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Friday 23 February 2018

John Giles: Claudio Ranieri's biggest mistake is that he's trying to manage Leicester

Read John Giles' exclusive column every week in The Herald

Foxes boss Claudio Ranieri
Foxes boss Claudio Ranieri
John Giles

John Giles

Claudio Ranieri won a title last year because he had the sense not the meddle with what he found when he arrived. Now he’s trying his best to manage and that’s his big mistake

I remember tipping Leicester for relegation last season which was not one of my finest predictions but I would make the case that the very reason I made that assessment is the same reason they are heading for the Championship. The manager.

When I looked at Leicester in the run-up to the start of their amazing season, I saw a group which had pulled off a truly remarkable relegation escape act under a manager who clearly had talent but lacked self-control.

Nigel Pearson might never have won the title if he had kept going but he deserves a great deal of credit for Ranieri’s success despite the fact that the Italian sat in the manager’s office.

My guess is that his players ignored him last season and still do. He’s trying to manage them but Leicester are moving headlong towards relegation.

It’s not all Ranieri’s fault. Winning a title has all sorts of consequences for a small club. Wages go up, fans become more demanding and most damaging of all, bigger and better clubs covet star players.

Lads who were on fire last season are either gone (like N’Golo Kante), hardly playing (like Riyad Mahrez) or under performing like everyone else and in the middle of it all, The Tinkerman.

I’m reading about dressing room problems and complaints about Ranieri from the players to the owner.

There’s a good chance now that he will be sacked before the season is out. That would be truly remarkable and underline just how big a freak event Leicester’s win was.

This term, Chelsea are doing what Leicester did but with better players and a better manager. My only fear for them is injuries. I know they’ve coped with everything so far but if they lost two or three at the same time, it would be a problem.

The battle behind Conte’s team to be the credible opposition is likely to be the main source of interest for the next few months.

Spurs hold the position going into the weekend but keep an eye on Manchester City who I believe have turned a corner and could yet be the strongest finisher of all.

I’m impressed with Spurs. Leicester are suffering the worst symptoms of ‘second season syndrome’ but Mauricio Pochettino has managed to improve the team in difficult circumstances.

I thought they would struggle badly after collapsing with the title in their grasp in April last year.

My reasoning was that a young manager with young players would suffer badly from the mental impact of what was an abject failure.

The players in Chelsea’s squad were able to park what happened to them under Jose Mourinho last season and move on quickly.

That’s what good players do but Tottenham’s run at the title was a first for most of Pochettino’s squad and it is difficult to predict how young players will react.

I also wondered about Daniel Levy and how he would respond given his history in interfering in team affairs at the club. But he held his nerve and didn’t seem to meddle in a negative way in the transfer market.

The club as a unit has risen above the disappointment and endured to go again.

Pochettino, after a ropey enough start to the season, is looking composed and confident and his team is playing as well as anyone except Chelsea or perhaps City.

I did wonder about their resilience when Spurs went to the Etihad and were torn apart by Manchester City. They grabbed a very unlikely draw in that game but I thought they were poor.

They’ve had to dig out results in the last few weeks but face Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday at a good time and if they win, that would establish them firmly as the team Chelsea have to watch carefully.

They have only two more fixtures against teams challenging for the top four after Saturday; Arsenal in late April and Manchester United in late May and both games are at home.

In between, the kind of teams Spurs should be beating if they want to keep Chelsea in sight and ready to pounce should the chance come.

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