After a run that saw Fulham lose seven league and cup games in a row, not score in those last four games, not see a win since September 25th, and give up a historically bad 31 goals in 12 Premier League fixtures, owner Shahid Khan had no choice but to sack Slavisa Jokanovic today. However, that wasn’t the only bit of news. Along with Jokanovic leaving, Claudio Ranieri has come in to become the permanent successor and has signed a “multi-year contract”. Some will say that Khan went against his word after he backed Jokanovic on the matchday program in the former boss’s last home fixture against Bournemouth. But as the club were amid a 3-0 defeat, the body language from the club’s owner in the stands and the foreign and negative tactics Jokanovic was deploying that were so against the grain from what he did his previous two seasons were just not good enough anymore. Add in a shocking defeat to Huddersfield Town, followed by another one to Liverpool and it makes sense for the club to make a change now anymore damage can be done.
Lots of negatives will be surrounding Jokanovic from this fateful day, but it must not be forgotten how he drove Fulham back towards the Premier League with a brand of football the supporters will forever adore. It’s quite clear, however, that the Premier League is as cut throat as it gets. Every club has some form of an attack and some form of defense. If you have neither of one or the other or both, relegation is expected. That’s where Fulham sit now languishing in the bottom of the table. Southampton is next on the club’s fixture list and anything short of a draw is considered unacceptable. After what this club has delivered over the past two years, supporters are begging for, at minimum, to have this team’s identity back.
As mentioned before, Jokanovic has went from trying what worked with 100 million in new transfers earlier this season to implementing a counter-attacking system that just didn’t suit most of the team. Listless performances against Bournemouth and Huddersfield sealed his fate with the Arsenal, Everton and Manchester City results as ominous signs for things to come.
In Claudio Ranieri, Kahn hopes that the magic he delivered as Leicester’s manager in 2016 can translate at Craven Cottage. No one will ever top Ranieri and his side’s performance going from 5,000-1 odds of winning the league to achieving the impossible. With his leadership, Jamie Vardy, Ngolo Kante, Riyad Mahrez and Kasper Schmeichel became household names with captain Wes Morgan being a cult hero at the King Power Stadium. And while he was known as the tinker man that was rigid in his 4-2-3-1 system, Ranieri stuck to the same XI in that fateful season and played a 4-4-2 counter-attacking style that fit the speed and guile of his attacking players. Having a hidden gem and future world class midfield destroyer in Kante, who would go on to become a World Cup winner with France, certainly didn’t hurt things either.
But if anything, Ranieri might not be the most successful foreign manager available, but he is a player’s manager that will bring his kind humor and charm to do his best to deliver a team-wide spirit that will be infectious throughout. Fulham had that under Jokanovic’s first two seasons and it seemed like it was broken as soon as the new transfers came in. Even seasons after his sacking in 2017, you could tell Leicester’s bonds are still there. That bonding was brought to full view with their togetherness since the tragic passing of owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha that shook the English football world.
Ranieri may not be a guaranteed success at Fulham, and the club could still get relegated for reasons beyond him and even Jokanovic’s control. But if anything, this is a major turning of the page for an era that brought so much joy. Now Fulham have to look into the future in hopes to retain their respectability that they worked so hard to rebuild.