It was Slavisa Jokanovic that had the dubious honour of winning – or is that perhaps losing – the 2018 season’s Premier League managerial sack race. It was ultimately a case of “what have you done for me lately?” for the former Serbian international, as his efforts from the previous campaign were all too quickly forgotten.
Those efforts saw Fulham win the EFL Championship play-offs after beating Aston Villa at Wembley in the final, a result that in turn saw the West London outfit earn the last of three promotion places that are on offer each season.
Fulham’s promotion was built on a fantastic run in the second half of the 2017/18 campaign, one that saw them propelled up the table as they timed their burst of form perfectly. However, this momentum was always going to be difficult to continue once they entered the Premier League.
Even more so when you consider just how porous their defense has been this season. By the time that Jokanovic was sacked, the West Londoners had already conceded an eye-watering 31 league goals in just 12 matches.
This damming statistic means that when you’re reaching for the Premier League relegation odds and backing the Cottagers to return to the Championship at the first time of asking, the current market has Paddy Power pricing them at 4/9 for this to happen.
But not if one man can help it. That man is Claudio Ranieri and he is as accustomed as anyone when it comes to Premier League fairytale. The legendary Italian manager will forever be in English football’s folklore after leading Leicester to a sensational title win back in 2016.
However, this may well be a task that proves to be even more difficult as he needs to work with Fulham side that – for all its tendency to attack personnel – seems to be displaying some real defensive deficiencies as of late.
Not only that but the new manager bounce that is so often hoped, if not expected, has failed to materialise for Ranieri. Of course, one should not forget that he masterminded a 3-2 win over Southampton in his first game in charge but since there has been very little to write home about.
The four fixtures that followed that win over the Saints have seen Fulham pick up just one point. More importantly, they are rooted to the bottom of the table as we head into what is always a very unforgiving festive period.
It could well be these next few weeks that define what Fulham end up doing over the next few months. If they fail to sort their defensive woes then there is every chance that they will be cast adrift in their bid for survival.
However, there is no doubting that if they can shore up their backline then the likes of Ryan Sessegnon and Alexsandar Mitrovic can get them out of trouble at the other end. Not only that, but the often called ‘Tinkerman’ could well be given the opportunity to spend in January.
It is fair to say that Ranieri is working with someone else’s squad at the moment and a couple of new faces at the club may well aid the transition from one man in charge to the next. The only question is after such a huge summer of spending will their owner Shahid Khan want to go back into the market. The thing is, if he values top-flight survival that much, then he will simply have to.