Watford have sacked Claudio Ranieri less than four months after giving the Italian the task of keeping them in the Premier League.
Ranieri was appointed after the sacking of Xisco Muñoz in October but he has been unable to make a positive impact and has picked up only seven points during his 13 league games in charge. Patience has been wearing thin for a while and Watford, who have slipped to 19th after losing 3-0 at home to Norwich last Friday, are looking for their third manager of the season with Roy Hodgson the favourite for the position.
The Watford owner, Gino Pozzo, has never been slow to make a change in the dugout when results are bad and Ranieri has paid the price for being unable to inspire his squad. The 70-year-old has won only two games since replacing Muñoz, who was deemed too inexperienced for the Premier League, and has recently looked short of ideas.
Watford said in a statement confirming Ranieri’s departure that he was “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”. Explaining the move, the club continued: “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.”
Questions will inevitably be raised about the decision to fire Muñoz. The Spaniard won promotion last season and Watford were 15th when they sacked him.
There has been no improvement under Ranieri, whose greatest achievement was helping Leicester win the title in 2016. The former Chelsea manager was a surprising appointment given that he fared disastrously when Fulham were relegated from the Premier League in 2019.
Watford had seemed to be on the right track when Ranieri inspired them to an emphatic 4-1 win over Manchester United on 27 November. But they have picked up only one point since – a 1-1 draw with fellow strugglers Newcastle two weekends back – and the performance against Norwich was the final straw. It was Watford’s 11th defeat in 14 games under Ranieri.
Attention will turn to who is given the task of trying to save Watford from relegation. They do not play again until their rearranged fixture away to Burnley on 5 February.
Watford have previously been linked with Diego Martínez, the 41-year-old Spaniard who left his post at Granada last May.
The Hertfordshire club have not won in nine games in all competitions, their longest run without a victory since December 2013.