Martin Jol must be tearing his hair out on every journey back to London following yet another away defeat. Just why is it that his side, which tears teams to shreds at home, are so feeble when on the road? Of course, this is not simply a problem Jol has encountered. Statistically, the Cottagers have one of the worst away records of non-relegated sides since they arrived in the Premier League in 2001.
Jol is an ambitious manager, and will not have taken the Fulham job to simply accept home victories, away defeats and mid-table finishes season after season. Indeed, his transfer business since he has arrived at Craven Cottage is proof of that. The likes of Bryan Ruiz, Dimitar Berbatov, Mladen Petric and John Arne Riise are not players who have signed in southwest London to only bother playing once every two weeks.
Indeed, after a Berbatov-inspired 3-0 victory over West Brom last Saturday ended Fulham’s slight wobble, Jol will feel that now is the perfect opportunity for his side to push on and challenge for Europe and beyond. The fixture list appears to offer the Cottagers the opportunity to do just that.
The next six games sees Jol’s men welcome Manchester City, Aston Villa and Everton to Craven Cottage, as well as away trips to Wigan, Southampton and Reading. At home, Fulham will back themselves to take points against anyone and thus, despite the undoubted challenges City and Everton will bring them, Jol will be hopeful of picking up at least seven points out of nine there.
However, it is away from home that Jol will particularly be eyeing up points. With the greatest of respect to Wigan and the newly promoted pair of Southampton and Reading, a team of Fulham’s attacking talent should realistically be looking for at least seven points from those three games, if not maximum points.
Indeed, Wigan were actually one of Fulham’s only victims on the road last season, while Southampton and Reading have only collected one point between them in their opening matches this season. Additionally, none of these teams will play in the ‘agricultural’ style West Ham and Andy Carroll used to such great effect against the Cottagers. All three will attempt to take Fulham on and as Jol’s men have shown at Craven Cottage, when teams do that they are capable of cutting them to pieces.
Jol will be aware that if he can somehow get Fulham’s away form right then his side even be in and around the top four in six weeks time. It is doubtful that Fulham would be able to keep that position up, but with the fixtures looking as they are, the 56-year-old Dutchman will be keen to ensure his team does not let this opportunity slip through their grasp.
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