The 69-year-old has had a tough time at Fulham but has shown that he is still fit for rescue operations in Roma and Sampdoria
It was like he had never been away.
Claudio Ranieri flashed as he was introduced to a crowded media room as Watford’s youngest manager, tasked with pleasing the persistently disaffected Pozzo family. This was the genius who caused the biggest shock in English football history in 2016, rather than the dejected who only lasted 106 days as Fulham manager on his previous Premier League assignment.
After almost three years of absence, Ranieri was more than happy to give the media watching on his return an audio sample or three. “I’ll pay for dinner!” He joked when asked if his players would be rewarded with pizza if they kept a clean sheet against Liverpool. “Why are you laughing?” he said seriously as reporters giggled at his claim that he was “young” a week before he was eight years old.
It’s impossible not to want this bespectacled grandfather of Italian football to succeed. Even Jose Mourinho eventually got warm to his charms. And the Watford hierarchy clearly believes he is better equipped to bring an unbalanced team to safety than the unproven Xisco Munoz Ranieri coached in Valencia.
It is noteworthy that Ranieri’s and the Pozzo’s paths have never crossed before, as they share a tendency to stay for a long rather than a long time, despite the fact that he did reveal that he was “very close” to accepting an offer to coach her another club, Udinese. In theory, Ranieri’s short-term approach is a perfect match for his new employers.
While it’s easy to get swept up on the Ranieri charm offensive and escorted back to the glory days with Andre Bocelli soundtracks, Watford fans might feel a pang of discomfort that their new boss couldn’t stop Fulham’s slide last time . On the other hand, one could argue that Fulham are, well, Fulham. Ranieri’s last two jobs also fell into the rescue category, and yet they went much better.
First he returned to his Roma youth club in a time of disorder and dissatisfaction. He stabilized them, scoring 22 out of 36 possible points to finish the season sixth in Serie A and just three points behind a place in the Champions League. “In a moment of need, you answered the call. Get your people’s appreciation now ”, read a banner in the Stadio Olimpico for his last home game.
This was followed by a stint at Sampdoria, who had lost six of seven league games at the beginning of the 2019/20 season. Ranieri led her to a 15thNS Before securing a top-half Serie A spot the following year. Again the followers were sad to see him go.
Ranieri’s Watford is unlikely to win any style awards. In Sampdoria, as in Leicester, he set up the site in an old-fashioned 4-4-2 system that relied more on effort and efficiency than entertainment and excitement. Samp finished fifth in the division for long balls and fourth bottom for possession, but exceeded the expected goals by more than five.
These statistics are not particularly surprising given that Ranieri did the miraculous feat of running a team that had less ball than anyone else to the league title in 2015-16. Leicester has been economical but effective, and Ranieri will hope for much of that on Vicarage Road.
“Every manager has his own philosophy,” explains Ranieri. “Fortunately, I have very good players and I hope they can follow me as soon as possible.”
With a diabolical game plan until the beginning of December, Ranieri’s ideas have to be absorbed quickly. He knows exactly what will happen if they aren’t.
By Jonathan Veal
Ranieri isn’t worried about the trigger-happy methods of his new employers as he seeks to survive the Premier League.
The Italian, who will turn 70 next week, has replaced Xisco Munoz on Vicarage Road after the Spaniard was sacked for taking seven points from the first seven games of the season.
Xisco was the seventh manager on Vicarage Road to lose his job in less than five years, but Ranieri is unimpressed by the environment he comes into.
“In Italy it is normal to change managers,” he said. “There are three or four teams that change managers. We have to do our best, I can’t think of the previous coach.
“Xisco was my player at Valencia, I hope he can find a new solution very soon. Now I have to do my best for Watford.
“It’s normal in Italy and also in England, slowly, slowly it’s the same thing, not just in Watford.”
Watford is four points above the drop zone at the start of the season but Ranieri, who last worked for Fulham in the Premier League in 2019, is only looking to survive.
“I feel good, luckily I feel good when I think of football I feel good, football is my life,” he added. “I am very happy to play in one of the best leagues in the world.
“I’m an ambitious man and I hope to get Watford to safety at the end of the season and to improve next season as well.
“We have to play it safe and then slowly look upwards. The program is very ambitious and I am ambitious and I hope it will be fantastic for Watford and our fans.
“Now we have to play it safe. Do you remember me in Leicester? We had to achieve forty points, 40 points, 40 points, 40 points. Then we’ll see if it can turn 41 next season. I am very happy.
“I think 40 points now, I don’t know who I can do that against. There are 33 points to be achieved because we have seven. We have to get 33 points, against whom I don’t know. I don’t know what happens in every match, I want to fight. “