As we reach the end of November, a month adopted as Movember for many around the world, Fulham remain in charitable spirits when it comes to opposing teams.
Not wishing to flog a dead horse, there is little that needs to be said around the management situation at Fulham. It is really just starting to get very tiresome watching Fulham lose every week.
Questions in the media have shifted to Fulham as relegation candidates and what would happen if we went down. It is telling that while the fans tried to embrace some cautious optimism following Rene Meulensteen’s appointment over the last fortnight, the press focussed on how Jol was now on borrowed time with his successor in place.
What we needed on Saturday was some glimmer of hope, some ray of light, a performance or a result. We got neither.
The sense of optimism that was palpable on the walk through Bishops Park – with the arrival of Moussa Dembele to the first team squad, Berbatov correctly dropped as captain and Boateng starting in place of Sidwell – quickly dissipated as soon as Swansea woke up after the first ten minutes.
While Jol’s post-match comments touted Darren Bent’s trio of wasted chances as testament to Fulham being in the game, only his missed header was created as a systematic result of team play. The others, and particularly the shot that hit the post, were the result of freak breaks in play such as a miscued Chico Flores header. Swansea on the other hand created chance after chance as the game wore on. Three outstanding Stekelenburg saves and a Sidwell clearance were the only reason the scoreline looked so close come the end.
37% possession and being double-digit outshot at home say more than the scoreline. It would be unreasonable to expect much from Rene Meulensteen’s coaching in such a short space of time, it was a game too soon, but there was little for us to cling to in reality.
Any talk of the team carrying significantly more shape ignores the fact we had no width. Defensively there actually was more seeming solidity, in fact, Hughes and Amorebieta played pretty well for their first time together. It was possibly Fernando’s best game in a Fulham shirt. Yet with Richardson and Zverotic having to push forward and act as almost flying wingbacks with no midfield support out wide, the team became bloated and overstuffed in the middle like a thanksgiving turkey. Boateng as a sweeping midfielder worked until he got his seemingly obligatory booking. Kasami was pigeon-holed to the left of central midfield for the mostpart and could only get into the game in fits and starts. Parker was the lone emblem of solidarity. His goal capping a captain’s display.
Up front it was not the good, the bad and the ugly, but a case of ugly, fugly and grotesque. Bryan Ruiz was again lacking in substance, and struggled to get into the game in his role as conduit from midfield to attack. Berbatov got 90 minutes despite failing to have a shot and Darren Bent, only in the team to take the sparing chances he does get, spurned three gilt edged opportunities and showed the first touch of a steam locomotive.
The problem with this squad that Martin Jol has assembled of his own accord is that to get our best team on the field we’d need to play with thirteen men.
Maybe there were glimmers of hope. The more you think about it perhaps Rene will be able to have an impact. However, the main questions remain. Why not make the actual managerial change rather than a soft half measure? With Rene Meulensteen looking after coaching, it is Jol’s job to motivate and finesse the tactics (what tactics I hear you sarcastically cry)? How then can he be excused for sending Fulham out the dressing room after half time looking like a fearful deer in the headlights, while Swansea came out firing like hunters going for the kill.
For the first time a tuneful “We want Martin Out, say we want Martin Out” was audible coming from the Hammersmith End. It didn’t exactly turn into a chorus but it was clear and distinct even from a different stand. One fan had to be restrained by stewards for giving his opinion near the dugout in the Riverside. It could well be the case of a game too far for Martin’s Fulham career.
Swansea wanted and deserved the three points. Credit to them. Their passing was crisp and efficient, but without their leading attacker, Michu, and winger, Pablo Hernandez, they could be forgiven for taking their time in sealing the points. Fulham looked like losing, especially in the second half. Was Jonjo Shelvey’s goal a surprise? No.
The game at West Ham next weekend is crucial. Another week under the tutelage of Rene Meulensteen will hopefully give Fulham’s players more chances to improve.
The Swansea match provided more questions than answers. With each passing game those answers will get harder to find. If Meulensteen’s appointment signals that Jol’s end is nigh, why wait? If it signals that the previous coaching staff were failing, is one man enough to save a system and regime mired in negativity and failure? Who selects the team and who chooses the substitutions? If, as appeared on Saturday, one man does one and one does the other then there can be little hope.
After a decade slowly but legitimately raising expectations brick by brick it is painful seeing them being knocked down at once by management and board’s consistent stubbornness that eschews common logic . It’d be nice to begin to enjoy going to The Cottage again. Hopefully it won’t take being in the Championship for that the happen.
In hope, fear and desperation COYW