After Rene’s first game, our new man in charge pronounced the importance of succeeding in ‘winning the fans back’ after a valiant effort against Tottenham in which we were unlucky to lose. We played with pace, width, tenacity, intensity, and with the ‘new manager bounce’ cliche thoroughly disproved by statistics, it was reasonable to hope we might actually be able to turn around our dreadful performances and season. We followed that up with a win at Villa, pushed Everton and City hard before nabbing our third away win of the season up at Norwich.
However, in the four league games we’ve played in the last four weeks, our season has descended back in to farce. A crushing defeat at home to Sunderland – appointing Poyet doesn’t seem so foolish now, eh – and second half collapses in the three subsequent games, including the unforgivable miscarry last Saturday, have left us bottom of the table. Our football has lost spark, and our squad mentality is weak. Defensively, we have no shape or organisation or thought, and going forward we’ve recovered the incoherent messiness that put us here in the first place. Pulis, much to his credit, has demonstrated the virtues of defensive solidity at the bottom (as Roy did a few seasons ago). He is wildly overachieving with a Palace side bereft of quality by constructing a way of playing that has yielded clean sheets in half of his league games. Conversely, we’ve kept one in twelve, conceding 29 in the process. When we do go forward, we can’t convert our chances, and when our performances inevitably dip in the second half there is a similarly inevitable collapse that follows us around like an unwanted shadow.
So, all the work Rene put in to ‘winning the fans back’ has been undone. We’ve removed our wingers (Holtby and Dempsey on the flanks Saturday? Resigning Dempsey, by the way, has turned out to be an unmitigated disaster), and play a terrible 4-3-3/4-4-1-1 hybrid. It just isn’t working, despite the monotonous rhetoric being put out from the Fulham PR staff (“OUR SEASON STARTS HERE”, “EVERY GAME IS A CUP FINAL”, “STAY POSITIVE”). I want it to work for Rene, I really do, and maybe the introduction of Wilkin’ ideas was where it predictably became ponderous, but the longer this goes on the longer our management staff look wholly incompetent. Jol’s stamp on the squad has been thoroughly dismantled with our late January business, so let’s see how it works. But I fear for Fulham – and so does anyone else who watches us play.