So, what are our must win games?
This article should be read in conjunction with Putney's 'Where will the points come from'. If indeed we are to stay up, then what are the must win games? Where must we at least pick up a point and where (if anywhere) could we just about accept a loss?
For what it's worth, here's my two pence worth (that`s two cents worth for any American readers). Although the usual bar for staying up is set at 40 points, I seriously doubt whether that is going to be the case this season. Let's be honest, for all Andy Gray's assertions that the Premier League is the best in the world, perhaps he is confusing 'most watched / highest transfer fees', with 'the best'.
The bottom half of the division is chock full of some really awful, awful teams including at least Bolton, Birmingham, Wigan, Sunderland, Boro, Us and the Rams. Let's face it, if we weren't already in the Premiership then it seems highly doubtful that anyone would pick us (or any of those clubs) out from the other also-rans in the Championship as a team to watch.
Anyway, with this in mind, I truly think that a more realistic stay up points total is around 35, if not slightly lower. What this means is that Fulham need gain only 17 - 20 points from our remaining fixtures to have a damn good chance of staying up. Also, we have a number of games against those other teams near the bottom which means not only do we have a good chance to grab some wins but we also have a great chance of denying those very same points to our relegation rivals.
Therefore, I believe we must (MUST!) win against Sunderland at home on April 5 and against Birmingham on May 3. That's six points in the bag. Then we almost certainly need to win against West Ham at home on February 23 and away to Derby (away!) on March 29. That's another six points, bringing our total to 27.
Finally, I think we must at least draw against Bolton away on January 29, against Villa at home on February 3, against Boro away on February 9 and against Reading away on April 12. That gives us another 4 points, bringing the total to 31.
Throw in two or even three more unexpected draws (pick from the games against Man City, Portsmouth and Newcastle away or Everton home) and we have at least 33 / 34 points. This allows us to lose to Man Utd (home), Blackburn (away), Everton (home) and Liverpool (home) without worrying too much.
Looking at the other sides` fixtures, I reckon we could just do it. Take Sunderland for example - they have fixtures against Birmingham, Wigan, Derby, Boro and Bolton (all teams near the bottom), so someone's gonna drop some points. Throw in some near unwinnable games against Liverpool, Everton, Chelsea, Villa (away) and Arsenal and the Black Cats have arguably a much tougher run in than we do.
Considering that we now have a better manager and are bringing in some decent players, we must surely gain more points in the second half of the season than we did in the first and, with a bit of luck and a fair wind, I think we'll just scrape through.
Or, as Atomic Kitten might say, am I only dreaming?