Boos and jeers rang out from certain sections of the King Power crowd as the full time whistle blew on Saturday. Leicester had just lost their fourth game in five outings – falling to West Ham by two goals to nil.
Shouts of ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ were aimed at manager Claude Puel as the Frenchman made his third and final substitution – replacing the lively Fousseni Diabate with Demarai Gray.
Speculation over the Puel’s future has been rife over the past couple of weeks, but ahead of the game against the Hammers, Leicester chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha issued a rallying call, in which he appeared to back the manager via the club’s official website.
“We, as a Club, owe it to you, our fans, to respond positively to the disappointment of last weekend’s result [5-0 loss against Crystal Palace],” He wrote.
“The best way to achieve this is to come together, to support our team, support our manager and to create the kind of atmosphere that has made King Power Stadium our fortress. Our manager Claude, our coaching staff and the players have my full support, and I would ask you to also get behind them on Saturday, and let your voices be heard.”
The fans responded – for a start – but became more and more frustrated as the game went on. The Foxes are without a goal in three Premier League games, and the service to top scorer Jamie Vardy has not been right for weeks. Against West Ham, Leicester managed just two shots on target, both coming late in the game and were greeted with ironic cheers from sections of the ground.
Leicester seem to be missing something on the pitch. They secured their Premier League safety by reaching the magical 40 point mark back in March thanks to a 4-1 win over West Bromwich Albion. However, with nothing to play for now, it may just be as simple as the players swapping their boots for sandals.
The latest reports suggest that the owners have lost patience with the manager, and are ready to wield the axe at the end of the season, targeting Huddersfield manager David Wagner as their first choice to replace the Frenchman.
But the manager seemed defiant in his latest pre-match press conference: “I am as frustrated as they are. But we need perspective. We will finish mid-table, and a lot of teams would like to finish in our position.
“I am looking forward to a full pre-season, and a possibility to strengthen our squad,” is how he responded when asked if he had a message for the fans (via BBC Radio Leicester).
Conflicting reports are circulating around the manager’s future, with reports ahead of the West Ham game suggesting that the manager has been given full backing from the Thai owners of Leicester – and the Puel’s latest comments seem to back this up.
The Foxes are in the middle of a slight injury crisis, with nine players unavailable to the manager for their game against West Ham, with big players such as Kasper Schmeichel, Wilfred Ndidi and Shinji Okazaki all unavailable due to injury. This could give the boss some leeway for the poor performances.
However, the atmosphere from certain areas of the ground on Saturday, and the turn out for the club’s customary ‘lap of appreciation’ following the game, may concern the owners.
The decision over who is in the hot seat at the King Power Stadium will have to be made quickly at the end of the season. With the Foxes planning to be busy in the transfer window, minimum disruption will be crucial.
Leicester’s owners, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and his son Aiyawatt bought the club in 2010, and have overseen arguably the best years in the club’s history.
They have not been shy in backing managers during the transfer window, and have recently announced plans to build a new training ground and to expand the King Power Stadium, as well as donating millions of pounds to local charities. Many Leicester fans are in agreement that they are one of the best things to happen to the club.
The club is in a crucial period of growth and development, and one thing that Leicester fans can be sure of is, whatever decisions are made over the future of Claude Puel, the owners will make it with the best intentions of the club at the centre. They have earned that trust over the eight years that they have been in charge.