Claudio Ranieri: Life as Watford Boss and His Latest Rescue Mission

Claudio Ranieri has had a fruitful career within the world of football, particularly as a manager, and has taken charge over a number of top clubs across Europe over his 36 year managerial career, including Chelsea, Juventus, Inter, Leicester City and Roma. The Italian boss has always been a journeyman, taking charge of a total of 19 different clubs, with his longest stints lasting just four seasons at Fiorentina from 1993 to 1997 and at Chelsea from 2000 to 2004.

The 70-year-old will look back fondly at his time in England, especially during his time as Leicester boss where he delivered an unprecedented title winning campaign as the Foxes claimed their first ever title in their history. Leicester were 5000/1 to win the Premier League at the start of the season as Ranieri delivered one of the most astonishing achievements seen in football. 2016 was Ranieri’s true peak, also receiving multiple awards such as Best FIFA Men’s Coach, the Enzo Bearzot Award and Grand Officer of the Italian Order of Merit for his successes at Leicester.

He now finds himself back in England in charge of Watford, having taken the reigns at Roma and Sampdoria in the three seasons prior. So, let’s take a look at how ‘The Tinkerman’ is finding life back in the Premier League.

Premier League Return: Watford

Life as Watford head coach took a rather flamboyant start, suffering a 5-0 defeat at the hands of Liverpool in his first match but quickly following up with a 5-2 victory away to Everton. Since then, Watford have picked up just one win in ten Premier League matches – a 4-1 victory over Manchester United that put an end to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s time as Manchester United boss.

All in all, things have looked bleak for Ranieri at Vicarage Road, with a win success rate of just 15%. His record sits at two wins, one draw and ten defeats as Watford head coach. Of course, let’s take into consideration the context and nature of the poor record.

Ranieri has had a monumental task in terms of the quality of opponent that his side have faced, coming up against the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham and West Ham in his first 12 Premier League games at Watford. He also returned to the King Power Stadium in November as he suffered a 4-2 defeat at the hands of his old club Leicester.

Having faced just four teams that currently sit in the bottom half of the Premier League table, it really has been an uphill battle ever since he arrived, particularly since Watford are also a newly promoted side.

Roma and Sampdoria

Let’s take a look back at his last times in Serie A. After getting sacked by Fulham in 2019, having only been in charge for a little over three months, Ranieri made his return to manage in Italy for the first time since 2012 when he had a brief spell at Inter. This time, he returned home to the capital as he was given the Roma job until the end of the season. He did well during his return to the Giallorossi, winning 50% of his matches and losing just two games.

However, he failed to guide Roma to a Champions League spot and they opted to go with Paulo Fonseca. Nonetheless, King Claudio was well respected at Roma, ending the final match at his boyhood club in tears as the Ultras bid him farewell.

Ranieri was out of the game for a short period before taking over at Sampdoria. He helped guide the Blucerchiati to 15th in the 2019/20 season after they suffered six straight defeats in their opening seven Serie A matches before Ranieri took charge. However, he was able to save the Genoese side from relegation, using a mix of a solid defensive structure to start and self-belief and attacking flair to end the campaign, winning five games out of six in a crucial period in July.

The following season Ranieri guided Sampdoria to a 9th place finish in Serie A before deciding it was time to leave for a new challenge. Nonetheless, Ranieri still demonstrated the quality he had and his ability to turn a failing team into a successful one, as Watford now look for him to repeat a similar feat.

Historically, Ranieri has used a 4-4-2 system and he had great success at Leicester using this formation during their title-winning campaign. He deployed similar styles, with slight variations, during his time at Sampdoria, utilising a strong central midfield with a high work ethic. Like N’Golo Kante at Leicester, Ranieri had tireless ball winners in his midfield at Sampdoria, such as Morten Thorsby, Adrien Silva and Albin Ekdal. Moussa Sissoko has become a staple in Ranieri’s Watford, which should not be a surprise.

What’s Next at Watford?

Ranieri has deployed a 4-3-3 system at Watford, similarly looking to use a defensive structure of hard-working and tenacious ball winners such as Juraj Kucka, Moussa Sissoko and new signing Edo Kayembe. The likes of Emmanuel Dennis and Joshua King provide the speed on the counter-attack.

The Watford board, who are infamous for their high managerial turnover, will have to stick with Ranieri to gain the positives from him at the club. A mixture of COVID-19 issues, injuries and an incredibly tough fixture schedule have all attributed to Ranieri’s poor start at Watford.

Watford ended their seven-match losing streak on Saturday as they picked up a 1-1 draw at St. James’ Park, away to fellow strugglers Newcastle. Ranieri has demanded more from his players as they now look to use the point against Newcastle as a catalyst for an upturn in form as they head into an easier run of fixtures.

The next five games for Ranieri will be crucial for his Watford career and their Premier League survival. They face Burnley, Norwich, West Ham, Brighton and Aston Villa in their next five matches – four sides in the bottom half of the table.