Dilly-ding dilly-dong man unable to retrieve the magic from his well-travelled suitcase but Fulham should have known relegation combats are not the Italians forte
Claudio Ranieri will always be remembered with affection in England – his 2016 title win with Leicester was by some distance the greatest against-the-odds triumph the Premier League has witnessed- though a manager who has stimulated 18 exits in five countries ought to know better than most that fairytales happen only once in a lifetime.
There was no dilly-ding dilly-dong at Fulham, only the relegation clock ticking away in the background. The pizza-based incentives that supposedly came in handy at Leicester never truly surfaced in London; with three wins in 17 games in all competitors there was barely anything solid enough to celebrate. Ranieri remains a charming man and an intelligent coach-and-four but he is not a luck charm after all.
Fulham, it turns out, were no Leicester waiting to be whipped into shape. The failings that cost Slavisa Jokanovic his chore, mostly defensive ones, obstinately remained through his successor’s tenure. The Craven Cottage roster failed to yield a Jamie Vardy or a Riyad Mahrez capable of surprising even the most alert defenses and allowing Fulham to find an effective way of playing.
Leicester were a one-off, in other words. As everyone suspected, Ranieri was unable to bring the sorcery with him in his well-travelled suitcase, because he was unable to repeat the trick with them after the miracle season, even with the same set of players. Quite why Shahid Khan described him as a risk-free appointment is a mystery, if only because Fulham with their present squad are not in a position to assume anything is risk-free.
Ranieri did a marvellous chore of attaining Gary Lineker eat his words when the Match of the Day presenter and Leicester supporter ran public with the admission he found the Foxes’ choice of manager underwhelming, though if the Italian possessed the ability to exceed everyone’s expectations he would not have had so many clubs.
What Khan should probably have noticed is that relegation combats are not Ranieri’s forte. He tends to do well at middle-range clubs where he can run things fairly smoothly, as long as instant success is not demanded. After a long career in management Leicester was his first title success and, though it is true the club spend the previous season fighting relegation, by the time Ranieri replaced Nigel Pearson a unique possibility presented itself, largely thanks to the scouting ability of Steve Walsh, who brought in N’Golo Kante as well as Vardy and Mahrez, and the team spirit forged since promotion to the Premier League. Ranieri did not find anything remotely similar at Fulham, where morale began low and has remained so, and the money spent on strengthening following promotion in summer appears to have had little effect.
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