The Ranieri effect: Watford already clicking under Claudio
One of the most extraordinary games in the history of the Premier League took place at the weekend – and we’re not talking about Liverpool’s spanking of Manchester United.
Given the carnage at Old Trafford on Sunday, it’s not surprising that Watford’s comeback win against Everton has not been at the forefront of people’s minds.
But Claudio Ranieri’s achievement in spurring his side on to a 5-2 win at Goodison Park is pretty mindboggling in its own right.
For a start, Watford had just suffered their own 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Liverpool a week earlier, in Ranieri’s first game in charge with the hornets. Does that meet calculating, ice cool Ole Solskjaer is about to mastermind a 5-2 win over Tottenham this Saturday? Er, we’ll get back to you.
Back to Claudio. After the Liverpool shellacking, the Italian could be forgiven for asking himself what he had gotten himself into. And on Saturday, it wasn’t exactly an inspiring start for his side, who conceded a Tom Davies goal in the third minute.
Yet the visitors fought back, Josh King equalising before the 15 minute mark, only for Richarlison to give the hosts the lead once more in the 63rd minute.
The Goodison support – not to mention Rafa Benitez – must have looked on in disbelief as Watford first equalised through Juraj Kucka, heralding the start of a turnaround that saw four goals scored in the last 12 minutes of the game.
Former Everton player Josh King completed his hat-trick before Emmanuel Dennis scored the final goal of the afternoon to give Watford their third league win of the season.
Remarkably, the side’s last five away wins have come with five different managers in charge (thanks to football writer Richard Jolly for that stat). The unexpected nature of this victory didn’t stop there; this was Watford’s first ever victory at Goodison Park.
So does that emphatic reversal mean Watford have got their groove back under Ran the man? Claudio’s side will hopefully show a similar optimistic approach on Saturday when they host a Southampton team that are eminently beatable.
After that, Watford face Arsenal, Man Utd, Leicester, Chelsea and then Man City in their next five matches. No wonder Ranieri was adamant about getting points on the board at Goodison this weekend.
If Watford and Ranieri emerge from that run relatively unscathed, early in 2022 the side will lose several players at the African Cup of Nations – assuming the competition goes ahead.
With host nation Cameroon apparently struggling to be ready in time to host the competition to a satisfactory level, there are rumours that the African tournament could still be cancelled – which wouldn’t be the worst outcome for several Premier League sides.
The assumption is that the event will go ahead, however – and that would mean the likes of Watford’s Ismaila Sarr, Imran Louza, Adam Masina, Emmanuel Dennis and William Troost-Ekong could all take part in the tournament.
It’s another potential headache for Ranieri – but after last week’s victory, perhaps we shouldn’t underestimate the Leicester City legend.
If you still feel the side are heading for the drop, you can get even money on Watford being relegated this season. Only Norwich, 1/9 favs, and Burnley, 4/5, are currently ahead of the Hornets in the relegation betting. Meanwhile, newly minted Newcastle are 8/5 to go down…
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