Claude Puel insists Mahrez going AWOL is not to blame for Leicester's slump

2018-03-08 22:38:27

Riyad Mahrez is not responsible for the indifferent run of form Leicester are currently experiencing, according to manager Claude Puel.

Puel's team have failed to win any of the five Premier League matches since Mahrez's proposed move to Manchester City failed to materialise at the end of the January transfer window.

The 27-year-old winger did not train for 10 days and missed two matches after the club turned down his requests to join Pep Guardiola's league leaders.

However, Leicester's languid run precedes the transfer saga, with the Foxes having won just two league games from the last 12 stretching back to mid-December.

"The first game against Everton , it was a strange atmosphere around the team. It was a difficult moment. We lost a good feeling about this game and there were mistakes," said Puel, whose side travel to bottom-of-the-table West Brom on Saturday.

"Probably his absence hurt us a bit, with results and confidence, but we are pleased to have him back because he is a top player.

"Riyad reintegrated quickly and shows a great attitude, that I expected. The player we need. He went through what was a tough time for him. Everyone has welcomed him back.

"I had to try to understand the player, avoid confrontation. Riyad is very honest and wouldn't get up to mischief.

"It was the first time he'd received such a high-profile approach, which was new for him. It was up to me to keep him here for the club, and for me to try to sort it out, protect Riyad and the club.

"Everyone conducted themselves well and he has emerged stronger, and whilst it was a setback for us in the short term, it will make us stronger for the future."

In an interview with Sky Sports on Thursday, Mahrez admitted he is still happy to be a Leicester player after his failed deadline day move.

However, he refused to commit his future to the Foxes beyond the summer.

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