In truth, Fulham fans and players will hardly have travelled up to Anfield with much confidence. Aside from the Cottagers’ perennially poor away record, Martin Jol’s men have hardly been in sparkling form of late, with only two wins, both at home, coming from their last 12 Premier League outings.
However, the Cottagers have a good record against Liverpool in recent seasons and considering the way the Reds were swatted aside at home by a young Aston Villa side who with all due respect to them, contained lesser names than the side Fulham sent out at Anfield, Jol would have at least expected his team to go down with competitive spirit.
Instead, Fulham produced a disaster of a performance that saw them concede chance after chance to a Liverpool side that have not exactly been overly creative or clinical in front of goal so far this season, eventually succumbing to a 4-0 defeat. Indeed, so bad was the visitors’ performance that even Stewart Downing, who previously had failed to notch a Premier League assist or goal since moving to Anfield from Aston Villa in the summer of 2011, was able to run riot and lay on Steven Gerrard’s second goal before killing the game with the third himself.
The Downing jokes aside, the way that an out-of-form player desperately lacking in confidence was able to gain such joy against a defence that contained the experience of John Arne Riise and Brede Hangeland was worrying for all Fulham fans watching and continued a worrying recent trend of defensive ineptitude that shows no sign of abating as the festive fixtures come thick and fast.
In midfield, it appears that the fears Fulham supporters had when Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey were sold have finally come home to roost as there was simply no drive, power or creativity coming from the middle of the park. Giorgos Karagounis may have been a fine player once but now at the age of 35, watching him sadly flounder at Anfield seemed to confirm him as the stop-gap move his signing on a free transfer appeared to be at the time.
Certainly, central-midfield is a position that must be strengthened once the transfer window opens once again and while it will be difficult to simply pluck another Dembele from the mists, Jol will know better than anyone that to simply sit tight on his current midfield options leaves his squad on a hiding to nothing.
Finally, up front, the return of Bryan Ruiz simply cannot come quick enough. Dimitar Berbatov looks to finally be struggling somewhat, possibly due to fatigue and the lack of inspiration around him to feed off his brilliance while his partners in Ruiz’s absence, be they Mladen Petric or Hugo Rodallega, have failed to fire since making their summer moves to Craven Cottage. The hope is that with a defensive and midfield purchase, coupled with the return of Ruiz in the new year, Fulham’s season can just begin to turn around.
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