Fulham - Three Months In!
So here we are. Three months into the season and we sit in 16th place in what is turning out to be a wildly unpredictable but close fought Premier League.
Obviously, no one connected to the club would be pleased to see the team lie just two places and one point of the drop zone but there is no need to panic yet.
Looking at all the reasons why the team haven't hit their stride yet and seem to be struggling is down to injuries. Losing Zamora has turned out to be even more of a blow than first thought. Not only have his goals been sorely missed, but his link up play and ability to lead the line has been lost. In further addition to this, Moussa Dembele seems a little lost at times playing up front without Zamora, which looked a very promising partnership. Other injuries have also hurt the team, such as losing Etuhu recently for a few games and now we have Salcido out for a lengthy period.
Mark Hughes has also yet to be able to find a regular, solid starting XI. One of the features of Hodgson's Fulham was a regular starting XI where consistency led to impressive results and a rock solid defence. It has seemed rare for Hughes to have the luxury of naming a consistent XI but he also seems unsure of what is his best side. Zoltan Gera seems to start one week and be a substitute the next, whilst three players have so far filled the right back slot.
Hughes is also trying to put his own stamp on the team and its style of play. Obviously this takes time to become cohesive and efficiently function. He seems keen to make the side slightly more offensive with subtle changes in Etuhu's play and encouraging the team to hit balls to the attack at a quicker pace. It seems no surprise that the team has conceded a few more goals than the previous two seasons as there seems to be less ethos on a rigid team shape and due to the previously mentioned lack of a consistent XI.
The worrying trend seems to be that this season is mirroring the beginning of Lawrie Sanchez's reign. Two things seem to be indicative of this. Firstly, Sanchez suffered the loss of his best striker in Brian McBride to a lengthy injury and the numerous amounts of draws being earned as opposed to wins masked over initial problems as they initially were enough to keep the team just above the drop. However, that was the Fulham of four years ago. Fulham currently have experienced, strong and talented players capable of putting together a series of good results to see our league position considerably improve. Whereas Sanchez lost McBride and turned to Shefki Kuqi, we instead can take solace in the return from injury of Andy Johnson and Diomansy Kamara. Whereas Sanchez imposed a strict long ball tactic, Hughes does seem to be mixing up the play.
There are plenty of reasons not to panic though. We have one of the best central defensive pairings in the league, Mark Schwarzer appears to be returning to top form, Hughes' tactics should be starting to get across and our upcoming home fixtures look like there is a possibility that Craven Cottage can return to being a fortress starting with a match that Hughes will need no motivation for. Oh, and we've surely got to win away from home at some point...
Vital Fulham on:
Vital Fulham on: