It’s been ten years since Fulham took all three points at White Hart Lane. The 3-0 victory on that balmy August afternoon in North London came courtesy of a brace from Barry Hayles and one from Luis Boa Morte, names that will surely resonate well with Fulham supporters. Considering Tottenham’s recent form of late, let alone Fulham’s ongoing poor away run, it appears unlikely that the Cottagers will be returning to West London with a win.
Indeed, Spurs have only lost twice at home in the Premier League all season, the last of which came against lowly Wigan in the first week of October. Fulham on the other hand have only won twice on the road all season long, though their last win coming a little sooner at West Brom on New Year’s Day.
Thus, all things considered, Martin Jol faces a tough task if he is to take anything away from his first return to White Hart Lane since his sacking as Tottenham manager in late 2007. While this may rank as a personal disappointment for himself, considering that the Dutchman is used to his teams challenging for at least Champions League qualification, he at least can be consoled by the fact that Fulham’s recent upsurge in form has almost guaranteed them survival whatever the result at Tottenham.
However, Jol will be wary that defeats against QPR, Newcastle and Aston Villa in the following three fixtures, with clashes against Arsenal and away at Everton to come, his team cannot afford to be too complacent. A poor run in those fixtures will almost certainly drag the Cottagers back into a relegation battle they have done extremely well to battle away from in recent weeks.
Key to that run has been the improved form of not only Dimitar Berbatov but Brede Hangeland in defence. Too often this season the Norwegian has been below-par and the question on Fulham supporters’ lips has been whether this is simply due to the declining powers of the club captain, who is now 31, or whether the ongoing contract saga has had an adverse effect on the player’s performances.
Jol certainly seems confident that his defensive mainstay will remain at Craven Cottage and extend his contract before the end of the season, though he would be wise to perhaps begin scouting a younger, long-term replacement.
Elsewhere, the Fulham boss has also been keen in recent weeks to stress his desire to complete the signing of on-loan Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong on a permanent deal. The Ghanaian is available on a free transfer at the end of the season and although he has not featured all too frequently for the Cottagers since arriving in January, his increased introduction into the first team has coincided with improved results. The youngster may lack the quality of Giorgios Karagounis in the middle of the park, but what he does offer is bite, drive and and above all speed to a Fulham midfield that can often be lacking in all three.
All of these qualities will be required in the engine room should the Cottagers stand a chance of claiming a first victory at White Hart Lane in a decade.
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