How will Ranieri’s Fulham line up?

Considering we haven’t selected the same team in any 2 matches so far this season, it became impossible to predict what our line up was going to be. And now we have the Tinkerman in the dugout! 5 of the Focus team have predicted what they think Claudio Ranieri’s first line up will be against Southampton. Let us know what you think & who you agree/disagree with on Twitter. Remember it’s what they think he will pick, not necessarily what they want…


Let’s be honest, you couldn’t have picked a bigger game for the Italian’s first match in charge. We need to hit the ground running and be up for the fight from the start with players who have the right mindset for what is a relegation battle ahead. Irrespective of who might be our ‘best’ player, they can shove all the talent in the world if their attitude isn’t for the team and the club. That’s why I think Claudio will go for the likes of Ayite, Johansen and Chambers in there because it has to be about the team and not the individual.

Although limited in certain areas of their games, you would want Johansen on your side when going into battle and Ranieri certainly gives the impression that he’s expecting his players to fight for our Premier league status. Of all the midfielders we have, he is the most mobile and I would imagine the fittest. I see him as the engine in this team even if it is only temporary until something better comes along. My selection was made before the injury news was confirmed that Zambo & Kmac are both out,  it hasn’t altered my decisions. Anguissa has proven to be a good physical presence in the past few games but his touch and passing are shocking, Kmac is a bit too slow and Seri appears only there in body whilst his head thinks he did get that move to Barcelona after all…

We are going to “Pirate” it up apparently and concentrate on being hard to break down. I see it as a 4-1-4-1 out of possession & a 4-3-3 on the counter-attack and when we are on the front foot. That’s why I’ve gone for the 2 banks of 4 with Chambers anchoring the void in between. I thought he showed good discipline against Liverpool in this position and he has the composure on the ball to make the Kmac role his own, aided by the fact that he’s much younger and can keep up to the pace of the Premier League. Sessegnon is only at left back because Le Marchand & Mawson look like Ranieri type centre-backs to me and we need to get them playing together as much as possible to build a partnership. We all know Sessegnon is not a long-term left-back but it’s paramount that we sort our defence out as soon as possible and if it means Sessegnon at left back instead of Maxime out of position again, then so be it. When Joe Bryan is 100% fit, it’ll be Sessegnon back on the wing but at least with Ayite drifting inside, Ryan has plenty of room to overlap which I think comes naturally to him. I see Vietto doing likewise drifting inside to get closer to Mitrovic so we need a big game from the fullbacks to offer width, similar to how we relied on Fredericks last season.

Ayite also offers defensive protection for Sess, whilst Christie keeps his place in the team on merit after an impressive match and a half at Anfield & the John Smith’s Stadium. Set pieces are going to be important so I hope we have been working on them & it would be nice to see Neeskens given a fairer chance in the side under new management as he offers something different. But let’s be honest, none of us have a Scooby what the team is going to be…as long as we win it doesn’t matter! COYW!

Jon Shaub

I think CR will look at keeping a clean sheet as his biggest priority. Odoi at RB was a big no-no under Slavisa but his defensive abilities and commitment cannot be questioned. Having three proven goal scorers in the front three will give us teeth up front and I expect he will try and get players to play off Mitro on the break. I was tempted to put Johansen in the midfield as I think he will want legs and work rate. The hardest choice in trying to guess what CR will pick is formation. His greatest success has been with a 442 but I don’t think we really have the squad to do that. The midfield either looks too lightweight or too defensive. This is not the team I would pick personally but a team that can defend and hit on the counter.

Matthew Baldwin

I think Claudio will try to go as much like for like with Leicester’s title-winning team as he can in terms of players and their styles of play. I don’t think we’ve quite got the personnel to completely copy Claudio’s 442 that he utilised at Leicester, but I think we can tweak a few things to make it as close as we can. The key thing here is putting Tom Cairney on the right wing. If you look at how Mahrez played (a left-footer playing a combination between a winger and #10) I think that is where we’re going to put TC and try to recreate that ‘wide playmaker’ (for those of you who play Football Manager).

With Chambers & Mawson, we’re going back to a pair of ‘good old-fashioned centre-halves’ similar to Robert Huth & Wes Morgan, rather than Tim Ream & Dennis Odoi who are more modern ball playing defenders. Seri will play the Kante role of running around all over the place & McDonald the Danny Drinkwater role, a midfielder with the freedom to join the attack if he has to. You could easily put Anguissa in that role, but I think McDonald is more important to us as a leader on the pitch (say it quietly, but I think he’s getting the armband). He also offers a better defensive shield than Anguissa too.

Matt Lampitt

I believe Ranieri will want to keep it simple for us. See the ball, get the ball, stay in shape. If we were to go to a 4-2-3-1 that essentially means we need to drop back into a 4-4-2 defensively – too complicated for us right now. Ranieri wants simplicity, so we can stay into a 4-4-2 at all times. If we are shifting formations each time, we are bound to get caught with someone not pressuring soon enough, or someone being caught out of their position – too many risks. In a 4-4-2 defence, you just need to ensure that the banks are in-line through the width of the pitch, and each individual steps forward to press when the ball reaches their zone. It’s that simple, and that is why I feel Ranieri will use it against Southampton. Another factor for this is because he’s said it himself, there is not much time to prepare the team due to the international break. So I’ve picked the players that I believe he has had access to train with, but also throwing in some individuals who are in good form such as Sess. My only question mark is if he will be starting Fosu-Mensah over Christie, simply for the fact that Christie will be coming back from international duty and would have played in Republic of Ireland’s UEFA Nations league match versus Denmark. For this reason, I think he will give Fosu-Mensah the nod, and maybe the young man will finally be sparked into life due to the nature of our manager’s priority of defending like pirates. I think Ream and Mawson could form a good pairing as Odoi makes way mainly because it’s something fresh for the side, and Odoi has been part of some of the poor performances – but then again, so has Ream. So again, this is just a gut feeling, more than anything, that Ream will start. There’s talk of Cairney not able to play in a 4-4-2, and it’s laughable to me. If you can play midfield in a 4-3-3, you can play in a 4-4-2, it just means your CBs step higher in the attack for support, but it also means you turn on the high pressure upon losing the ball. When we pressed Liverpool for the first 15 minutes, who was in the centre of all of it? Tom Cairney. He can do it, and I feel his ability to maintain possession in tight spots will come in handy for us – showing Ranieri who his midfield leader is. Up top, Schurrle can run behind and cut in as he pleases. That will be a freedom type role for him, and Mitro will benefit greatly from having another partner to distract the defenders with. We need to build numbers for crosses though, and what better than to have our assist leader in Vietto (4) to send them in on the right-hand side.

That’s my prediction of what Ranieri will pick. COYW

James Leacy

When looking at Ranieri’s team selection and formation at his 2 previous club sides; FC Nantes and Leicester, at Nantes his most used formation was the 4-2-3-1 using it 48% of the time followed by the 4-4-2 which he used 25% of the time. This was a similar story at Leicester where in his second season he experimented with the 4-2-3-1, moving away from the 4-4-2 which he won the league with. This would ultimately lead me to believe that he used the 4-4-2 at Leicester as had to use what was already at the club but after a few transfer windows he wanted to move to a 4-2-3-1.

Therefore in terms of the Fulham team, with the players at the club, I think 4-2-3-1 will be the most likely formation Ranieri will play. I think Rico should definitely play in goal his experience playing at the top level for Sevilla will definitely help us at the back. The 2 centre-backs Mawson & Le Marchand have played top-flight football before although Mawson played for a relegated Swansea I can see similarities with Mawson and Huth in terms of stature and ability in the air. For the fullbacks I think Bryan (as there is news he may recover in time from his hamstring injury in time for the Southampton game) has to be the left-back as he’s the only left back at the club if wanting to play Sessegnon in a more advanced role and Christie at right back as Ranieri may want to use Fosu-Mensah and potentially Chambers in holding midfield. So for the 2 holding midfielders I’ve gone for Fosu-Mensah and Seri because he likes to play fast holding midfielders with a lot of energy and I think Fosu-Mensah could be like N’didi who he signed in his second season at Leicester and Seri all though could be more advanced is a quality player and I can see similarities with Kante. Tom Cairney will be slightly further forward and although he may not fit the typical Ranieri model, is Fulham’s most gifted player so will have to play him somehow. On the wing, I think it’ll be Schurrle and Sessegnon as he likes wingers who can cut in(i.e. Mahrez and Albrighton) and there aren’t too many quality options on the wing. Finally, the striker has to be Mitrovic due to him being the only striker at the club.