When Fulham were promoted, it was with a reputation of swagger and of good football (proper football). They scored (and conceded) a lot of goals, were always entertaining and one of the best footballing sides to grace the second division of English football in a long time. There was a narrative that you can’t ‘play’ in the lower leagues; that it has to be rough and tumble and that group of players proved them wrong.
With today’s loss at Burnley, Fulham have won nine points from an available thirty and been knocked out of the FA Cup at the first time of asking in an embarrassing loss at home to Oldham Athletic. A squad that was built (rather poorly) with Slavisa Jokanovic’s footballing style in mind became pointless once Tony Khan made the decision to sack and replace with the antithesis in terms of coaching philosophy in Claudio Ranieri.
Ranieri’s Fulham has scored more than one goal just once in his first eleven matches (including League Two opposition) and have two clean sheets, that’s a bad recipe for success and it’s failure at both ends of the football pitch.
Despite having the likes of Tom Cairney, spending £30m on midfield conductor Jean Michel Seri and £20m on Alfie Mawson (who in 2017/18) was in the top 11 of centre backs for completed short passes (and also the top Englishman), possession based football was dead the moment the Ranieri appointment was made. We now have signings whose strong characteristics are to be wasted, Seri for example is a passer to the standard of Barcelona sniffing around for him a year previously is now put in a Ngolo Kante role of breaking up play. Fulham have been lucky to find that Calum Chambers, a ball playing central defender who put in some underwhelming performances at the back can be a productive defensive midfielder.
While Fulham have a pair of really good Championship full backs, it’s appeared early on that they may be just that. Though both Joe Bryan and Cyrus Christie are more suited to offensive responsibilities from the full back/wing back position than the team round defensive focus attempting to be instilled by Claudio Ranieri. We wasted a Premier League loan slot on Timothy Fosu-Mensah as he’s set to return to Manchester United and Tony Khan added no speed or athleticism in the final third for a Premier League that is notorious for the speed and power of the league.
A rant about the way the squad was assembled would need a post on its own, from the timing and urgency of players coming in, to the lack of investment in certain areas and considering the characteristics of top level Premier League football. The Khan’s were desperate for safety, and sadly it’s showing in the worst way. Another manager with circular glasses is tasked with taking a unbalanced squad currently unfit (in another way) for his style is facing relegation in the eyes and like a sad man desperate to get laid of Friday night, wrong decisions have been made and the club has the feeling of insecurity of a Saturday morning walk of shame.
Whether you liked Slavisa or not, whether you enjoyed possession based football or not, whether you hated seeing us concede goals with such ease in the Premier League or not, Fulham at least had an identity. This club was going to try and play football and every player knew their role; the youngsters that come through at Fulham are largely talented with the ball at their feet and that’s stressed upon. This is all at risk with the decisions being made and the sooner Fulham return to a plan, identity and quality in recruitment, the better. I don’t really care if that’s in the Premier League or not.
Sums up my feelings 100%
I’m not able to get to many matches personally, partly because I now live in North Wales, but did get to Burnley yesterday. I applauded (regretfully) the replacement of Jokanovic, but have always considered Ranieri as a rather pedestrian ‘route one only’ coach, successful by exception only, and as you say, not with these players, many of whom now appear demoralised and frankly indifferent. The article above summarises my own feelings exactly; I hate to say it, but relegation is for me, a certainty, and much more care needs to be taken in selecting Ranieri’s replacement. Not the philosophy on which he was so clearly appointed, which hinged purely on the fact that he was available, not on whether he was good enough or a good match. In my view we need a much younger man, (and I say that as someone who is slightly older than Ranieri) and a considered 5 year rolling plan based on a philosophy, rather than a series of knee-jerk reactions.
Excellent 100% correct
Too much emphasis on statistics by far.
Should be left to the manager to choose who he would like to bring to the club.Not the chairman’s son who probably knows very little about the game.
Another frustration is the amount of time Fulham take to get a transfer over the line is a farce.At this rate we will already have one foot in the championship.
Let’s just get relagated, regroup, get rid of the deadwood and swallow the financial loss. Get in players for next season NOW get rid of Ranieri NOW he is totally clueless, reinstate Slav and let’s go
hindsight is a wonderful thing. We all thought the transfers where of good quality and Slavisa would be spoilt for choice. Sadly it didn’t work out Slavisa seemed to have lost the players and the Khans acted before the boo boys killed the team completely. I still feel sorry for the Khans they have backed Fulham and stuck it out learning as they go. Some of their advisors haven’t proved to be worth their consultancy fees. Any thoughts regarding Stuart Gray over Scott Parker doesn’t seem to be a great idea now. I enjoy your well reasoned articles and as you say the Championship is great but only with a good manager. I live in dread that Scott Parker is being groomed for the role. Model professional doesn’t equate to managerial skills.
I agree entirely. I follow Fulham from Tasmania and I have been trying to identify what I have been feeling over the last few months and you have hit the nail on the head. The Fulham we are seeing at the moment under Ranieri is a patchwork quilt and the this data based recruitment is a load of crap. We have some wonderful youngsters who are being coached in the arts of attractive football which should be the mission statement for the club. We go down and we will lose the likes of Mitrovic, Sessegnon, Cairney etc. and the rebuilding phase will take a good number of years.
I strongly feel in Tony Khan the club simply has the wrong guy in his role as Director of Football. What on earth does a 36 year old American know about the Premier League? As much as I do about Jacksonville Jaguars I suspect.
Can you imagine Alex Fergusson being told by a 36 year old American which players he could buy? I don’t think so! It is alright spending 100 million on new players but if they are not of the right quality then it is a waste of money as is the case at the Cottage today.
Khan should let the manager manage and that includes being in control of the transfer budget. My own view is to the effect is Khan should concentrate on the Jacksonville Jaguars and his wrestling initiative and leave football matters alone.
I first went to Craven Cottage in 1949 with my grandad and my dad as we lived a mile from the ground. What I see today at the Cottage is a complete shambles. I wish Mohammed Al Fayed would return!
It’s taken us years to get back in premiership now we are going back down should have kept Slav nothing has changed at least we watched decent football last season very poor now – dreading the Tottenham game