Watford have sacked boss Claudio Ranieri after 14 games and less than four months in charge.
Last Friday’s 3-0 home defeat to Norwich saw Watford drop into the bottom three with 18 matches left and prompted Ranieri’s departure.
A club statement said a change was needed to give a new appointment time to lift Watford out of trouble.
“The Hornets’ board recognises Claudio as a man of great integrity and honour, who will always be respected here at Vicarage Road for his efforts in leading the team with dignity,” added the statement.
“However the board feels that, with nearly half of the Premier League campaign remaining, a change in the head coach position now will give a new appointment sufficient time to work with a talented squad to achieve the immediate goal of retaining Premier League status.”
It means Watford are looking for their 15th manager since the Pozzo family took over in 2012.
Ranieri, who famously won the Premier League title with Leicester in 2015-16, was given a two-year contract after replacing Xisco Munoz.
However, Watford managed just two wins under the former Sampdoria boss and he departs with the club 19th in the table, two points from safety.
They have lost seven of their previous eight Premier League games and next travel to relegation rivals Burnley on Saturday 5 February in a huge game at the bottom of the table.
The Hornets have lost 11 of their 14 games under Ranieri, 10 in the Premier League and a 4-1 loss to Leicester in the third round of the FA Cup.
It is the eight managerial change in the league this season following the departures of Xisco, Steve Bruce (Newcastle), Nuno Espirito Santo (Spurs), Daniel Farke (Norwich), Aston Villa (Dean Smith), Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Manchester United) and Rafael Benitez (Everton).
‘I’m not worried about the future’
Ex-Chelsea manager Ranieri stunned English football by leading Leicester to an unthinkable title triumph in 2016, but he was sacked by the Foxes the following season.
A nomadic career has since seen him go on to manage Nantes, Fulham, Roma and Sampdoria, before he was appointed as Watford boss.
Ranieri was the 14th managerial change under the club’s owners in 10 years.
After what turned out to be his final match in charge of Watford against Norwich, he told BBC Radio 5 Live: “I’m not worried about the future.
“I’m calm and want to react – me and my players. I have the passion, I want players with the heart and to think about what is Watford for the people of Watford.”
Asked if he was confident of turning it around, Ranieri replied: “Yes I’m very confident.”
‘Watford are flailing about without a long-term plan’
Speaking on The Monday Night Club on BBC Radio 5 Live, Chris Sutton said Ranieri’s dismissal was “no surprise” and that the Pozzo family’s expectations are “far too high”.
“I thought they were always going to struggle,” said Sutton.
“I think they made a mistake sacking Xisco. Seven games he was in charge [at the start of the season] and he did OK.
“Ranieri came in and I know he won the league with Leicester, but his last few appointments, he had three wins out of 17 at Fulham, that was a disaster.”
Former Manchester City defender Micah Richards described Watford as “absolutely awful” and argued that the Hornets lack an easily identifiable style of play.
“What are Watford – what are they trying to do?,” asked Richards.
“You look at Watford and you don’t know what they’re going to do – are they going to press, drop off, play through the lines or keep possession?
“You just don’t know which Watford are going to turn up. Ranieri said he was going to try and make them hard to beat, but they’re awful, absolutely awful.
“Ranieri seems like a nice bloke, but if you only get seven points from 13 games, the writing was always going to be on the wall.”
Mike Parkin, presenter of Watford podcast From the Rookery End, said his club are “flailing about” without a long-term plan.
“You have to look long term when running a football club,” he said.
“There is a feeling among Watford fans we are wasting a golden ticket of a long-term legacy from the Pozzos by lacking long-term planning.
“You have to give the owners credit because we are in the Premier League.”