Can Claudio Ranieri Save Fulham’s Premier League Dream?

Fulham have acted with purpose today as they sacked Slavisa Jokanovic and replaced him with Claudio Ranieri as their new manager.

To be fair to the Cottagers they did give Jokanovic a chance to prove himself in England’s top flight. They appreciated the fact that the Serbian was the man that got them promoted in the first place and gave him plenty pf money to spend during the summer transfer window, they spent around £100m in upgrading their playing personnel.

Fulham have looked fairly decent going forward. If they were placed in the Premier League table due to goals scored then they’d be in fifteen place instead of being bottom of the league. They’ve also managed an average of 12.3 shots per game, which is the twelfth best record in the league thus far.

The Cottagers are decent when it comes to keeping the ball; their possession percentage this term is up at 50.9% and their passing success rate is the seventh best in the top flight.

Unfortunately they’ve been all at sea in the defensive department.

No team has conceded more than Fulham’s thirty-one goals. Jokanovic continually changed his backline as he tried to find his ideal defensive line-up but that lack of continuity can cause even more problems as the defenders lost confidence in their own ability.

Another problem is that they can’t win games against the teams that are around them in the league table. They’ve already lost to Huddersfield Town, Crystal Palace and Cardiff City in this campaign.

In recent weeks, even the goals have dried up as confidence levels dropped to an all time low. They’ve lost the last four games and they haven’t scored in any of those defeats either. At the other end they conceded eight times in those same fixtures.

You just couldn’t see things changing under Slavisa. He was desperately trying to solve the problems but instead of doing that more issue would arise.

Cottagers owner Shahid Khan has decided to go for the opposite in Ranieri. The sixty-seven year old will bring with him plenty of experience. He’ll come in and look to solidify the team’s defensive foundations. During Claudio’s title winning campaign at Leicester City, the Foxes conceded just thirty-six times in thirty-eight league outings.

Ranieri’s experience is certainly a big reason for his appointment, with Khan stating:

“Claudio is risk-free and ready-made for the Premier League, and particularly so for what we need at this moment at Fulham.

“His recent body of work with Leicester City is literally legendary and then you look at Claudio’s experience with Chelsea and big clubs throughout Europe, and it’s pretty evident we are welcoming an extraordinary football man to Fulham football club.”

The Italian coach is also very good at getting the best out of his team’s positive aspects. He’ll look to get the most out of talented players like Aleksandar Mitrovic, Andre Schurrle, Ryan Sessegnon and Jean Michael Seri.

The manager also proved that he can change when the circumstances call for it. At Chelsea he was known as the ‘Tinkerman’ because of his constant team changes. But at Leicester City, the wily boss worked with a smaller squad and made drastically fewer changes to his starting eleven. If he finds a winning formula at Craven Cottage, he has to stick with it and I’m sure he’ll understand that.

His appointment reminds me of Roy Hodgson’s arrival back in 20o7. Fulham were in dire straits after Lawrie Sanchez’s stint in charge (Jokanovic has been better that Sanchez) and the club were in the relegation zone at Christmas. They look to be doomed at one stage but veteran manager Hodgson used all of his experience to guide them away from the trap door.

Claudio Ranieri will be tasked with doing a similar job this season. The Italian has a decent squad at Craven Cottage but the defence in particular needs some TLC. If he get the team playing to their strengths and give them a stronger backline, then Signore Ranieri will be worth his weight in gold to the Fulham faithful.

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