After the 2-1 defeat courtesy of Ipswich on Saturday afternoon, Kit Symons’ honeymoon period was clearly over, finished and kaput. Fulham are now on a run of six games without a win in all competitions, or four in the league if you want to ignore the draw and defeat to Premier League opposition in Sunderland. The Welshman is not the first Fulham manager to go on a run of poor form, and won’t be the last, but there are certainly some issues that need to be addressed.
The former youth coach stepped in following the sacking of Felix Magath, winning four of his six games as caretaker manager, which ultimately earned him the title of First Team Manager permanently as the committee of five deemed no one else to be a better option. Fulham had begun to play some nice, quick, counter attacking football, alongside games like Bolton and Charlton at home where Fulham had dominated. I think more questions would have been asked had Kit Symons not got the job and the same had played out, but that’s just me.
The turn of the year looked promising for Fulham, an impressive performance at Sunderland and two home wins against Reading and Nottingham Forest followed with a loss at Cardiff wedged in between; it seemed the football club were ready to turn a corner and look up the table rather than over the shoulder. Since the turn of the year, Fulham have dropped just the one league spot from 18th on the 25th game week to 19th this, though at one point we peaked at 14th following the win against Nottingham Forest, also our second highest position in the table this season.
Kit Symons has now faced 30 games in charge of Fulham this season, with a win percentage of 36.67%, and there’s certainly a development year feel at the football club this season. Kit is in his first period of official management so we must accept mistakes, especially with a lack of experience around him. It’s like a young player; which people don’t want to admit or recognise, young players should be encouraged when they try something that doesn’t pull off, so should young managers – he will make mistakes, he will learn from them. Kit Symons is not stupid, he knows what we now and then some; he will learn and he will develop over the rest of the season, the summer and future years at Fulham or elsewhere.
One of the things that attracted me about Kit Symons was the football he had got the Under-21s playing, especially when you consider that Martin Jol was struggling to pull off a similar style with older and more experienced players. Of course, it helps when you have a great collection of players for that age group but the consistency of that group was exceptional. The 4411 was the formation of choice for Kit Symons, with Cauley Woodrow leading the line and Muamer Tankovi? just behind. Kit oversaw Fulham’s Under-21 group go the first 12 games of the season undefeated; as the system would also dip into a 4231 here and there, does that show that Kit is utilising the diamond to get the best of the squad in place?
Felix Magath assembled the squad with the diamond in mind; against Crawley for example, Scott Parker sat in front of the back four with Lasse Vigen Christensen and Ryan Williams starting on the side of him and Chris David behind the two strikers of Cauley Woodrow and Hugo Rodallega. Felix Magath failed to bring in any wide-men (unless you want to count Moroccan Adil Chihi), and thus leaves Kit Symons with little but the diamond. We started with a 442 against Ipswich on Saturday, but we lost all that Lasse Vigen Christensen has to offer, by sacrificing him against the physically impressive Tyrone Mings. You could point the finger at the club failing to bring in a right-sided midfielder, but with bids for Matt Ritchie rejected and links with Ricardo Vaz Te, the club did identify the missing wide-man, but failed to do so, preferring (I presume) to look at the summer transfer window.
Talking of Ipswich, you can’t deny that Fulham were poor. From misplacing simple short passes, to launching long balls into largely no one against Ipswich central defenders that ate up every high ball we offered. That showed tactical irresponsibility from Kit’s side, especially for a team lacking a target man who will win these balls for us to play off of. We are a team of smaller stature, but technically comfortable players, and keeping the ball on the floor is where we should excel – but at the weekend, Scott Parker and Ryan Tunnicliffe were sloppy with the ball as Fulham lacked an incisive threat. It is sloppiness over the last two weeks that have cost us a comfortable zone over the relegation zone whilst we creep into the upper half of the table.
The football club needs to return to basics again to get themselves out of a torrid run, which will not get any easier with upcoming games at Wolves and Watford whilst also welcoming the visit of Derby. It could take a fluke result to regain morale and positivity that could see us through at the last hurdles. In a division based highly on momentum, Fulham have stagnated since travelling to Sunderland and it’s a difficult job for Symons and his young backroom staff to turn it around – which will be a test of their man management skills as well as their coaching. Lets start doing the basics right, circulating the ball sufficiently, defending solidly and peppering the opponents’ goal with shots.
Can Kit Symons take us forward? I think he can, what this football club needs is stability, togetherness and a plan; we’ve barely had any of those in the last two years. The key thing for me is a plan – where do we want to go on a 6-month basis? What style of football do we want to play? Fulham are desperate for a direction. I can sit here for a dozen paragraphs going off on a tangent discussing what I would do to move the football club forward, but that’s maybe for another time.
Shahid Khan has begun to construct the upstairs staff that should aid in future success of the football club. Khan moved Alistair Mackintosh into a role where he will thrive, away from the on-pitch workings. For example, the current sponsorship deal with MarathonBet is a club record; more of that is what we want and need from the former accountant. The appointment of Mike Rigg should help the club find their feet in the transfer market, as finding players with the characteristics required will become easier with Rigg’s vast scouting knowledge and amassed contacts over his 20 years in football.
Could Kit Symons benefit from the appointment of an experienced coach? I don’t know, I suppose it depends on the coach. Ray Lewington complimented Roy Hodgson wonderfully, which led to Ray being Roy’s right hand man at International level. Is there a Ray Lewington out there for Kit Symons to use? I’m not convinced. Alan Curbishley who (according to the Daily Mail) rejected our offer to see him overlook Kit Symons in a similar role to when he was here previously could be a shrewd option for the football club; Curbishley was allegedly very impressive when creating opposition preview sheets; though unknown how frequently he got his football boots on.
To conclude, I would back Kit Symons until the end of the season at least, before re-evaluating. Mike Rigg would be in full flow, the players would be better for the yearlong experience and the squad would be more tailored for progress; where we delete memory of Dino Fazlic, Adil Chihi and Elsad Zverotic ever being here. There are other possible exits, which again, is probably best discussed for another post. Obviously some will fear relegation, but I feel we’ll creep to safety meaning another sacking would be pointless at this stage. Kit has a lot of learn, the squad needs a bit of tinkering and we perhaps need to be a bit more enduring as supporters – should we be grateful that Kit Symons has dragged us from the depths despite a halt in progress? He can get his team playing nice and attractive football whilst also getting results; his Under-21s showed that, but the bloke just needs a bit of time to get his methods into the players’ heads – and our players also need to pick themselves up and be counted for. It is fine playing well when the whole team is, but who is going to get us out of a hole? Who is going to get us points that the club didn’t deserve? Kit can’t take blame for the weeks of Hugo’s anonymity, but he can take the blame for continuing to pick the Colombian despite his weekly disappearances. Another plausible development step perhaps, Hugo may have been amazing in every training session, but still on the training ground on match day; Kit should have reacted. It’s been frustrating, I understand and we have underachieved this year, not by much but we have nonetheless. Kit Symons can be trusted until the end of the season, and hopefully the end of his contract – let the man have a real go of it, rather than just reacting to a pre-constructed squad.