REUTERS – Manager Claudio Ranieri, dubbed the ‘Tinkerman’ in his first spell in England, was left feeling vindicated after Leicester City returned to winning ways against Norwich City despite Riyad Mahraz’s omission.
The Italian raised a few eyebrows when he rested Mahrez on Saturday because the winger has been involved in eight of the 17 goals the team have scored this season and leads the Premier League’s player-performance index.
Ranieri’s nickname stemmed from the way he rang the changes in his time at Chelsea from 2000-04 but the 63-year-old’s decision paid off at the weekend as Leicester bounced back from losing 5-2 to Arsenal by beating Norwich 2-1.
“I left Mahrez out because I wanted to put him on in the second half but the match was different and it was good for us, and for Mahrez, to get a rest for one match,” Ranieri told the Leicester Mercury.
“It is okay, he can never play 38 matches. I have a lot of players in good condition and that is very good for the manager.
“Maybe we needed to give him a break, we were very solid on the flank. Marc Albrighton helped (full back) Danny Simpson.”
Ranieri also praised summer signing N’Golo Kante, saying the former Caen midfielder’s ball-winning skills have been key to an impressive start to the season that sees Leicester one place below the Champions League places after eight games.
“He presses the ball non-stop. I think he even presses people in the stands,” Ranieri joked.
“Last season he was the first player in the five top leagues in Europe for ball recoveries. He showed why (against Norwich).”
(Reporting by Shravanth Vijayakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Tony Jimenez)