This week the Daily Mail published an article claiming Paulo Sousa has just one game to save his job. The article contained a grand total of zero quotations, but has nevertheless fed an atmosphere of impatience for Sousa’s men to start getting results.
It would be wise to retain a certain amount of scepticism about these reports. Having one game to save your job is an interesting media dynamic, it builds on towards the tension of Saturday’s match, but it doesn’t seem like a sensible way to run a football club. The logic goes that defeat (or even perhaps a failure to win) would see Sousa out. But what if Leicester win? How many more games would it buy Paulo to demonstrate his worth? Would victory on Saturday, but defeat at Leeds be enough to earn him the sack, or would it take another home defeat against relatively beatable opposition? If such an ultimatum were made, how long would it take Sousa to regain the full support of his employers? Would he ever really get it back?
It is questions like these which make such ultimatums seem more the product of media speculation than boardroom fact. Clubs cannot afford to give partial support to their managers. You can either back your man, or sack him. And whilst it’s very possible that defeat could see the end of Sousa’s reign, no-one with even a modicum of sense within the club would tell him that. If they have, they’re not fit to run a football club.
It’s easy to see why a defeat on Saturday would be almost impossible to take. When Leicester were last in the Premier League, Scunthorpe finished 22nd in what was then the 3rd Division. The Iron have never beaten the Foxes. Three league wins and as many draws is what Leicester have to show from six meetings with Scunthorpe, and the last time these sides met the Foxes recorded their biggest ever home win at the Walkers Stadium.
Unfortunately circumstances are now very different. Whilst Scunthorpe conceded 84 goals last season (more than any side avoiding relegation from the Championship since Barnsley in 2006/07) they have cleaned up their defence significantly. With just nine conceded, only six Championship clubs can claim a better defensive record.
The Lincolnshire side already shocked the bookies with wins at Reading and Sheffield United. The Iron have also yet to concede more than two goals in a game (something that happened 25 times last season).
That said, Scunthorpe are without a win in three league matches and, like Leicester, have yet to show much potency in front of goal. Both sides have scored 10 in the league this season.
Nevertheless it will be the Foxes who are odds-on favourites to take three points. The pressure is huge and has already started to show. For much of last season it was Scunthorpe who suffered from ill discipline. They conceded 11 penalties in the Championship last term (a league high) and also had 7 players dismissed. Now it is the Foxes, with red cards and penalties in consecutive games, who appear to be losing their cool. Paulo Sousa will need to find an XI who can cope with the weight of expectation.