UNLESS you are in the relegation zone or there is some kind of extreme circumstance, sacking a manager before December – when the January transfer window pulls into view – is above all an admission of failure for the club itself. Especially when said manager is an incumbent.

It speaks loudly to the fact that you had a long time to assess an individual, you knew his foibles and quirks, his strengths and weaknesses, and, still, you built a team for him and trusted him to deliver. And then, less than a quarter of the way into the campaign, you blow it all up and start from scratch. That is what Leicester City and Everton – who face off today at the King Power – have done. And it is not something to be taken too lightly. The men, and, yes, they’re almost always men, who run football clubs don’t like to be proven wrong, especially not when there is a chance they will still be proved right.

In Leicester’s case, the most obvious realisation was that this is a squad that needed to move on from the one that won the title 16 months ago and Craig Shakespeare wasn’t the man to make that happen. Of the 13 most frequently used players,

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11 were on the club’s books during Claudio Ranieri’s 2016-17 title-winning campaign. And of the two who were not – Wilfred Ndidi and Harry Maguire – the former arrived last January and the latter’s playing time was no doubt boosted by injury to Robert Huth.

Loyalty to a close-knit group of players is great … until it isn’t. It is what likely got Shakespeare the job last year (as a result of Ranieri trying to freshen things up) and it may well be what got him the boot a few months later. Nearly £40 million was spent on Vicente Iborra and Kelechi Iheanacho and the pair have made just two starts each.

Throw in the fact that, when he was sacked following the home draw with West Brom, Leicester had failed to win in their last six outings, and Shakespeare was done. Never mind the three-year deal the club gave him four months earlier.

Now it is Claude Puel’s turn and, on paper, he is an upgrade. He is a real manager for a start, not a lifelong assistant, and while he got short shrift from some at Southampton, the fact is they finished eighth last year following a season in which they lost Sadio Mane, Victor Wanyama and Jose Fonte, plus, for half the campaign, Virgil van Dijk. What’s more, of the guys who arrived to replace the departed stars, only Nathan Redmond and Manolo Gabbiadini made any kind of impact. So while Puel may not excite the masses with his style of play, he showed he can squeeze the best out of what he has. And that is what Leicester need right now.

Everton’s issues alas run deeper. And it was perhaps a wise move that, after dismissing Ronald Koeman, they will take their time in appointing a replacement. Because while the Dutchman’s passivity and evident use of the Toffees as some kind of stepping stone rubbed many up the wrong way, it is obvious that at the heart of their issues was recruitment.

They received tons of praise for securing the likes of Michael Keane and Jordan Pickford, but even greater scorn for committing massive resources to Wayne Rooney, Davy Klaassen and Gylfi Sigurdsson while also failing to realise that Sandro on his own might not be enough to fill Romelu Lukaku’s big boots.

The Rooney/Klaassen/Sigurdsson foul-up is the most evident – three men with similar skill sets and similar flaws were never going to be shoe-horned into the same XI – and you wonder where Koeman’s responsibilities end and those of others at the club, such as recruitment guru Steve Walsh, begin. Few are as adept at passing the buck and blaming others as football folk so it is tough from the outside to know where responsibility lies. You would hope, at the very least, that Bill Kenwright and Farhad Moshiri know, however.

The guess is that the club’s next steps won’t just need to be on the training pitch, with the recruitment of a manager who can somehow make this motley crew work, but at recruitment level too, ditching the square pegs at the right price and hanging on to the talented kids.

If there is a silver lining for their fans, it is this: it still takes a lot of successive screw-ups to get teams like Leicester and Everton relegated from the Premier League and the fact the owners acted now shows they actually have some ambition. They are not content with mid-table and counting cash, they are willing to make changes even if it means spending more and admitting they got it wrong. At least it’s something.

With the Champions League and Europa League at the group stage midpoint, we are seeing something which, if it holds through until the end of the season, we won’t have seen since 2012-13: Spanish clubs not being well ahead of everybody else in Uefa’s seasonal rankings. It is early, but right now they rank third behind England and Italy, barely ahead of Russia. Barcelona and Real Madrid should still comfortably qualify for the round of 16 in the Champions League, but Seville and Atletico Madrid are third and in a much trickier situation. Over in the Europa League, you would expect Villarreal and Real Sociedad to advance, though probably not as group winners, while Athletic Bilbao have a mountain to climb.

There are, of course, different reasons for each situation and the silliest thing you could do is draw a broad conclusion. Nor will they lose their top spot in the five-year coefficient rating, which is what really matters, any time soon.

Perhaps, that’s the real message here. So great has been the dominance of Spanish clubs, and not just by the usual suspects either, over the rest of the continent that even a severely below-par season won’t come close to dislodging them from the top spot they have held for the past five years. Even now, the gap in Uefa ranking between La Liga and the second-placed Premier League is greater than that between the Premier League and the Portuguese league, way down in seventh place.