WATFORD’s club statement about Xisco Munoz’s departure showed just how used to dismissing their manager the club are.
The first line read: “Watford FC confirms Xisco Muñoz has left his post as the club’s Head Coach.”
But after that sentence declared that Munoz legally left of his own accord, the second sentence made very clear who actually made decision.
“The Board feels recent performances strongly indicate a negative trend at a time when team cohesion should be visibly improving.”
Owner Gino Pozzo was once jokingly described by Mino Raiola as “president, sporting director, coach, striker and central defender” all in one go.
He decides who the players, the recruitment team, the medical team and the manager – or to use the official (and more accurate) title, the head coach – should be.
And that’s just the way the fans want it.
Watford supporters liked Xisco Munoz, but in the seven Premier League games he took charge of, the league table did lie.
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After a gentle run of fixtures, the team sat in 14th place when the Spaniard was dismissed.
The Hornets were easily beaten to nil by Brighton, Wolves and Leeds and so outplayed in a 1-1 draw at home to Newcastle that it made a mockery of the fact it was the away fans calling for their manager’s head.
Ask almost any Watford fan where the team would have finished if Xisco Munoz had stayed on and they’d say 19th, ahead of only a Norwich side who look resigned to remaining a yo-yo club in the medium term.
For many clubs, the Norwich approach of sticking long-term with a manager who has credit in the bank with the fans and players would be the right one.
But it will never be the right approach for Gino Pozzo.
If the Watford owner decided not to dismiss Xisco Munoz, it would be tacitly admitting to himself that he had recruited a squad that wasn’t good enough to avoid relegation.
It is simply not in the DNA of the Pozzo family – either Gino or his father Giampaolo at Udinese – to do this.
Munoz was a good man-manager, who got the best out of star man Ismaila Sarr and whose Watford team never looked anything less than 100 per cent committed.
Under his management, Watford were able to comfortably beat teams of inferior ability, such as most in last season’s Championship, and Norwich this season.
However, he has lacked the tactical ability to bridge the gap between his team and the technically superior mid-table sides they have faced, with no clear plan other than getting the ball to Sarr and hoping for the best.
Munoz’s next match would have been Liverpool at home, and the concern wouldn’t have been that the team would be unable to get a result but that it would be completely unable to compete.
The successor Gino Pozzo appears to have chosen is Claudio Ranieri, who on the face of it looks an underwhelming appointment.
But he should have the ability to give the opposition something to think about.
And if he can get the forwards to “play like they are jet fighters”, as he demands of all his strikers, then the switch may just be gamble worth taking.
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