Tuesday 12 December 2017

Desperate Ranieri set to wield the axe

Swansea 2 Leicester 0

Wes Morgan and Jamie Vardy are both facing the axe. Photo credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire.
Wes Morgan and Jamie Vardy are both facing the axe. Photo credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire.

John Percy

Claudio Ranieri is ready to axe his Leicester City title winners in a desperate attempt to save the champions from relegation.

Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Danny Drinkwater's places could be under threat after Ranieri admitted he would now make changes to the squad which won the Premier League last May.

Leicester City's Daniel Drinkwater (left) and Swansea City's Kyle Naughton battle for the ball. Photo credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Leicester City's Daniel Drinkwater (left) and Swansea City's Kyle Naughton battle for the ball. Photo credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Leicester have lost five league matches in a row and failed to score in their domestic campaign in more than 10 hours and Ranieri is now finally preparing to get ruthless with his underachievers.

Vardy and Mahrez both signed £110,000-a-week contracts last summer as a reward for their huge roles in Leicester's title triumph, but both have struggled during the club's feeble defence.

Other players rewarded with big new deals, including Drinkwater, captain Wes Morgan and Christian Fuchs, are also in danger of losing their places in a bold move by Leicester's beleaguered manager.

When asked if he had been too loyal to the players from last season, Ranieri said: "I could be. Of course, it is difficult when you achieve something so good, you want to give them one chance, two chances or three chances. Maybe now, it is too much.

Swansea City's Alfie Mawson (left) and Leicester City's Islam Slimani in action. Photo credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Swansea City's Alfie Mawson (left) and Leicester City's Islam Slimani in action. Photo credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire

"I must change something because it's not possible to continue in this way. We have two problems - we concede and we don't score.

Positive

"Everybody tries to say something positive to help each other. But after, we go back [to losing games]. I always question myself but then I always say, 'Come on, together we can do something good'.

"Yes, I think I am still the right man for the job. I think the strength of the man is to have the right balance. Not to be so high when you win; not to be so down when you lose.

"You can remember what we did last season but you need to stay with your feet on the ground and say we have to react together.

Swansea City's Wayne Routledge in action with Leicester City's Ben Chilwell. Photo credit: Reuters / Paul Childs
Swansea City's Wayne Routledge in action with Leicester City's Ben Chilwell. Photo credit: Reuters / Paul Childs

"I believe in my team and we continue to fight and sooner or later we come out from this position."

Ranieri also appeared to suggest that he would sacrifice the FA Cup and Champions League to focus on avoiding the drop into the Championship.

Leicester have a fifth-round tie at League One club Millwall on Saturday and they also face Seville in the Champions League last 16 over two legs.

But with Leicester only a point above the relegation zone, Ranieri conceded that the cup competitions were secondary. "Now there are a few matches in front of us so we have to find a solution very, very soon," he said. "There are two matches in front of us, one in the FA Cup and one in the Champions League but our mind is on the Premier League.

"It is important to be strong. Now it is 10 hours without scoring a goal and we have to find a solution because it is not possible [that] everything is wrong this season.

Swansea City's Martin Olsson scores their second goal. Photo credit: Reuters / Paul Childs
Swansea City's Martin Olsson scores their second goal. Photo credit: Reuters / Paul Childs

"The machine is not broken but when you don't play at a maximum level it is a difficult battle. We stick together. I'm confident with my players because it only takes one moment for it to turn."

While Leicester are gripped in a desperate relegation battle, Swansea have now won four of their past six league games under Paul Clement.

He was their third head coach of the season when he was appointed last month yet another campaign in the Premier League appears likely on current form.

This comfortable victory also lifted them above Leicester and Middlesbrough into 15th place, four points clear of the bottom three.

Clement said: "My job was to come in in January and put confidence back into the team, get them playing better and get them organised. I'm happy with the response from the players.

"It's only a small step in what is ultimately our objective, which is to sustain playing at this level. There's still a lot to be done.

"I'm happy to be here working at this level and I'm going to be working hard to try and make sure this club and myself are working at this level next season. But this was very pleasing. I thought we were well deserving of the victory."

Whistle

When referee Jon Moss blew his whistle to start the match, the two sides were level on points. By the final blow, Swansea looked far more than three points ahead. Leicester left South Wales having recorded just one shot on target.

The outstanding performers were all in all-white: Martin Olsson, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Jack Cork, Tom Carroll and Leroy Fer who was pipped as man-of-the-match by the simply outstanding Alfie Mawson who scored a brilliant goal - as did Olsson.

The 23-year-old Mawson, signed from Barnsley last summer, is a real find. Confident, comfortable on the ball. And what a goal he scored.

But, tellingly, both Swansea goals were initiated through lackadaisical, careless defending.

For the first there was an unconvincing clearance with the ball returned back in for Federico Fernandez to cushion a header across goal - and there was Mawson to connect crisply and power a fantastic right-footed volley past Kasper Schmeichel.

For the second the Leicester goalkeeper erred with his lazy throw-out that was intercepted by Carroll, with the ball going into Fernando Llorente. He found Sigurdsson, who played a perceptive first-time pass into the path of Olsson and he smashed the ball home. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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