Opinion: Ranieri's exit was the last nail in the coffin for Fulham
Fulham Football Club made news last week when they announced that they would be parting ways with their manager Claudio Ranieri, after just seventeen games in charge. Ranieri was at Craven Cottage for just 106 days, making his reign one of the shortest ever in history. Club owner Shahid Khan made an enigmatic statement, and it made it hard to realise what exactly Ranieri had done wrong.
It looked like even the great Sir Alex Ferguson could not have turned around Fulham's fortunes around this season. The manager is an easy target and it is efficient to say that the buck stops with him, but one has to understand that a combination of bad players with bad attitudes have taken Fulham where they are today.
Ranieri took over in November from Slavisa Jokanovic and guided the team to a 3-2 victory over Southampton in his first game in charge but sadly, the Italian could muster only two wins after that. A combination of bad form, patchy business in front of goal and defensive woes meant that Fulham were edging more closer to relegation than ever. Ranieri made his first public error when it became clear that he had a falling out with Aboubakar Kamara, and made his wish to sell him known in public.
It was no doubt that Kamara pushed Ranieri's buttons and all others' at the same time. It started when he had a row with Aleksandar Mitrovic over taking a penalty against Huddersfield Town, when he snatched the ball away from the big Serb and eventually missed. Things escalated later when he got into another war of words with Mitrovic during a yoga session in training. Ranieri banished him from the team and ordered him to train with the club's Under-23 team, and eventually shipped him on loan to Yeni Malatyaspor.
Kamara was just one case and there were other players too who failed to live up to their potential. Mitrovic remains the club's top goalscorer with ten goals, but apart from Andre Schurrle who scored six, none of Fulham's attacking players could find the back of the net very often. Left-back/ left-winger Ryan Sessegnon, who was brilliant in the Championship last season, showed glimpses of his potential and has five assists and two goals to his name.
Defensively, Fulham were poor throughout the season with Alfie Mawson, Denis Odoi and Joe Bryan being found wanting all the time. Long balls were seldom provided and even when they were, there were seldom any takers for them. The Cottagers tried playing Arsenal loanee Calum Chambers in central defensive midfield, but that trick did not work out either.
So, it is not just Ranieri's fault that Fulham find themselves in the relegation zone. It was just that there were a bunch of unmotivated players whom the Italian could not improve. His exit is the last nail in their coffin, as they prepare for the Championship next season.