Rarely have any champions put up such a feeble defence of their title as Leicester City this season.
Following last season’s heroics, the Foxes sit 14th in the Premier League, just two points above the relegation zone.
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, their demise has coincided with dips in form for their star duo Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez. The England striker went 14 games without a goal in all competitions, while the Algerian has looked nowhere near the man who won PFA Player of the Year in May.
Claudio Ranieri must be despairing of how to get the best out of the flailing pair, and he has warned he is not afraid to drop Mahrez if he thinks the playmaker will benefit from being out of the spotlight.
The Leicester boss intends to play him in midweek’s Champions League game against Club Brugge, as Mahrez, like the club as a whole, has fared much better in Europe.
“Of course we have to do something, have to study something, because the opponent now knows us very well and we can’t continue only with Riyad and to give him all the responsibility,” said Ranieri, per the Telegraph.
“You watch the match and every time Riyad gets the ball he tried to do something special. The opponent is very careful when he receives the ball, always three opponents were close to him.
“I try to say to him play simple, but sometimes he takes the responsibility to do something for the team because he is our quality player.
“His season is okay, because in the Champions League he is playing well and also he is trying to do his best in the Premier League.”
Ranieri also admits he was not expecting Leicester to play quite so badly this season, even if he anticipated they would struggle when teams learned their game plan.
“Of course I expected difficulties but not so strong. I expected some more points, but that is normal after a team, a club like Leicester wins the title,” he added.
“Now we have to be compact, continue to work hard because there is only one medicine, working hard and being together.”