As times look bleak for Fulham after a 3-1 home loss to neighbours Chelsea, I want to find a speck of sunlight to peer through the darkened clouds that have emerged over our quaint little Cottage. To lose in that fashion with another set of goals in the final third of the football match is certainly a setback, but it doesn’t mean everything is finished and we are a Championship side. It’s going to be a slog, with ten games left, and needing 5 points plus results in our favour, I can see why it looks a near impossible task, but our sponsors Adidas had a slogan of “Impossible Is Nothing” and we need to stand by that; if the supporters show belief and hope, that may, just may transfer to the players. Not to forget, that we have a kind run in, hosting Norwich, possibly already safe Hull and Crystal Palace in our last three home games, plus winnable ties at Cardiff and Stoke, as well as difficult, but possible games at home to Newcastle and Everton.
I would like to take a look at the positives for the coming weeks, we have Clint Dempsey leaving the club, although it sounds harsh, it has to be said that he’s been pretty appalling since rejoining, providing next to nothing, and I am surprised that Felix Magath chose him to start against Chelsea, but that’s only something he can explain. Another positive, is the pending return of Kostas Mitroglou, to quote Felix Magath “he should join us for the next game,” and boy do we need him, Steve Sidwell has double the amount of league goals as Darren Bent; in fact, Pajtim Kasami has scored the same amount of Premier League goals as our Darren Bent.
But the negatives? Our goal difference is appalling, and generally, the team with the worst goal difference is relegated. Another quote from Felix Magath post match today fairly summarises our season “We had two or three good situations but after half-time the team forgot how to defend.” Fulham’s plunge to the bottom is something that hasn’t surprised any supporters of the club, I can’t really recall us having a very good ninety minutes this season, and our only good defensive performances came from having eleven men behind the ball, heading away cross after cross, even then we conceded two. To add to that, we could be cut adrift and it’s out of our hands. In reality, we only have to have more points than three other teams, but this is made more difficult when we have to make up 5 answered points and then some.
It’s surely time for contigency planning. If I was Fulham CEO Alistair Mackintosh, I would be drawing up a list now of players to add to the squad for both scenarios. The added pressure of relegation comes when players look to leave, so again, we need a plan for where this happens, should Ashkan Dejagah leave, for example, who do you want to go out and sign? There were rumours at the start of the season that Sascha Riether was looking for a return to the Bundesliga to play for Schalke, will he look for a move out again? Also, what will be your transfer philosophy for both scenarios? Where do you need to improve and what type of players do you need to get? Should we stay up, we need to look at players of the calibre of Steven Defour, the 24-28 age brackets where they’re young enough to become a profitable asset, but old enough to put in mature and experienced performances; but, if we were to go down, there are two realistic options. Option one is you go for players that are Premier League quality, but don’t currently play consistently for their team, for example, Matt Lowton of Aston Villa, Leandro Bacuna has become Aston Villa’s first choice right back, the 24 year old is a solid Premier League right back, and could fill the possible void left by Sascha Riether. I must remind you that this is all purely hypothetical, but emphasising the need for planning now. The second option is you bring in young players that have quality, but perhaps haven’t broken through yet and want to prove a point, like a Josh McEachran, who has had a number of loans in the Championship, but yet to break through at Chelsea.
At the end of the day, Fulham Football Club is in a need for a rebuild whether we stay up, or we go down. I predict we may see in excess of 12-15 first team exits should we go down, and probably 7-8 if we stay up. The sooner we get all of our business down and a pre-season in, the sooner it will take to gel and the sooner we can look forward, whether it be comfortably finishing mid-table or gaining promotion back into the Premier League.