Earlier this week, Watford appointed Claudio Ranieri as their new head coach.
The Italian, who turns 70 this month, most recently spent two seasons at the helm of Sampdoria and was the club’s top target following the ruthless sacking of Xisco Munoz on Sunday.
He has signed a contract until the end of next season and will be joined at Vicarage Road by assistant coaches Paolo Benetti and Carlo Cornacchia, along with fitness coach Carlo Spignoli.
Ranieri will be coming in with fresh ideas, but what does it mean for Fantasy Premier League (FPL) managers, and can he make their assets more appealing?
Our Scout Report takes a closer look.
Following a 13-year playing career that included spells at Roma, Catanzaro, Catania and Palermo, Claudio Ranieri’s first major management role came at Cagliari, where he guided the Sardinian side to back-to-back promotions.
Stints in charge of European heavyweights Napoli, Fiorentina, Valencia and Atletico Madrid followed, before he then moved onto Chelsea.
At Stamford Bridge, Ranieri led the Blues’ to their best ever Premier League finish at the time while also reaching the UEFA Champions League semi-finals. Although he didn’t win any silverware with them, he helped rebuild the squad, and brought in players like Frank Lampard and Claude Makelele.
After his sacking, the ‘tinkerman’ returned to Valencia and lifted the UEFA Super Cup, before successful roles at Parma, Juventus, Roma, Inter Milan and Monaco.
Then, after a brief period with the Greek national team, he arrived at Leicester City, which is where he won his only top-flight league title. The Foxes’ had battled relegation the season prior to Ranieri’s arrival, but thanks to a simple approach that all the players brought into, they defied the odds and lifted the Premier League trophy.
As a result, the Italian tactician picked up a host of individual accolades, including the 2016 FIFA Best Men’s Coach award, the 2015/16 Premier League Manager of the Season award and the 2016 LMA Manager of the Year award. It’s also worth noting that during the title winning run, his team only conceded 36 goals through the season and had the best defensive record in the division.
Despite that success, the following season they struggled and he quickly departed, taking on short roles at Nantes and then Fulham. In the latter position, Ranieri lasted just 106 days, as he could not save the club from top-flight relegation, winning just three of his 17 matches in charge.
However, his appeal to Watford is perhaps more evident in his two most recent posts.
At Roma in 2019, Ranieri stabilised results with the club in crisis after the resignation of director of football Monchi, plus Francesco Totti’s fall-out with the owners and Daniele De Rossi’s departure. Then, in his most recent role with Sampdoria, the Italian outfit were in the relegation zone upon his appointment, but he kept them in the division finishing 15th, before he built on that in 2020/21 and guided I Blucerchiati to a top-half finish.
After seven Premier League matches, a total of seven points gained feels like a reasonable return for Watford after winning promotion.
However, despite a kind opening schedule they have struggled going forward, while their performances have gradually been getting worse.
WATFORD’S KEY ATTACKING METRICS 2021/22:
|Total||Rank v other Premier League teams|
|Shots in the box||45||18th|
|Shots on target||25||10th=|
WATFORD’S KEY DEFENSIVE METRICS 2021/22:
|Total||Rank v other Premier League teams|
|Shots in the box conceded||57||10th|
|Shots on target conceded||32||14th|
|Big chances conceded||14||14th|
This season, Watford are one of just two teams who are yet to keep a single clean sheet, while it’s also worth noting that six of their eight big chances arrived in one match against Norwich City in Gameweek 5. Remove that fixture, and they’ve mustered just 3.30 expected goals (xG) across six matches.
In their two most recent outings, they drew 1-1 at home to Newcastle United and lost narrowly at Leeds United on Saturday. In isolation, those results aren’t too concerning, but they were completely outplayed on both occasions, as they had been against Brighton and Hove Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers earlier in the campaign.
Now the question is: can Ranieri give them a fighting chance of staying up, and in turn, make their FPL assets more appealing?
Firstly, the Italian is a defensive-minded coach known for his counter-attacking set-ups, who has generally favoured variations of a 4-4-2 formation.
If he adopts a similar approach at Watford, Josh King (£5.5m) could do well as the focal point of their attack, while his use of a slightly deeper forward in a 4-4-1-1 may also promote Joao Pedro (£5.4m) as a cheap budget option.
Ranieri has also proven that he can get the best out of his wide players, like Riyad Mahrez (£8.7m), which could be good news for Ismaila Sarr (£6.3m), who has been Watford’s standout attacker in 2021, and perhaps even Emmanuel Dennis (£5.3m).
Interestingly, both feature amongst this season’s top 10 players for shots in the box:
However, in a 4-4-2, Moussa Sissoko (£4.5m) would likely be tasked with more defensive duties, which would limit his appeal.
Defensively, the numbers posted so far this season are generally mid-table, which is fine, and if Ranieri can keep things relatively tight while adding more threat in the final-third, Ben Foster (£4.0m) could offer value if he continues as first-choice goalkeeper.
Given their forthcoming schedule, it’ll be a big ask though.
Ranieri’s first game in charge is against Liverpool after the international break in Gameweek 8.
After that, things don’t get any easier, as they also face Chelsea, both Manchester clubs, Arsenal, Everton and Leicester City during his opening eight matches, which takes us up until mid-December.
Ranieri is a capable manager, who has shown throughout his career that he can adapt to different situations and improve teams.
However, despite being known for doing well with underdog clubs, making a positive impact at Watford in the early weeks will be extremely difficult, and as a result, Hornets’ assets are probably best avoided until we have at least seen the ‘tinkerman’ in action.