There comes a point in time where the football stops being enjoyable. When every match is accompanied by a sharp pang of disbelief when Fulham concede early. When you hope against hope for the referee to blow the final whistle half an hour early because the game’s already gone. When the post-match Twitter discourse is so toxic you can’t help but doom-scroll endlessly.
In typical fashion, it only took three weeks for Fulham to hit this low point. When the director of football took the unprecedented step of apologising to fans following the 3-0 home defeat to Aston Villa, it was just a tad too late. A feeling of dread had already enveloped the Cottagers fanbase.
The brutal loss was all too predictable. For months, I and others have beaten the drum consistently, warning that a failure to bring in central defensive reinforcements would doom us in the top flight. Tony Khan appears to understand this too. He offered up a variety of explanations for why we haven’t yet secured a centre back, spanning from Covid complications to an unspecified “issue.”
At the very least, Khan has publicly acknowledged he and the squad haven’t performed. That’s a start. But spare me the public mea culpas. We need action. Action that should’ve happened more than a month ago. Let’s buy some players and at least give Parker a fighting chance to stay in this division. Barring that, Fulham fans are in for an extended relegation party.
Any reasonable person can see that we would have a far easier time buying players if we had a director of football who wasn’t also an NFL executive and a wrestling start-up leader.
But in our less than ideal situation, we faced Premier League opposition on Monday evening with a three centre-half system featuring Tim Ream, Michael Hector, and Denis Odoi. Scott Parker thought that maybe playing three Championship centre-backs might help shore up our leaky defence. The gamble, always laughable, backfired.
Instead, the so-called ‘defenders’ again forgot basic fundamentals of defending. To make matters worse, the paper-thin midfield pairing of Tom Cairney and Frank Anguissa decided to not track runners into the box and ended up being outworked and overwhelmed by Villa.
The simple verdict is that the team is no good. As I’ve said all along, we have very few Premier League-quality players in our squad. It really is no surprise that we’ve played three, lost three, and conceded 10.
What is perhaps surprising is that the feeling of anger and depression has united the normally fractious Fulham Twitterverse. The first week, some deluded minds rationalised that we were always set to lose to a dangerous Arsenal side, so there was no need to panic.
The second week, some wishful thinkers claimed we were fine because Leeds would be a top-10 side and our second-half comeback boded well for the season.
This time around, at least there can be no sugar-coating the severity of our predicament. Fulham made a team that barely survived the drop last year look like world beaters. There can be no searching for positives after this.
“We need to work out whether we want to compete this year,” Parker said after the match “Otherwise it will be a tough year.”
Tough could be the understatement of the decade.