Fulham Focus - Jol extends deal as Cottagers aim for top-half finish
Prior to the trip to White Hart Lane on Sunday, there were fears that despite Fulham’s improvement in recent weeks, a defeat to Tottenham could lead to struggles in following fixtures against sides around them in QPR, Newcastle and Aston Villa. These were failures that despite the Cottagers’ good run could drag them right back into the relegation mire.
However, Dimitar Berbatov’s winner against his former club coupled with a superb away performance now has Martin Jol’s men back in the top half of the table and firmly eyeing up ninth-placed Swansea, only four points ahead at present and in poor form following their Capital One Cup success.
In addition, Fulham supporters can relax as it appears that Jol has chosen to extend his stay at Craven Cottage, after reports earlier in the season that the Dutchman had become dissatisfied in life with West London and could depart for the Bundesliga at the end of the season.
However, after the deserved victory at Tottenham that should have been greater than the one-goal margin given to them by their talismanic Bulgarian, Jol will now be targeting a second consecutive top-half finish. Certainly, the clash with Harry Redknapp’s Hoops following the international break will be being eyed up by Jol as a certain three points, while the trip to Newcastle six days later will come shortly after the Magpies’ Europa League clash with Benfica.
No one is getting carried away but after all the troubles of this season, from the beginning which saw the heart of the Fulham team ripped out following the departures of Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembele, to the perennially poor away form, to the suggestions that Berbatov’s influence on the side was a negative rather than positive one when the Bulgarian was not at his best, a top-half finish would represent an outstanding achievement for Jol’s men.
It seems remarkable that a side that until recent had only take three wins in 18 league games could be sitting in the top half of the division nine games to play. However, the old adage is you can only beat what is put in front of you and for Jol to succeed in a second consecutive top-half finish for himself and a fourth in five seasons for the club overall, then the Dutchman should only be afforded the highest of praise.
However, one thing this Fulham side have been all season is unpredictable, capable of shocking Tottenham and outplaying Arsenal at the Emirates but then losing dismally at home to Swansea and Sunderland.
The home clash with QPR represents exactly the kind of game the Cottagers have been prone to losing this season. Indeed, it was Fulham that gifted Redknapp’s win their first win in the league this season back in November. Whether they can comfortably secure all three points next Monday night will tell us much about how Jol’s side intend to end their season.