Claudio Ranieri insists Leicester are not in crisis and remains confident his players will fight their way out of relegation trouble after receiving a vote of confidence from the club.
A miserable run of results has left the defending Premier League champions facing a relegation battle, with Ranieri’s future coming under increasing scrutiny.
Reports also surfaced recently that Ranieri has been losing his grip on the dressing room after confusing players with tactics and team selection.
In response, the club’s Thai owners issued a statement yesterday pledging their “unwavering support” for manager Ranieri.
The Italian, whose team are just one point above the drop zone after Sunday’s 3-0 home defeat to Manchester United, says the public backing was more for the benefit of the media and supporters rather than for him and insists he maintains a “fantastic relationship” with his players as he called for some perspective.
“It is not a crisis — you win three matches, you are God, you lose three matches, you aren’t God,” said Ranieri.
“It is normal. In all of football and sport this is the same, it’s okay. ‘I understand football. You need to speak, you need to write and when there is something good you have to do your job. I have to do my job and the job in football is this.
“I didn’t need to ask because for me it was normal. The statement finishes all the speculation but for me my job is always the same, focus on the next match. For me it is important to try the right solution for my players, that’s it. I have all the confidence of the club with me.”
Leicester are in danger of becoming the first defending champions since Manchester City in 1938 to be relegated.
Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel labelled their title defence “embarrassing” after the 3-0 loss to United.
Ranieri said: “Kasper is one of my leaders and he wants to stimulate everyone. The dressing room is fantastic, we have a fantastic relationship. This club, these players came from the bottom to win a title. They made all the steps and for this reason I am very confident.
“These players are warriors. They know the problem, they know the enemy. Never before in my career did I win a title. I can say thank you all my life to the players.”
It seems Ranieri’s achievements last season have ensured the Italian has the support of the club’s owners, despite winning only five league games this season.
The statement said: “In light of recent speculation, Leicester City Football Club would like to make absolutely clear its unwavering support for its first team manager Claudio Ranieri.
“While there is a collective appreciation from everyone at the club that recent form needs to improve, the unprecedented success achieved in recent seasons has been based firmly on stability, togetherness and determination to overcome even the greatest of challenges.
“The entire club is, and will remain, united behind its manager and behind its players, collectively and firmly focused on the challenges ahead.’’
At the weekend Leicester travel to Swansea — the team directly below them in the table — but more immediately the Foxes face Championship promotion hopefuls Derby in an FA Cup replay tonight.
Ranieri must decide whether to make changes to his team with Sunday’s crucial clash at the Liberty Stadium looming large, possibly sacrificing a place in the fifth round and the chance to build some much-needed momentum.
“Derby are a big team and move the ball very well, it will be tough,” said Ranieri. “I have to protect some players who need to recover and rest. Also, I want to give the opportunity to the other players.”
Despite Leicester’s travails, Derby boss Steve McClaren insists his team remain underdogs.
“Leicester are a very good team on their day and are very capable of reaching the heights of last season again. I watched the Man United game and for the first 40 minutes, Leicester were back to their usual aggressive, pressing selves. But they are not getting the goals that they were last season and Man United turned it around.
“The King Power Stadium is a tough place to go and we must concentrate on ourselves. The players have the belief and they will need to show confidence and get off to a good start.”
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