12th June 2017. By Edward Stratmann.
Craig Shakespeare's tremendous job steadying the ship following the unfortunate sacking of Claudio Ranieri as caretaker manager back in February has clearly been appreciated by the Leicester City hierarchy, who offered him a three year deal to take over the reigns on a permanent basis.
Shakespeare duly accepted the offer presented to him, which served as a deserved reward for his fine efforts over the closing third of the season. Winning eight of his 16 matches in charge, Shakespeare, who served as Nigel Pearson's and Ranieri's assistant, proved he was well and truly up to the task.
Getting off to a sensational, record breaking start, which saw him become the first British manager to win their first five EPL matches, plus overcome an exceptional Sevilla side to reach the Champions League quarter finals, was the perfect start for the Englishman.
Moreover, the way he reunited and refocused a squad that had become evidently fractured under Ranieri this season also deserves special mention. The players clearly relished working under the familiar Shakespeare too, and their improved application and results were a testament to the effectiveness of his methods. Indeed, leading last year's champions to a respectable 12th place league finish illustrated his ability accordingly.
"Craig has shown all the qualities in leadership, motivation and talent management that are required to be successful in this role," explained Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, Leicester's vice chairman.
"Those qualities, aligned with his first?class coaching acumen, his knowledge of Leicester City and its philosophy, and the respect he has earned at every level of the club make him the ideal choice to help take us forward.
"Continuity is among the key elements to making such a process work. Over the last nine years, Craig has built a unique insight into the catalysts for success at Leicester City, its impact on our personnel and the conditions needed to ensure its longevity."
Danny Drinkwater, the Foxes' midfield dynamo, expressed his support for Shakespeare, pointing out that he's brought simplicity in his message, something that the team has responded to handsomely. In addition, being so accustomed to the Leicester City squad, it was clear Drinkwater and co were visibly keen to see Shakespeare get the job on a permanent basis.
The 53-year-old spoke of his delight at taking on the role, explaining: "This is a really exciting opportunity for me to continue along this new path in my career and to continue to work with a club and a group of staff I've grown extremely close to.
"I'm grateful to the owners and the board of directors for their continued faith and support."
Knowing now for certain the job is his, the new boss has a busy summer ahead of him to reinforce the squad and potentially deal with any departures. While Algerian maestro, Riyad Mahrez, appears destined to depart for Chelsea or Arsenal for nothing less than the club's asking price of £50 million, and Ahmed Musa looks set to join Fenerbahce for around £17 million, these deals will give Shakespeare vital additional funds to improve the squad.
Many notable players have encouragingly already been linked with a move to the King Power Stadium, including Middlesbrough's Ben Gibson, Hull City's Harry Maguire, Anderlecht's Kara Mbodji, Manchester City's Kelechi Iheanacho and Chelsea owned prodigy Tammy Abraham. Although unable to offer any potential new recruits the lure of European football, the Foxes project is still an exciting one that many of the aforementioned names would relish being a part of.
Tactically efficient and a brilliant man manager, Shakespeare's first full season at the helm will be fascinating to observe. Defensively, he's shown he can organise his backline in a vertically and horizontally compact manner, plus make life very difficult for opponents to pass out from the back by directing them towards the touchline and using the sideline as an extra defender. The latter tactic was implemented especially effectively in their win over Jorge Sampaoli's Sevilla in their memorable Champions League second leg.
Meanwhile, one of the key highlights of his attacking setup have come from the way he overloads one flank, usually the left, and then instructs a switch to the right, in order to isolate Mahrez in an advantageous 1v1 situation.
Clear in his methods and how he'll go about accomplishing his set aims, if his splendid stint at the end of last term is anything to go by, Shakespeare looks like he'll do just fine coping with the rigorous demands of the job next season.
Craig Shakespeare is the Right Man to Take Leicester City Forward
12th June 2017. By Edward Stratmann.