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Fulham boss Ranieri acknowledges fan unrest amid relegation fight

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Claudio Ranieri is losing the battle against relegation at the helm of Fulham, but that’s not all he’s losing. The fans are turning on him as well.

Fulham fans jeered Ranieri’s substitutions during the 3-0 defeat to Manchester United, and he recognized their unrest in his post-match media availability.

“I know the fans were not happy but I had two players with flu in the week, including Andre Schurrle,” Ranieri said. “I can understand the fans always want their players to play but it’s not always possible. We will work to try and win our next two games. We’re always positive.”

While Fulham fans have taken to Schurrle – winner of January’s Premier League Goal of the Month award for his stunner against Burnley – that’s not all they’re upset about. Fan favorites Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon were both unused substitutes against Manchester United, even with the team playing from behind early on.

Ranieri has said publicly he wishes to play far more direct than his predecessor Slavisa Jokanovic, who became well-liked for his free-flowing, possession-based style of play, to which Cairney and Sessegnon were vastly important. Now, with Ranieri’s style far from that which saw Fulham win promotion to the Premier League under Jokanovic, he has left Cairney and Sessegnon on the bench for multiple matches, causing Fulham fans to question the Italian’s decision-making.

While those two are ball-playing midfielders who are less useful in a more direct setup, they are vital players to the club for the last three seasons, leaving fans wondering whether the manager should adapt more to the squad’s best players. Fans also have become attached to Jokanovic’s style of play, and many opposed the decision to let him go in November, fairly or unfairly giving Ranieri an even shorter lead, and coupled with just one win and five defeats in the last six matches under the new style of play, fans are beginning to lose patience quickly.

What’s more, the club’s porous defense – the worst in the top five European leagues by goals conceded – has capitulated early in matches, conceding inside the opening half-hour in four of their last five matches, including a 14th-minute goal by Paul Pogba that began the Old Trafford defeat on Saturday, with Anthony Martial scoring nine minutes later to double the lead. Cairney and Sessegnon both came off the bench in that game, but not until the final 13 minutes.

Ranieri hopes Fulham can kickstart safety sprint v. Man Utd

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Fulham boss Claudio Ranieri oversaw the most unlikely title in Premier League history, so he won’t be daunted by the task of making up seven points in 12 matches.

[ MORE: JPW’s PL picks ]

That season in question, when Leicester City lifted the 2015-16 Premier League trophy, saw Ranieri manage a pair of 1-1 draws at Manchester United.

The Red Devils are better this year, and Ranieri’s side is decidedly worse. United is yet to lose under manager Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, leaving Ranieri to play the odds a bit while praising Saturday’s visitors. From FulhamFC.com:

“I think the results speak for themselves. All victories and just one draw. The players changed their mind, they’re more involved and they are fighting together.

“We are in a bad moment but our confidence is high and we continue to fight. Sooner or later they have to lose a match, no? Why not against us?”

Ranieri was in charge when the then-Jose Mourinho-managed Red Devils beat Fulham 4-1 at Old Trafford, and will seek the Cottagers’ fifth win of the season Saturday at Craven Cottage.

Claudio Ranieri on Fulham’s relegation battle

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Claudio Ranieri‘s Fulham lost 2-0 at Crystal Palace and are now seven points from safety in the Premier League.

The Cottagers missed a big early chance as Aleksandar Mitrovic headed wide, and they never recovered from Cyrus Christie handling in the box to give away a cheap penalty kick.

Speaking after the game, Ranieri made a point of saying Fulham were in trouble when he arrived back in November.

“The first half was good until the penalty, we had the match in our hands. We controlled the match. The penalty changed the match. They deserved to win in the second half, they were better than us. They had three or four chances – well done to Roy.

“The service to Mitrovic was not good enough. We spoke a lot about crosses, crosses, crosses. I tried to do something – I put another striker on but it wasn’t good. We were in trouble from the beginning but we will continue to be positive, be strong. It’s important to be optimistic. We have a target in our mind.”

That last part just sounds like Ranieri trying to remind everyone that Fulham were in deep trouble when he replaced Slavisa Jokanovic. And they were.

But Fulham have only picked up three wins in Ranieri’s 13 PL games in charge and although they had plenty of the ball at Selhurst Park they couldn’t penetrate Palace’s defense at all. Going forward, for once, they struggled but it was the same story at the back as defensive mistakes are costing them dear.

With games against Man United, West Ham, Southampton, Chelsea, West Ham, Liverpool and Man City in their next seven, it is tough to see where the points are coming from for Fulham to get themselves out of trouble.

Fulham skipper Tom Cairney bemoaned their mistake in the first half against Palace and summed up the magnitude of the task ahead.

“A sloppy penalty gave them something to hold on to, that’s frustrating. They were as desperate as us for the points,” Cairney said. “We need wins. Quite a few wins. I think it will be less than 40 points to stay up this year. I am confident we can do it, we have got to believe.”

Fulham defender Mawson undergoes knee surgery after bizarre injury

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Fulham owns the worst defensive record in the Premier League, and while things have improved under new manager Claudio Ranieri, the club now has to navigate an injury to its best center-back that occurred in bizarre fashion.

Alfie Mawson, who joined this summer in one of the more infamous spending sprees in Premier League history, was withdrawn at halftime of the 1-0 win over Huddersfield Town just before the new year. At the time, Ranieri offered little information on the injury other than it was a knee problem and that he wasn’t sure how long Mawson would be out.

In his pre-match press conference ahead of Fulham’s home match against Tottenham at Craven Cottage this weekend, Ranieri finally opened up on Mawson’s injury, revealing exactly how the defender was struck down…doing one of the most mundane daily tasks a professional soccer player can participate in.

“It was a very strange injury,” Ranieri said. “He changed his boots. It was unbelievable.”

That’s right, London-born defender was injured lacing up new kicks.

Ranieri didn’t offer much more, failing to specify the extent of the injury or even what knee was hurt. Mawson missed the start of the Premier League season as he recovered from offseason knee surgery, but Ranieri did not say whether the new problem was present in the same area. “I don’t know if it was the same knee or the other,” Ranieri said. “It was a very strange injury.”

It’s been a rough season for Mawson, who was inadvertently punched in the face by his own goalkeeper Sergio Rico just two matches earlier, down in a heap and tended to by trainers in a lengthy delay, although he was able to continue and complete the full 90 minutes. The 25-year-old struggled to find a place in the team early in the season as he adapted to his new squad, but eventually found his way into the starting lineup consistently and even became Fulham’s most consistent defender despite the club’s Premier League-leading 49 goals conceded this season.

In addition to Mawson’s ridiculous injury, Fulham has also dealt with turmoil surrounding Aboubakar Kamara, who has clashed with teammates on the field of late. He stole a penalty off designated penalty-taker Aleksandar Mitrovic in the Huddersfield match and proceeded to miss – which drove Ranieri to claim “I wanted to kill him” after the match – and then was involved in an on-field argument with Mitrovic in the 4-1 loss to Arsenal last weekend. Kamara was dropped from the squad for the most recent match against Burnley, and is reportedly set for another game on the sideline this weekend.

The season has been a wild and weird one for Fulham, which fell 2-1 to Burnley last time out on a pair of own-goals despite Burnley failing to record a single shot on target of its own. The club sits 19th in the Premier League table, five points back of safety.

Mitrovic “so happy I want to cry,” Ranieri harbors murderous thoughts

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Claudio Ranieri is delighted that Fulham took a pivotal three points off relegation rivals Huddersfield Town, but enraged with striker Aboubakar Kamara.

[ RECAP: Fulham 1-0 Huddersfield ]

That’s because the latter took penalty duties off Aleksandar Mitrovic, who would eventually win the game, and proceeded to miss his effort.

“It is unbelievable, he did not respect me, the club, the team and crowd,” said the Fulham manager. “I spoke with him, it is not right. I want to kill him, that is normal when one man takes a ball, only because he scored the last penalty (against Manchester United). It should be Mitrovic, that is it.”

Ranieri said the late winner from Mitrovic was “a dream” for the Cottagers, who moved into 18th place with 14 points.

That’s four ahead of bottom side Huddersfield and just one back of 17th place Southampton.

Mitrovic shrugged off Kamara’s miss by complimenting the striker’s efforts in the rest of the match. The ebullient “Mitro” had this to say:

“For the penalty, we had a small argument and I think it is my job for penalties. He did not think like this but I respect that. I have done the same in the past. I don’t have a problem with this, he missed and that is part of football. He changed the game when he came on in the second half. We worked very hard for the win.

“Last time I said I am so unhappy I want to cry, today I want to say I am so happy I want to cry.”

He’s nuts a character, and one we’re lucky to have in this league (in some ways, just like his manager).