Claudio Ranieri becomes latest victim of Watford’s extreme short-termism

·3 min read
Claudio Ranieri was sacked by Watford on Monday  (PA Wire)
Claudio Ranieri was sacked by Watford on Monday (PA Wire)

Claudio Ranieri was always doomed to failure at Watford. The 70-year-old has been sacked after a shambolic run that generated just one point in eight Premier League games and culminated in the embarrassing 3-0 defeat by Norwich City on Friday night.

When the floodlights failed at Vicarage Road with Watford trailing to their relegation rivals, it was already clear. The lights were going out for Ranieri.

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The Italian was in charge for just 13 league games. He is well-liked and respected across the sport but he was just about the worst appointment that Gino Pozzo, the club’s owner, could have made. Ranieri won the title with Leicester City almost six years ago. His relaxed attitude and old-school approach suited that squad of players but the alchemy that occurred at the King Power Stadium was a happy accident. It soured fairly quickly and Ranieri was sacked during the next season. The players enjoyed the unlikely triumph a bit too much and lost focus but, arguably, the worst offender was the manager. To even imagine he would have the appetite for a bottom-half battle at Watford is mind boggling.

An atmosphere of finger-pointing grew at Vicarage Road after Ranieri took over in October. The mood became rancid. The former Chelsea boss gives the impression of being an avuncular sort but he has a hard edge. Players can deal with that. What they did not like was the way he operated. They saw their boss as tactically backward, disorganised and out of step with the modern, 24/7 manager.

The squad disruption and glut of postponements caused by Covid have not helped matters but the patterns that led to the sacking were established well before the latest wave of the pandemic. Ranieri deserves a proportion of the blame for the team’s headlong fall towards the drop.

Pozzo bears much more responsibility. In the decade of the family’s ownership, the club have appointed 14 permanent managers. The chaos theory of football is at work in Hertfordshire and has delivered two promotions and five seasons in the top flight. There is little logic at work, though.

Looking at the past six managers – Javi Gracia, Quique Sanchez Flores, Nigel Pearson, Vladimir Ivic, Xisco Munoz and Ranieri – there is no common thread, only a variety of styles.

Watford fired Xisco Munoz after just seven games of this season (PA Wire)
Watford fired Xisco Munoz after just seven games of this season (PA Wire)

Gracia was dispensed with less than two and a half years ago. No wonder Watford lack a consistency of style and purpose.

The rationale for employing managers appears to be based on knee-jerk reactions rather than considered thought. There is a fine balance between keeping things fresh in the dressing room and letting things grow stale. Players do stop listening to their bosses if familiarity is allowed to drift into contempt. But what is happening at Watford is beyond that and verges on ridiculous. It is taking short-termism to the extreme.

The moment of failure is not when a manager is dismissed. It is when the wrong man is appointed. Even the most perfunctory due diligence should have told Pozzo that Ranieri was a bad fit for the club. And it is not just Watford.

Even Rafael Benitez’s biggest supporters could see that Everton was nothing more than a black hole for the Spaniard. Eddie Howe has plenty of merits but is far from the perfect candidate to lead Newcastle United’s relegation dogfight. Daniel Levy’s decision to employ Jose Mourinho at Tottenham Hotspur was an act of madness.

Premier League clubs like to portray themselves as well-run organisations but too many appointments are doomed to failure from the moment of the new manager’s announcement. Watford are the worst offenders. By far.

It was over for Ranieri before it even started. Good luck to the next incumbent. They have about as much chance of success as the team have of staying up.