Claudio Ranieri is back in English football, after he was appointed as the new manager of Fulham following their decision to sack Slavisa Jokanović. The charismatic Italian sealed his place in Premier League folklore when he led a highly unfancied Leicester City side to the title in 2016. A victim of his own success, Ranieri was fired the following season after he failed to live up to similar standards.
Still fresh from that incredible feat with Leicester, he was handed the reins at French club Nantes for the 2017/18 season. He got off to an impressive start, but form deteriorated in the second half of the season. A subsequent fallout with club owner Waldemar Kita eventually saw him fired after less than one year in charge.
He now takes over a Fulham side who overachieved in the eyes of many by reaching the Premier League last season, but who are now stuck at the bottom of the standings. What can the Cottagers expect from their new, seasoned head coach?
Ranieri is taking over a Fulham squad that is genuinely teeming with serious talent. Youngster Ryan Sessegnon, for example, has been the subject of interest from the biggest clubs in England and Europe for the last few years. The same is true for midfielder Jean Michaël Seri, who was heavily courted by Barcelona one year, before he left Ligue 1 side Nice to join Fulham. They also managed to secure some high-profile loan signings last summer, including André Schürrle from Borussia Dortmund, Calum Chambers from Arsenal, Timothy Fosu-Mensah from Manchester United and Luciano Vietto from Atletico Madrid.
The new boss clearly knows the value in the squad he is inheriting, as he mentioned in his statement for the official club announcement. “This Fulham squad has exceptional talent that is contrary to its position in the table,” Ranieri said. “I know this team is very capable of better performances, which we will work on straight away as we prepare for Southampton at the Cottage.”
During his time at Chelsea in the early years of the century, the Roman-born manager earned the moniker “Tinkerman” for consistently changing his line-up. At Leicester, he was nearly the exact opposite. He settled on a starting 11 very early on in his tenure and stuck with them throughout the title-winning season. Fulham could do with a bit of that kind of consistency right now. One of the issues that Jokanović failed to address, for example, is who the number one goalkeeper at the club is. Sergio Rico and Marcus Bettinelli have both played seven matches each so far.
Ranieri is also likely to simplify the team’s approach to matches. His Leicester side won the league by being pragmatic in their approach. With a strong defensive unit, they were fast and clinical on the break. With the likes of Schürrle and Sessegnon, Fulham have the players to play quick, counter-attacking football. Striker Aleksandr Mitrović demonstrated his finishing power in the early weeks of the season. If Ranieri can get him firing again, the team can begin to look up again.