Fulham are not playing well (not that anyone noticed)
Fulham are without a win in seven Premier League games. Were it not for the kind people at Queens Park Rangers and Chelsea making things interesting in South London, the Cottagers would be the crisis club of the month.
December 7th, 2012
Martin Jol has seen his side pick up just four points since October’s 1-0 win over Aston Villa – but thankfully, the Dutch manager has been allowed to get on with turning around the club’s fortunes without the preying eyes of the media.
The situation at Chelsea involving the manager’s position – as well as QPR’s record-breaking start to the season that sees them just three games off the midway point in the season and still winless – means that Fulham are not yet the story.
Of course, it is not overly difficult to diagnosis the issue that is gripping the club and causing the poor run. The Premier League season started with Fulham in wonderful goalscoring form; the opening day 5-0 rout of Norwich City saw the club off to a perfect start.
16 goals in the first eight games and 24 in the opening 11 meant that the Lilywhites were actually rubbing shoulders with the two Manchester clubs as the division’s highest scorers not too long ago. The signings of Dimitar Berbatov, Hugo Rodallega and Mladen Petric all looked like superb deals done by Jol, and their strong starts went quite a way in casting aside doubts about replacing Clint Dempsey in the team.
Unfortunately, the goals have dried up. Three consecutive score draws (3-3 with Reading, 2-2 with Everton and 3-3 with Arsenal) were, at the time, considered as manageable. They now read as the start of a poor run. Fulham haven’t scored in 298 minutes of Premier League action. Not since Mladen Petric’s equaliser in the eventual 1-3 defeat to Sunderland have Fulham found the back of the net.
However, goals have been going in at the other end and they haven’t stopped.
It was always likely to happen. Unlike the biggest teams in the division, Fulham are not a team that can rely on being able to score their way out of trouble. Right now, only four teams have conceded more goals than Fulham this season – they are all currently in the bottom five in the Premier League table.
The Cottagers were always likely to go through a blip but the news that Bryan Ruiz is out until at least 2013 means scoring form may be harder to find than normal.
For now at least Martin Jol needs to start working on making the team hard to score against. Monday night’s clash with Newcastle is the ideal place for Fulham to start. At home in front of the Craven Cottage crowd, the first priority has to be remaining tight at the back. If they can do that and keep a clean sheet then only a single goal is required to snap the poor run.
Going forward this season, Fulham have been a delight. Berbatov, Ruiz, Petric and Rodallega are a formidable group of attacking players; ably assisted by Damien Duff, Steve Sidwell and even Chris Baird. However, to stop the drop down the table, Jol needs to correct the errors at the back. That’ll stop the club from slipping into a needless relegation battle when progress was the ultimate aim of the season.