Claudio Ranieri needs Watford’s form to improve – and fast – to placate impatient owners

Such was the disruption at a critical point in the season that ahead of the fixture against West Ham on Tuesday, he only had one full training session. And it showed in the result: his side were hammered 4-1. Ranieri is aware things have to change. And quickly. “We want to play much better than the game against West Ham,” he said. 

It would help if he could preside over a clean sheet. As an Italian manager, it clearly pains him how accommodating his defence has been. 

“I want to take that first clean sheet as soon as possible,” he said. “All the team has to help. Sometimes we make some stupid mistakes, we need concentration in all of the match.” 

It is not just Covid that is stalling his efforts to revive the club, however. He has encountered injuries to key personnel, like Ismaila Sarr, who has not played since the 4-1 win over Manchester United which was a rare high point in his tenure. 

And when the Africa Cup of Nations begins next week he will be deprived of five players, including half his first-choice defence in the shape of William Troost-Ekong and Adam Masina. Indeed, with Danny Rose injured, when Masina joins up with Morocco, he will have no fit left-back. 

“I will speak with the board about this after the game with Tottenham,” he said when asked about the need for urgent recruits in the January transfer window. “For now this game is the only thing on my mind.” 

Though he received one piece of positive news this week: he will have Emmanuel Dennis at his disposal, after the Watford board refused Nigeria’s request to release him for Afcon duty. Ranieri will be hoping the player channels his disappointment into goals for the club. Because he needs them. And fast. 

His last attempt to rescue a side in Premier League trouble, when he took charge of Fulham in November 2018, lasted only three months before he was fired after presiding over just three wins in 17. 

He knows more than anyone that at Vicarage Road they are not renowned for their patience when it comes to managerial appointments.

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