For the last few weeks, when any football pundit or journalist has mentioned Fulham it has usually involved the following terms: Dimitar Berbatov, good football, attacking, unlucky. Perhaps the 3-0 defeat at home to Tottenham will spell out a few home truths for the Cottagers.
Martin Jol’s men have now gone seven league games without a victory. Yes, that run of seven may have included games against Everton, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham, and so to secure draws against the first three must be applauded. However, on closer inspection, it has to be said that run of seven games has seen the Cottagers flatter to deceive on more than one occasion.
Three points against Reading were thrown away by giving away a last minute equaliser, a draw against Everton was only undeservedly secured with the last kick of the match, while Arsenal missed a last-minute penalty that would have given the Gunners a victory despite Fulham leading 3-2 with only a quarter of the game to play.
However, before the clash with Spurs there still remained the feeling that everything was ticking along quite nicely for Jol’s men, particularly with Berbatov pulling the strings up front. The subsequent defeat and particularly the nature of it – a crushing 3-0 scoreline – leaves the Cottagers a disappointing 12th in the table.
While Fulham are hardly likely to enter into relegation trouble, though they will be wary not to let their current five point lead over 18th placed Southampton shrink any further, their current position is hardly one that Martin Jol would have been envisaging for his side after a relatively promising start to the season, aided by the capture of Berbatov from Manchester United.
So what’s gone wrong? Injuries have not helped the Dutchman. To be without the services of Mahamadou Diarra, Kieran Richardson, Mladen Petric and particularly Bryan Ruiz hits a squad the size of Fulham’s harder than most other clubs. Additionally, the suspension that has sidelined Brede Hangeland for the last three matches has been a huge blow. While the Norwegian may not have been completely at his best this season, the Cottagers’ backline lacked leadership at Stoke and particularly against Tottenham.
Perhaps in light of his side’s defensive troubles this season, Martin Jol would be wise to just consider a change in strategy. Yes, everyone may laud his attacking philosophy but in the Premier League, even with the likes of Berbatov and Ruiz up front, defensive shape and solidity will always be just as important as attacking flair.
What will give Jol hope is that as his side prepares to enter into the hectic festive area, the Cottagers will be confident of picking up points in at least four of their next five league clashes. Home matches against Newcastle, Southampton and Swansea will certainly hold no fear while even away clashes at struggling QPR and Liverpool, where Fulham have a good record of late, will not have fans travelling in trepidation.
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