

Leicester’s dramatic and sudden upturn in fortune has reminded me of two things:

1) The manager will always pay for bad results.

It doesn’t matter how ‘unlucky’ the team has been. It doesn’t matter how poorly the players have been playing, however lackadaisical their approach to training has been or how flagrantly they’ve disregarded their manager’s instructions. If the team loses, and continues to lose, then the manager will pay for it, most probably with his job.

The modern footballer simply has too much power – and frankly, too much money – for them to be disciplined; and ultimately it’s because they’re expensively assembled assets with a market value that clubs simply can’t let go of.

In theory, I assume you could sack a footballer. Chelsea did it, a few years ago with Mutu. But you’re unlikely to, are you? If you did, you’d probably have to pay them off and then they’d just move elsewhere, get a big signing on fee and a huge wage to go with it.

Like it or not, it’s the manager who’ll carry the can. “Player power” cannot be vanquished.

2) Psychology is so vastly underrated.

What was so remarkable about Leicester’s triumph last season was that it flew in the face of everything that anyone knew about football.

On paper, this team simply wasn’t good enough to win the league. But they did, with a combination of good organisation and fantastic man management. Ranieri and his team got the psychology absolutely spot on, and eked every possible percentage out of their players.

Fast forward to this season, and that psychological advantage appeared gone under Ranieri. The Foxes were no longer chasing the title, so there weren’t the same motivational levers.

And yet, now that the Italian has gone, and Shakespeare is in charge, they seem to have the psychological edge again.

Not only have they beaten Liverpool, but they’ve also progressed to the Champions League quarterfinal and – most recently – defeated West Ham at home.

Same team. Same size pitch. Same everything, except the man putting out the cones and barking orders from the size of the pitch.

It’s a funny old game, with plenty of shades of grey, plenty of factors and plenty of downright confusion, but one thing seems pretty certain: Leicester are no longer likely to go down, as long as this positive psychology continues.

[YouTube – BeanymanSports]

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Seb Greenwood

CBS’s longest-serving contributor, Englishman Seb is our leading football correspondent, pulling no punches with his opinions on the Premier League and the international scene.

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