Dimitar Berbatov Exclusive: Ranieri has a difficult task ahead to save Fulham

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Betfair Ambassador Dimitar Berbatov gives his reaction over the sacking of Fulham’s Slaviša Jokanovic and the appointment of much-loved Claudio Ranieri…

Fulham need a “No excuses” manager like Ranieri

I was surprised to see Claudio Ranieri was appointed as Fulham manager this morning because I mentioned in my last column that Slaviša Jokanovic is a good coach. Yes, they’ve had some bad results but I was hoping he’d be given some more time in the Premier League as he was the one who brought them up and it was always going to be difficult at the start after being promoted. But in modern football sometimes they don’t give you that time. I’m surprised because of that.

Ranieri was my coach at Monaco so I know him well, and I think if you appoint someone in this situation, with Fulham are last in the table, you want to appoint someone with great experience who could help them stay up. And he is a great appointment, I wish him luck and I know he’s going to work hard, because that’s what he does. Hopefully they can now improve on their results.

When I was under him at Monaco, there were so many young players there like Martial, Moutinho, Falcao, James Rodriguez, all these talented, footballers with potential and he was working well with them. Ranieri has that experience, he knows how to handle not only young talent but the big names too.

He’s also a champion of England, he has the tools and he knows how to get out of the difficult situations but it’s not going to be easy.

As I said I’m still shocked they sacked the coach let alone hired Ranieri, but I’m glad he has a job managing again; everyone loves him in England especially with what he achieved with Leicester. You need to give coaches with this background, opportunities. Knowing him personally, he’s a hard worker, he never stops and it might come to a surprise to the players when he comes in, but the team need that mentality of “no excuses” at the moment because they’re at the bottom of the table.

Jokanovic suffered a cruel fate

Football is a cruel game somtimes and it’s a bit unfair for Jokanvic to go. Look at Newcastle for example, they didn’t win a game for ten matches in a row and now they’ve won back-to-back games. The losing streak must end some time and you’re going to start winning, but maybe in this case they couldn’t wait any longer because they’re at the bottom of the league and need to start making changes.

What are you going to do? You can’t get rid of all the players, so it’s going to be the coach you change. That’s how football business is. I like Jokanovic a lot, he is a talented coach who got Fulham promoted, I’m sure he’ll get another job sooner or later.

Players should take advantage

Fulham players should be excited to work with Ranieri, he’s a great coach, fluent in five or six languages so there’ll be no issues communicating, and he’s very fair on his judgements; he’s not afraid to drop big names. He has that classic Italian hardworking culture, if you don’t play well that’s it, you’ll be dropped for the next game. So, the team must give everything they have.

As I said, it’s going to be a challenge but it’s not impossible to get them out of the relegation zone. He’ll come with a strategy to keep them up. It helps that he has a good reputation; everybody loved him at Monaco, at Leciester and I’m sure Fulham will be the same but they need to start winning games now.

The market for Leicester winning the Premier League was 5000/1, and now the odds on Fulham staying up are probably as high as that! It’s like the same situation in reverse; the odds are against them, it’s a challenging situation, but there’s a lot of games left to change it. He’s done it with Leicester to win the title and now he can save Fulham from relegation which is probably a more difficult task to achieve.

Fulham deserve to be in the Premier League, they’re a great club with great traditions and I think Ranieri can do it, all they need is one win.

Doing a Leicester

We should think about Fulham staying up before them “doing a Leciester” next year. They play good football and this is what I like about them. I watched them against Liverpool and they don’t just kick the ball to see what happens next, they pass around the ball well. Sometimes this won’t give you results because of the teams you face in the league are of better quality, or you have bad luck like their disallowed goal against Liverpool. However, the results will come if you stick to your philosophy.

I’m curious to see them play under Ranieri. Every manager brings their own style of play, especially with their next game at home at Southampton, it’s a good opportunity to start up against them because the Saints aren’t doing too well either.

With the new manager affect, things can change quickly and while it won’t be a disaster if they lose to Southampton it will continue the losing streak. A win would be great, even a draw would be a step in the right direction but what’s in important is that Ranieri comes in, shakes things up and players wake up a bit. It’s a new beginning for the team, that’s what the players say to each other.

The uncertainty with a new manager

When you change manager, the team will have a question mark over their heads. Maybe the players who start all the time might be dropped, maybe other footballers will be given a chance to get more minutes and you need to work with all the players who will be feeling they have something to prove. Remember, Ranieri isn’t someone to go “Oh you’re a big name, you’re going to play all the time.” No. This isn’t how he operates. He’ll go with the teammates who work the hardest.

We’re all human and some of the players will have doubts but that should drive them in the direction of proving themselves at the club and shake them up a bit! There’s always a chance the manager will want to bring someone new into the team too.

If Fulham are still at the bottom of the table when the January transfer window opens it’ll be harder to convince new transfers to join your team because they’ll be put off by the chance of relegation. I can only see them getting loan deals in that situation, then if they stay up they have the possibility of keeping that player. If they climb up the table, they have more of a chance to bring better quality players to help them.

Obviously, it depends on money. The club needs to say, “This is your budget, go find someone to help us.” These are two different scenarios that could happen and I’ll be interested to see what is next for Fulham.

Source: Betfair Premier League