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Claudio Ranieri: Watford sack head coach after just three months in charge amid relegation battle

Claudio Ranieri was appointed Watford head coach in October but has failed to turn around the team's fortunes, with the Hornets dropping into the relegation zone for the first time this season after Friday's loss to Norwich; Watford lost seven of last eight league matches under Ranieri

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Watford have sacked Claudio Ranieri after less than four months in charge at Vicarage Road

Claudio Ranieri has been sacked by Watford after just over three months in charge, with the club lying 19th in the Premier League.

Ranieri has failed to turn around the team's fortunes since being appointed in October, with the Hornets dropping into the Premier League relegation zone for the first time this season after Friday's 3-0 home defeat to fellow strugglers Norwich.

Asked about his future after the loss to the Canaries, the former Leicester and Chelsea manager said: "I don't go away. I want to continue because I am a fighter. I've never given up in my career."

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Match highlights: Norwich out of bottom three with Watford win

Under Ranieri, Watford have lost seven of their last eight league matches. Their most recent victory was the 4-1 defeat of Manchester United in November at Vicarage Road.

No wins, no clean sheets, no discipline - Watford struggles

Watford are without a win in nine games in all competitions (D1 L8), their longest run without a victory since December 2013 (10).

Norwich enjoyed their biggest margin of victory in a Premier League match since beating West Brom 4-0 in May 2013, and their biggest away from home in the division since September 1993, a 5-1 win at Everton.

Watford have now gone 30 Premier League games without a clean sheet (since a 3-0 win v Liverpool in February 2020), with only West Brom enduring a longer such run in the history of the competition (34 in 2011; Blackburn in 2012 and Wolves in 2012 both also on 30).

Since the start of 2016-17, only Arsenal (19) have picked up more Premier League red cards than Watford (18).

In a statement confirming Ranieri's departure on Monday evening, Watford said: "The Hornets' board recognises Claudio as a man of great integrity and honour, who will always be respected here at Vicarage Road for his efforts in leading the team with dignity.

"However, the board feels that, with nearly half of the Premier League campaign remaining, a change in the head coach position now will give a new appointment sufficient time to work with a talented squad to achieve the immediate goal of retaining Premier League status.

"No further club comment will be made until this new appointment is confirmed in due course."

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By sacking Ranieri now, Watford's board have given themselves plenty of time to find the Italian's successor, with the team's next match being away to Burnley - who are bottom of the Premier League - on Saturday, February 5.

Ranieri replaced Xisco Munoz, who took charge of Watford's first seven Premier League matches during this campaign, winning two and losing four. Munoz had overseen the Hornets' promotion to the top flight last season.

Ranieri's first match in charge was the 5-0 thrashing by Liverpool at home on October 16, but he recorded his first win in his next game - a 5-2 victory at Everton.

But the 4-1 win over United proved to be Ranieri's second and final victory as Watford manager. He lost 11 of his 14 matches in charge.

Watford head coach exits since Pozzo family's takeover in June 2012

  • Sean Dyche - June 2011 to July 2012
  • Gianfranco Zola - July 2012 to December 2013
  • Giuseppe Sannino - December 2013 to August 2014
  • Oscar Garcia - September 2014 to September 2014
  • Billy McKinlay - September 2014 to October 2014
  • Slavisa Jokanovic - October 2014 to June 2015
  • Quique Sanchez Flores - June 2015 to May 2016
  • Walter Mazzarri - July 2016 to May 2017
  • Marco Silva - May 2017 to January 2018
  • Javi Gracia - January 2018 to September 2019
  • Quique Sanchez Flores - September 2019 to December 2019
  • Nigel Pearson - December 2019 to July 2020
  • Vladimir Ivic - August 2020 to December 2020
  • Xisco Munoz - December 2020 to October 2021
  • Claudio Ranieri - October 2021 to January 2022

Ranieri's departure means Watford have now sacked five head coaches since the exit of Javi Gracia in September 2019.

Quique Sanchez Flores, Nigel Pearson, Vladimir Ivic, Munoz and Ranieri have all left the club during that 28-month period, while Hayden Mullins has also had two spells as caretaker in that time.

The Pozzo family are now searching for their 15th permanent manager since completing their takeover of Watford in June 2012.

'Watford won't go for big-name manager'

Kaveh Solhekol told Sky Sports News:

"I think you have to look at what Watford have done in the past under Gino Pozzo - they don't go for big-name managers. They're not going to try and get a head coach out of another club. They will be looking at someone who's available, at someone who is a coach and not a manager.

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Sky Sports News reporter Kaveh Solhekol debates who could be the next Watford manager following the sacking of Claudio Ranieri

"If you work for Pozzo at Watford, you have to get the best out of the players that are there. You're not going to be in charge of buying and selling players - there are other people at Watford who do that.

"As the Watford board have just said in their statement, they believe they have a very, very good squad of players. They've added to that squad in the past couple of weeks and they believe that, with half the season still left to play, by making a change now they're giving the new coach as much time as possible to make sure they achieve their number one objective: to stay in the Premier League."

'Cannavaro seen around Watford boardroom'

Former Watford winger Jobi McAnuff believes Fabio Cannavaro, Italy's 2006 World Cup-winning captain who left his role as Guangzhou Evergrande manager in September, could be in line to replace Ranieri.

Fabio Cannavaro (AP)
Image: Fabio Cannavaro is available and has reportedly been seen at Vicarage Road

Asked for his thoughts on the contenders to become the Hornets' next head coach, McAnuff said: "Fabio Cannavaro might be one. He's been spotted in and around the boardroom, which is never helpful when you are a manager in trouble, seeing big names and potential successors.

"They have gone quite left field at times and scoured the market for European names that, potentially, we are not too aware of. So could be anyone with Watford."

Carra and Nev react to Norwich defeat

Sky Sports' Jamie Carragher:

"I fear for him. In everyone's eyes, Norwich are the whipping boys. We love Claudio Ranieri in the Premier League. He's been a massive character. I just think it might be difficult for him to be in charge for the next game, I really do.

"I certainly think they've got the best individuals in attack than the other teams at the bottom. But ultimately that won't keep you up on its own. Ranieri knows that, he's an experienced manager, it's just whether he gets the chance to pick another team.

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There was a lengthy delay as the lights went out at Vicarage Road during the match between Watford and Norwich

"There's no doubt those discussions will be happening tonight at boardroom level with this club because that's what they notoriously do. Claudio got the job on the back of the way this club works.

"They also face around five shots per game more than under their previous manager."

Sky Sports' Gary Neville:

"This is bad. Norwich are the team everyone thinks they are going to beat. Watford fans emptied the stadium at 3-0. The ones that were left booed. That is a bad, bad result on a Friday Night Football, live on television.

"What Jamie says about his fears for Claudio Ranieri is compounded by the fact we've got a two-week break. Ordinarily clubs wait for international breaks, for breaks, and they always plan for who their next manager is going to be.

"This club has a history of acting and you saw the look on the owner's face during the game. I think Claudio will have a different type of relationship with the family.

"I think he'll call them up and ask them 'what are you going to do with me?'. I never want to see a manager sacked. I know sometimes you have to do it, but I hope they continue with him."

What's next?

Watford travel to Turf Moor to face Burnley on Saturday, February 5 at 6pm in their re-arranged fixture.

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