Why Arsenal boss may not feature in Leicester picture gallery next season
PUBLISHED: 16:55 22 August 2016 | UPDATED: 16:55 22 August 2016
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Deep along the corridors of the welcoming King Power Stadium is a room manager Claudio Ranieri uses to welcome friends, dignitaries and journalists. On the walls are 20 tasteful black and white photographs of all the bosses in the Premier League.
A year ago, it would have been debatable how long the personable Italian’s face would have remained on show, such is the demand for instant success in the world’s most popular division.
However, 12 months on – with an improbable but heart-warming tale of the 5000-1 shots being crowned champions – the more pertinent question, surely, is whether Arsenal’s long-serving boss will be displayed this time next year.
Fans are now in open revolt over their long-established frustrations with the Frenchman – including, but not limited to: successive failures to strengthen the squad with ‘big names’, disillusionment with half-hearted bids and disingenuous excuses about the team not being undercooked for the first game of the season.
Then there’s the frustration of the never-ending injury list, which with the nascent 2016/17 season being seven days old already stands at captain Per Mertesacker, Gabriel, Danny Welbeck, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere – not to mention being asked to cough up the highest ticket prices in football, it is no wonder supporters are at breaking point with the club, and specifically Arsene Wenger.
There is also a clamour for the Alsace-born supremo to be held more accountable for his palpable lack of league success as the stadium is now self-sustaining, and for many to stop prostrating themselves at his introducing revolutionary – at the time in 1996 – modernising habits and maximising the talents of hitherto unloved players.
The former has been superceded by many, while his knack for the latter now appears to have deserted him.
During the 24 years of the Premier League the Gunners had only lost their opening two games once – in the first year of English football’s Brand New World, in 1992/93 with a 4-2 Highbury defeat by Norwich City followed by a 1-0 defeat to Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.
To do so again, more than two decades later, at the home of the English champions, was a distinct possibility as Leicester tore forward irresistibly in the early stages.
The travelling Arsenal fans taunted their Leicester counterparts with a rendition of: ’13 League titles – you’ve only won one’ – to which Foxes fans replied predictably but with conviction; ‘Champions of England – we know what we are’.
It was a reminder not just of this homely club’s truly wonderful season last term – but tellingly a rejoinder of just what Arsenal lost during their all too predictable failed title tilt in the spring.
The match – and Leicester City – started at the frenetic pace they ended last season. There was a certain irony in Gunners target Jamie Vardy running at new boy Rob Holding – who could well have been a fellow Arsenal colleague with lower league experience had Vardy not decided to stay in the East Midlands.
In the event the Stockbridge Steels alumni forced a corner, which although it came to nothing – like the rest of the match, a cynic could argue – certainly gave a taste of the passion of English football to new boy Granit Xhaka.
Despite his big-match experience, the Swiss midfielder looked bewildered at the noise, the intensity and pace of top-level football in his adopted country.
In a frantic finish, Riyad Mahrez almost won it for the Foxes, but his shot was saved at the death by Petr Cech.
As the game slid to a goalless stalemate, the only noise you could hear was from the travelling Arsenal fans pleading with Wenger to spend some money – or words to that effect.
On this disjointed display, they are most certainly correct in their judgement.