October is normally my favourite month. Trees are starting to get that beautiful orange and red tinge, I get to celebrate my birthday and, when I was working as a teacher at least, I had the half term holidays to look forward to. What’s not to like? This year, however, Fulham have managed to make October pretty miserable. Out of the 12 points available we only gained 2, which is made even worse when you think about how we had three of those games at home. Of the points that we did win, we had to scrap a last-minute goal. OK, we could point to the last-minute goals and decide that it shows real character, but when we are going behind so often in games, especially at home, we have to acknowledge that there is a problem. Last night’s performance was one of the worst since Slavisa Jokanovic took over. The defending was disastrous, when we did have the ball we moved it far too slowly and everything looked very disjointed. Then an off-the-ball incident led to a straight red card and gone were any realistic chances we had of getting back into the game after 63minutes. I can’t comment on Aboubakar Kamara’s sending off as I am yet to see any footage of it but it just seemed to sum up our evening. Not easy viewing at all. Even with a change in formation to three at the back and two wing backs we struggled defensively and we once again went into the break on the wrong side of a 2-0 scoreline. In the end, we fully deserved the defeat.
I still believe that we aren’t miles away from a good side. The stats tell us that the team are still on top when it comes to passing rates, chance creation and possession. Yes, the only statistic that matters is the goals scored, but it’s important to acknowledge that the team that passed teams to death last year is still there, it’s just maybe struggling to make it all work at the minute. We made 429/525 passes last night which gives us an 82% accuracy rate. It’s actually interesting to note that the only team who had more successful passes than us last night was Norwich (430/502, 86% success) and they were on the back of a 2-0 home defeat to table topping Wolves. Similarly to Norwich, we are perhaps trying to be too nice on the eye at the minute, when really we need to just not over do it, and get the ball forward as much as possible. I DO NOT mean long ball football, I mean pass forward when we have the chance and not muck about with it too much, which is something that we have been doing resulting in causing problems for ourselves when we invite pressure.
We also had a very high number of shots, although just 2 of the 21 were on target. This proves that it’s a lack of cutting edge in the side that is making us struggle. Generally speaking, what to forward players need to have a cutting edge? Answer- confidence. Our slow start, alongside a number of injury problems, has led to many of our players losing the confidence that they had last year which, in turn, has badly affected our boys when it comes to having a sight of goal. Players are panicking, instead of keeping the head down which is why we aren’t getting as many efforts on target. This is something that the Craven Cottage faithful can help with by continuing to support the boys as much as possible, especially in the coming weeks when we try and get ourselves out of this rut that we are currently in. We are making chances which is positive, we just aren’t taking them right now.
The pressure is well on truly on at the minute at Fulham and some are beginning to call for a change in management. Last night I was beginning to agree but, upon reflection, I think that it would be unwise to change things at the top right now. As I have already mentioned, Fulham are still better passers of the ball and are creating more chances than many of our opponents so a lot of the things that we are doing are can help to send us in the right direction. This was the Fulham that Jokanovic created last year. It will click, but we are going to have to be patient, even when that is the hardest thing to be right now. Friday night sees us head to the home of the league leaders in a game that many will now be dreading, but to be honest I think that it is the exact challenge that we need right now. The pressure of playing in front of the TV cameras against very good opposition could potentially give us a real lift. Get something from that, and the confidence is back. But the important thing for now is for the players to put in a performance that they can be proud of, which is something that didn’t happen once in October.