Claudio Ranieri abandoned his calm persona to deliver an angry half-time dressing down to his Leicester City players during the 1-0 victory against Newcastle United on Monday which restored the club’s five-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
Leicester travel to Crystal Palace on Saturday knowing that a win would move them eight points clear of closest challengers Tottenham ahead of Bournemouth’s visit to White Hart Lane on Sunday.
But despite the hard-fought win over Newcastle, secured by Shinji Okazaki’s spectacular first-half overhead kick, Ranieri was unhappy with his team’s tempo during the opening period of the game.
The Japanese attacker admits Ranieri’s fury helped ensure Leicester saw the game out to claim the points. “We’ve got a five-point gap again now, so it was a very important match to win,” Okazaki said. “But the manager was so angry at half-time.
“Yes, he is smiling most of the time, but when we came in at half-time he was mad. He is always joking, but maybe to see him angry like that is good for us. He doesn’t throw things, though!”
Okazaki insists, however, that one of the secrets of Leicester’s success has been the squad’s ability to relax and avoid becoming burdened by the pressure of expectancy.
“Our spirit is very good for each game – nice and simple. No pressure,” he said. “It’s not easy to switch off, but maybe the character of the players is what is good. Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, they are so relaxed. They are laughing and joking all the time – no pressure and that’s good.”
Okazaki’s goal earned the £7m summer signing from Mainz a rare share of the limelight this season. “I don’t practise overhead kicks,” he said. “The goal was just instinctive, but that is my character.”Reuse content