After a stuttering start to the season, it’s a real relief to see Fulham get their first league victory of the season over a strong Ipswich side at Craven Cottage. I don’t like to talk about ‘must win’ games this early in the season but this was surely as close as it would come to one considering last weekend’s underwhelming defeat at home to Sheffield Wednesday followed up by being timidly dumped out of the Carabao Cup by League One outfit Bristol Rovers.
When I look at our squad, I genuinely believed that it was only a matter of time before we clicked. You can’t go from controlling as many games as we did last season to becoming a bad team over the summer, not when you have kept the core today alongside making a number of strong additions. No, our bad start was not enough for me to make me doubt the super stars of last season and our manager.
That said, it doesn’t mean that I wasn’t on edge a little, particularly after the cup exit! No one likes it when their team loses, especially to lower league opposition. But what has the problem been for Fulham over the past month? Why have we been so slow out of the blocks? For me there a couple of things that have prevented us from starting as well as we would have wanted.
First of all, I think that people have been premature when pressing their panic buttons because of the number of points that we had won before today. Admittedly, 3points from four games doesn’t look good but we must put this in the context of the fixtures that we have played. Amongst those four games, we had to make two of the most difficult away trips that we will have all season. Leeds and Reading away, in my opinion will be the hardest, bar Middlesbrough, while our homes games were against two teams who will be there or there abouts at the end of the season in Sheffield Wednesday and Norwich. If we look at the points gained so far in comparison to last year’s tally against the same teams, we can see that we actually haven’t moved backwards at all!
|This season||Last season|
|Norwich at home- DRAW||Norwich at home- DRAW|
|Reading away- DRAW||Reading away- LOSS|
|Leeds away- DRAW||Leeds away- DRAW|
|Sheffield Wednesday at home- LOSS||Sheffield Wednesday at home- DRAW|
|Ipswich away- WIN||Ipswich away- WIN|
|Total points- 6||Total points- 6|
OK, we didn’t get promoted last season, so not moving forward is potentially as bad as going backwards, but the games that were most disappointing last season were the ones where we dropped points against teams who weren’t challenging at the top, for example, Bristol City, Birmingham, Cardiff and QPR to name a few. There were plenty of games last season that we should have gotten maximum points from and didn’t and those are the games that I feel that we need to see progress in if we are really to take a step forward this year. Yes, it is vitally important that we take points off our promotion rivals, but not losing the games against Norwich, Reading and Leeds will be crucial come the end of the season.
The other reason why we haven’t quite started as well as we would have wanted, was because our preseason just didn’t go to plan. Fulham are always quite late in announcing where the boys would be travelling to in the summer, but this preseason it seemed more down to poor organisation than just wanting to be secretive. Maybe I am wrong, but I didn’t get the impression that things were planned as well as they could have been and this, alongside some slow work regarding transfers, meant that many of our players didn’t get as much of a break as they really needed. It was well documented that Slav couldn’t rotate as much as he wanted due to not having a good enough squad depth, while injuries to Cairney and McDonald made things worse. Cairney in particularly has only really seemed to get back to full fitness now, which is another reason why things have looked disjointed in the middle of the park before today.
All in all, it is fair to say that fans and players alike have been frustrated with the start of the season but let’s take a deep breath and a step back to view the whole picture before we lose the heads and start wanting drastic changes at the club. Slav has brought in players to improve the side as well as to add some much-needed cover and I wholeheartedly believe that today was just a glimmer of what we can expect after the international break. We host league leaders Cardiff next in a match that will see us to gain points on last year’s tally if we turn our 2016/17 draw into a victory.