Chelsea: Ranieri feels at home

Next year could well prove to be a vintage one for Claudio Ranieri.

There were, though, plenty of eyebrows raised when the former Valencia and Atletico Madrid coach was brought to Stamford Bridge as replacement for Gianluca Vialli in September 2000.

After all, Vialli had achieved so much in his time as player and manager of the west London club, both at home and in Europe.

Ranieri, on the other hand, was unknown to the Chelsea faithful, which by now had become accustomed to sustained success.

The Italian's brief from chairman Ken Bates was clear - to bring the Premiership title to Stamford Bridge.

And while there was no time limit set to achieve the hardest feat in the English game, Ranieri was adamant it could be achieved sooner rather than later.

Yet despite reaching the FA Cup final last season where they were beaten by double winners Arsenal, the Blues' form in the Premiership has hardly been that which is likely to return the league championship to Stamford Bridge for the first time since 1955.

Indeed Chelsea will have to make do without Champions League football for the second successive season after finishing sixth once again.

But Ranieri firmly believes there were plenty of positives to take out of the last campaign and that the best is yet to come from his crop of highly-talented players.

"It's always my hope to finish in the top four places, but you need to recognise that we had a good season," Ranieri told the July edition of the official Chelsea magazine.

"We tried to improve and I think we did a lot.

"We went out in the second round of the UEFA Cup - the year before we went out in the first round.

"In the Worthington Cup, we went out straight away the year before, this time we reached the semi-finals. In the FA Cup, we got to the final.

"For this reason, I think we've improved a lot.

"Our defence got better, we scored a lot of goals, we improved the consistency of our results.

"The thing we have to improve is our results away from home. Our results at home gave us, more or less, the same points as Manchester United, Arsenal, Newcastle and Liverpool.

"It's the points we won away which are too few compared to the top four. So next season we have to be better at knowing how to win more games away. Last year, we drew too many away games.

"We've got better, but of course I will not be happy next season unless I get even more out of my boys."

It has not been a busy summer for Ranieri in the transfer market, with Enrique De Lucas Chelsea's only major capture, the midfielder heading to Stamford Bridge from Espanyol on a Bosman free.

Goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini has also been secured on a new five-year deal after an impressive campaign between the posts.

And Ranieri, who himself committed to the club on a long-term deal at the end of last season, feels continuity is the key to Chelsea's future success.

"When you make mistakes, it is important to realise you have made them and improve from that knowledge," he admitted.

"My mistakes have mostly been from the knowledge of my players.

"I can't begin to have the sort of knowledge that Sir Alex Ferguson has at Manchester United when he's been managing there for 14 years.

"I can't possibly have the sort of knowledge Arsene Wenger has after six years at Arsenal.

"Because of this, sometimes I've sometimes made mistakes with my players - but the really important thing about mistakes is always to make one less than your opponents."

Ranieri had attracted the interest of Barcelona before committing himself to the Stamford Bridge cause in April, and revealed he is more than happy to be continuing his career in England.

He said: "I am getting to know English culture the way I know Italian culture and Spanish culture. I haven't changed my style.

"Even before I came here, I had the English spirit, the battling spirit, the desire to give everything for the cause. I have always had that spirit inside me.

"I feel very much at home in England. I live well, me and my family. I'm truly happy - this is one of the many reasons I was happy to sign a five-year contract here.

"I decided to stay because when the president chairman Ken Bates offers you five years - I'm not talking money - it give you satisfaction because it means he's very happy about the way in which you are working.

"I'm happy to be staying in London because I've got on well with the fans and with the players.

"I'm convinced I've got a good group of players and that these players can improve.

"I want to build the foundations of a team that will achieve a lot of success. For all these reason I said to the president that I would sign."

The 51-year-old has also lost none of his desire to take Chelsea to the very top.

He added: "I am working, improving my players - I am renovating a team. I'm keeping it at a high level.

"I want to win, the chairman wants to win, the fans want to win - but winning is tied up with so many factors.

"It's logical that I want to catch up with the leaders, it's logical that I want to fight to win the league, it's logical that I will fight to get us in the Champions League.

"These are all my dreams that can be realised because I am in a good club and I have good players available.

"Of course, it needs time.

"Rome wasn't built in a night, as they say in England."

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