I’m usually a fan of EPL Talk but they’ve called this one wrong. The article overeggs Fulham’s indifference to Europe and doesn’t note that the only reason Roy Hodgson won’t field a full-strength side in Basel tonight is that we’ve got Manchester United at home at the weekend.
The only game where Hodgson has sent out what can truly be described as a reserve squad was the opener in CSKA Sofia. He’s juggled his resources effectively in the group stages and we’ve seen useful cameos from the likes of Chris Smalling and Bjorn Helge Riise that hint at better things to come. Fulham’s squad has been depleted by injuries that have robbed them of key players – like Dickson Etuhu, Danny Murphy, Simon Davies, Andy Johnson and Diomansy Kamara – so it’s a wonder that the Whites have been so competitive in what was a tough group.
The article also ignores the refeering decisions that have so soured our European adventure. The Stephen Kelly/Brede Hangeland sending off against Roma highlighted just why the extra officials experiment won’t work. It also badly disrupted Fulham’s rhythm. Awarding the penalty was questionable, sending off the offender was an overreaction. The less said about Kevin Blom’s trigger happy display in Rome the better. Fulham are still suffering the fallout from our trip to Italy as they’ll be without the services of the suspended Erik Nevland and Paul Konchesky tonight.
EPL Talk also assert that Hodgson isn’t worried about Fulham’s league position. This is a bit of stretch. A bad run of form, which might be precipitated by a tricky Christmas period like the one coming up, could send the Whites down the table at alarming rate. You’d like to think we’d be too good to go down but, just as important to Roy, will be attempting to consolidate a position in the top half. That would send an uncontestable message to Mohamed Al-Fayed to loosen the purse strings in the name of even greater progress.