A ‘ridiculous’ decision or a managerial upgrade? Is Ranieri the right man for Watford?

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October 6, 2021
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    Claudio Ranieri kisses the Premier League trophyClaudio Ranieri's spell as Leicester City manager went into folklore as he won the title in his only full season at the club

    Claudio Ranieri is back in the Premier League after being appointed as Watford manager.

    The 69-year-old Italian has managed four teams – including Fulham – since being sacked by Leicester nine months after leading them to the Premier League title in 2016.

    He replaces promotion-winning Xisco Munoz, who was the 13th manager to leave Watford since the Pozzo family took over as owners in 2012.

    Will Ranieri be a success? How has he done in recent years? And does Watford's policy of changing managers work?

    How has Ranieri done recently?

    Welcome back to the Premier League, Ranieri

    Ranieri has had more than 20 jobs over a 35-year managerial career and has led some big clubs – Napoli, Fiorentina, Valencia, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Juventus, Roma, Inter Milan and Monaco.

    But, apart from that stunning 2015-16 Premier League title with Leicester, his only major silverware has been domestic cups in Italy and Spain, plus the Uefa Super Cup in 2004.

    His career appeared to be petering out only months after that career-defining title.

    He was sacked by Leicester in February 2017, then left Nantes after one season after reportedly falling out with the club's owners.

    Ranieri took over at Fulham in 2018-19 – but lasted only 106 days with three wins from 17 games. At that stage it looked very unlikely he would manage in the Premier League again.

    He ended that season back at his beloved Roma, winning six of 12 games in charge. He then spent almost two seasons at Sampdoria before leaving at the end of last season.

    When he took over at Sampdoria in October 2019, they were bottom of Serie A after six defeats in seven matches.

    Italian football expert James Horncastle told BBC Radio 5 Live: "He kept them up with games to spare, he then built on that in the second season and took a Sampdoria side who had no money and had sold all their players into the top half. He is still a very capable manager.

    "You have to respect he is two weeks shy of his 70th birthday. He could happily retire, live off the greatest title win the league has ever seen and go on speaking tours. But he just wants to coach, he is totally addicted to it.

    "A lot of people will point to Fulham and how that didn't end well. But he has gone into jobs like this before and either matched expectations or over performed."

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    Ranieri takes over with Watford 15th in the Premier League, with seven points from seven games.

    Jacob Culshaw, founder of Watford fans' channel WD18Fans, told BBC Radio 5 Live: "Ranieri is tactically better than Xisco.

    "Especially when at Sampdoria, he used 4-4-2 and that really suits this Watford squad. What I love about Ranieri's team is they were so aggressive from the front."

    Does Watford's managerial system work?

    Xisco MunozXisco Munoz had only been a manager for 11 games – in charge of Dinamo Tbilisi – before getting the Watford job

    Since the Pozzo family took over at Watford in 2012, Sean Dyche, Gianfranco Zola, Giuseppe Sannino, Oscar Garcia, Billy McKinlay, Slavisa Jokanovic, Quique Sanchez Flores (twice), Walter Mazzarri, Marco Silva, Javi Gracia, Nigel Pearson, Vladimir Ivic, Munoz and Ranieiri have all been in charge. Plus two Hayden Mullins spells as caretaker.

    At any other club, Xisco's 36 games in 10 months – which included winning promotion – would be a short reign. But only Zola, Flores, Mazzarri and Gracia of the other 12 managers had more games in charge under the Pozzo regime.

    Since the start of 2019-20, 12 Premier League managers have been sacked or left by mutual consent during a season. Four of those 12 have been Watford bosses – even though they were not in the top flight for one of the two (and a bit) seasons.

    Former Manchester City defender Micah Richards told BBC Radio 5 Live sacking a manager this early in the season was "ridiculous", while ex-Blackburn and England striker Chris Sutton described Watford as a "strange club".

    Sutton added: "The Watford fans will say it makes sense and they have done pretty well and compare them to Chelsea, but Chelsea win trophies and employ top, top managers. Watford are not in their bracket.

    "It sounds like a short-term approach. It looks like they had made their mind up before the last game and that stinks."

    The system seems to work for them though – except in 2019-20 when they were relegated.

    The Hornets spent five seasons in a row in the top flight before that and reached the FA Cup final. They had not managed consecutive seasons in the top flight, or played in a cup final, since the 1980s.

    BBC Three Counties Radio sports editor Geoff Doyle said: "If the board don't feel the head coach is getting the most out of their players, he goes. The board don't hang around.

    "It's a bit harsh on Xisco Munoz who got Watford into the Premier League with a smile on his face but who may have come up short tactically at the top level. Inexperience was a factor too. And the majority of displays this season weren't good enough.

    "Watford have deployed this hire and fire policy under the Pozzo regime and it successfully got them into the Premier League and gave them five years in the top flight. The club are fearful of relegation again and will argue they need to be proactive if concerned with the current coach.

    "Long term, it's a bit of a flawed policy as the club lack stability and cohesion. And what if the players who are given to the coach aren't quite good enough?"

    Hornets fan Culshaw said: "What I have disagreed with in the past is the hiring system, not the firing.

    "I have learned not to fall in love with any Watford manager and when I have my heart has been broken.

    "When the owners came in in 2012, we were on the verge of administration, we only had three stands, a real Championship club, not a lot of ambition. They have made us an established Premier League club.

    "The model has worked over the years. It goes against the conventional way to run a club but it has worked."

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