Foxes hungry due to Ranieri's 'back to zero' mentality

Jamie Vardy, who scored his third goal of the season against Aston Villa in a 3-2 comeback win, credits new manager Claudio Ranieri for Leicester's unexpected excellent progress five games into the season. But the crunch test will come in December wh
Jamie Vardy, who scored his third goal of the season against Aston Villa in a 3-2 comeback win, credits new manager Claudio Ranieri for Leicester's unexpected excellent progress five games into the season. But the crunch test will come in December when they face a bunch of heavyweight rivals.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Jamie Vardy says Leicester City begin every game like it is their first of the season, a mentality instilled by the manager, Claudio Ranieri, which has seen them climb to second in the English Premier League after going unbeaten in their opening five games.

Vardy scored the equaliser as Leicester turned around a two-goal deficit to beat Aston Villa 3-2 on Sunday, and credited the spirit of the squad for the remarkable 18-minute purple patch.

"The manager has got it built into us that we start every game as if we are on no points and we need to pick the three up to start the season again," he said. "We will be doing that exactly the same this weekend - we will be back down on zero points and, hopefully, able to pick the three points up against Stoke."

The striker, who scored his third goal of the season against Villa, has played a key role in an attack brimming with pace. The Foxes have racked up 11 goals - equalled only by the leaders Manchester City.

However, Leicester are yet to play a top team, with their previous matches being against Sunderland, West Ham, Tottenham Hotspur and Bournemouth.

Much more about quite how good they are will be known after a brutal run of games in December.

Then, they play Manchester United, Swansea City, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool and Manchester City one after another.

But Ranieri's men are exceeding all expectations. In the space of five matches, they have picked up more points than predecessor Nigel Pearson's had until late December.

And what is more, the Italian has done it without resorting to the cautious, defensive game that is the refuge of many of the lowly Premier League clubs.

No one expects Leicester's challenge for the title to be sustainable.

However, in a way, Ranieri has already proven the critics wrong - most notably club legend Gary Lineker, who had derided the Italian as an "uninspired" choice to succeed Pearson.

His characterisation as a bumbling buffoon, as a cuddly Andre Villas-Boas (the former Chelsea and Tottenham manager), has been totally discredited. Leicester look more potent now than they ever did under his predecessor.

Said Vardy: "The manager wants to get to the 41-point mark, then we push on from there once we have got there hopefully.

"As long as we keep picking up points, it's happy days."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2015, with the headline 'Foxes hungry due to Ranieri's 'back to zero' mentality'. Print Edition | Subscribe