LONDON • Claudio Ranieri has said that he is ready to take a final roll of the dice and drop the senior Leicester City players who led the club to the English Premier League title last season as he battles to save his job.
The Italian claimed that he is still the right man to save Leicester from the drop despite Sunday's 2-0 defeat away to Swansea, which leaves the champions one place and just one point above the drop zone.
After the defeat, Ranieri admitted for the first time that he had been too loyal to his players, in comments thought to have been directed at Robert Huth, Wes Morgan, Danny Drinkwater and Jamie Vardy, all of whom have started in the majority of league games when fit this season.
"I could be, could be. Of course it's difficult," the 65-year-old said when asked whether he had kept faith for too long.
"When you achieve something so good you want to give them one chance, two chances or three chances. But now is too much.
LEICESTER'S SLUMP HAS ROLLED OVER TO 2017
Leicester victories in 2017. The English champions have one draw and five defeats so far.
Goals in six matches. They are the only team in England's top four divisions and Europe's top five leagues not to have scored in 2017.
The worst goal difference in the Premier League this year.
Minutes (or more than six matches) Leicester's goal drought in the league has gone on for.
"Of course there is something I can change because in this way it's not possible to continue."
Despite spending nearly £45 million (S$80 million) on forwards in the summer, Leicester have gone more than 10 hours without scoring in the league.
They conceded twice to goals from Alfie Mawson and Martin Olsson before half-time in front of a displeased Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the club chairman.
"We have two problems: conceding goals, and not scoring," Ranieri added.
"We started well but their first two shots on goal are goals. We have to speak together to find the solutions. I wanted the start of a 'new season' today, but it is the same, it is unbelievable."
Ranieri also claimed that he is still the right man to turn things around and that he has the backing and confidence of the players, some of whom shook their heads in disbelief as they walked off the pitch on Sunday.
"I am very strong, very confident. I believe in everything.
"It just takes the right moment to turn this around," he said.
Leicester's astonishing decline could see them become the first English champions to be relegated from the top flight since Manchester City in 1938.
In response, Ranieri suggested the relegation fight will take priority over the Champions League and FA Cup, both of which competitions they remain involved in.
On Saturday they face an FA Cup fifth-round tie at Millwall, followed by the first leg in the Champions League round of 16 against Sevilla.
"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," he said.
"It is important to be strong. We have to find a solution because it is not possible (that) everything is wrong this season.
"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."
Last week the Italian received a vote of confidence from the club, who said he had their "unwavering support" but British bookmakers have him at short odds to be the next Premier League manager to be sacked.
THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS