Fulham - Off My Rocker?
I'm about to make a statement that is somewhat provocative and will baffle most of you.
In fact, I already know what the reaction of many will be.
Statement: If Fulham fail to take three points from the West Ham match on December 26, Mark Hughes should be fired and replaced with Sam Allardyce!
Reaction: Wait a second. Did you say replace Hughes with Allardyce? Sam Allardyce? The same Sam Allardyce that was just sacked by Blackburn? Teddy, have you lost your ******* mind! How could you say such a thing?
To begin, I don't blame Mark Hughes (completely) for our poor start to the season. He was brought in at the last minute and inherited a squad se-tup specifically to support Roy Hodgson's style of play.
He had no time to bring in new players that would better suit his style of football. He has been plagued with injuries, particularly the early season loss of Bobby Zamora, which has significantly hindered our squad development and productivity.
That being said, wins are what matter and I don't see any hint that our performances will improve. The squad doesn't look organized. There are a few players who are underperforming (Pantsil, Etuhu, Murphy), but it's hard to say why.
Are they simply not motivated or is the new 'freedom' under Hughes allowing them to lose focus? I can't answer that, but let's not forget that the existing squad is essentially the same group with whom Hodgson had so much success.
It's obvious the players are enjoying more freedom under Hughes, particularly in attack. However, the freedom to attack is not creating more goals and it's causing organizational chaos, which was so apparent in the Man City loss.
Players can't be allowed to roam freely around the pitch in constant attack mode with no regard for defensive and support responsibilities, and I do blame Hughes for that.
So, why West Ham on the 26th?
Simple - we are better than West Ham and should have no trouble defeating them at Craven Cottage! If you can't defeat the bottom of the table club on your own patch, then it's hard to convince me that things are going to get better.
Should Hughes be given a chance to improve the squad in January?
Sure, but if reports are true, we may have only £10m to spend in the transfer window. I believe Hughes needs very good attacking players to be effective and I don't think he'll get them. Zamora will likely return in February and that will be a boost, but it'll take a few weeks before he's at full fitness.
That's leaving it a little late, in my opinion; not impossibly late, but there would be precious little room for error. Why Allardyce? Why not Jol? I'd love to have Martin Jol as our manager, but if our poor form continues, we'll find ourselves in another relegation dogfight and under those circumstances I'd rather have Sam Allardyce.
Understand me - I don't want Hughes to fail, but we must be prepared if he does. Allardyce is a grinder. He is exceptional at taking under-performing, modestly talented, under-funded squads and making them impossible to beat at home. Tactics may differ, but the win-at-home philosophy was fundamental to Hodgson's success during his tenure.
If my math is correct, Allardyce's home record at Blackburn reads quite nicely - 19 wins, 13 draws, 6 defeats. I believe we have at least as much talent as Rovers, so it stands to reason that Big Sam could perform the same feat with us, and that is my logic in advocating Allardyce (should it be necessary).
Perhaps it won't be necessary. Perhaps we will come home from Anfield with a shock three points and follow that with another win over West Ham; climbing the table, fears put to rest, a glorious Christmas for the Fulham faithful and Mark Hughes our new hero.
I certainly hope so. I do not think Hughes is a poor manager and I do not like the business of firing manager`s mid-season, but more than anything, I don't want another relegation battle and failure versus West Ham would be a clear signal of difficult times ahead.
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