LONDON (Reuters) – Claudio Ranieri worked a sporting miracle at Leicester City when he took them to the Premier League title in 2016 and will need the old magic again after taking over at bottom club Fulham.
The charismatic Italian takes charge of his first game on Saturday with Fulham at home to fellow strugglers Southampton.
Six consecutive league defeats, a run in which they conceded 18 goals, ended the reign of Slavisa Jokanovic and Ranieri said the first ingredient he wanted to see was “fight”.
“Today I spoke with the rest of the players, I repeated my ideas about philosophy and they understood very well,” Ranieri, who only had his whole squad together for the first time on Thursday after the international break, told reporters.
“My message is the team is a good one, but now we must show fighting spirit. It’s not easy to change direction but we must do our best and be with good spirit.
“Saturday is important, the mentality is good and I want to see the right mentality and strong body language.”
Ranieri said an improvement would not come overnight, but called on his players to see Saturday’s clash as a fresh start.
“Clean everything and restart,” he said. “Forget the past.
“It’s important they follow me 100 percent and getting better with their ambition.
“I am ambitious and I want ambitious players.”
While Fulham have played some attractive football this season they have been exposed as having a soft centre and Ranieri’s first task will be to tighten up the worst defence in the Premier League.
Jokanovic has used five different central defensive partnerships in 12 league games this season and Ranieri will look to establish a settled formation.
Leicester’s title-winning defence virtually picked itself with Christian Fuchs and Danny Simpson at fullback and Wes Morgan and Robert Huth in the centre, while Ngolo Kante patrolled the spaces just in front of the back four.
“I need to choose who is in a good moment now, good form,” Ranieri said. “At Leicester I started without (Ngolo) Kante, Simpson and Fuchs, and slowly slowly it was good.”
Despite Fulham’s position, Ranieri said he was confident the Londoners could turn it around.
“It’s important, but we must be calm and continue to work because it’s not possible to change everything in one night,” he said. “It’s important to get points but it’s important to maintain our mentality, never give up.
“We will be safe, I am sure.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Andrew Roche)