Fulham Focus – Cottagers fail to fire once more in Everton defeat

The statistics certainly do not make this a successful end to the season for Fulham. After securing their Premier League safety with a 3-2 win over QPR at the beginning of April, the Cottagers have only taken one more point from the five matches they have played since.

Indeed, those five games have only seen Martin Jol’s men find the net once and that was an own goal from Aston Villa’s Fabian Delph, meaning that all in all, a Fulham player has not been on target since Dimitar Berbatov’s 22nd minute strike against QPR. Take away the Bulgarian and it is not since a 2-2 draw at Sunderland on March 2 since a player other than the 32-year-old has been on target.

The weekend defeat at Everton certainly was not the worst performance in the world. After being hamstrung by the concession of an early goal only to then see talisman Berbatov limp off in the first-half, Fulham were arguably the better team in the second period. Indeed, had the likes of Urby Emanuelson been a bit sharper in front of goal, Jol’s men could have been travelling back to West London with what would have been a welcome point.

However, Steven Pineaar’s early strike proved to be the difference and added to the reverses against Arsenal and Chelsea in the last 10 days or so, Jol’s men have now lost three on the bounce.

Their recent poor run makes it all the more remarkable that they still remain in 11th position and just two points off the ninth-place finish they achieved last season. Indeed, considering how tough their recent fixtures have been, clashes against Reading, Liverpool and Swansea, the first two coming at Craven Cottage, should at least carry a little more hope for more points before the season is out.

However, the side’s recent striking woes have perhaps highlighted a new area of the squad for Jol to strengthen in the summer. Having previously spoken of his desire to improve his midfield and defence, one would have thought that a side containing the attacking talents of Berbatov, Bryan Ruiz, Hugo Rodallega and Mladen Petric would contain more than enough goals.

However, Berbatov aside, those set of strikers have all struggled this season with only 11 goals between the three of them, five of which scored by the veteran Croatian Petric. Berbatov’s form may have been enough to paper over the cracks at times this season but with the Bulgarian very much in the twilight of his career, added to the possibility that he may not even be at Craven Cottage next season, it looks clear that Jol must look to add more firepower to his squad next season if Fulham are to kick on.

Indeed, should goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer choose to depart the club at the end of his contract this summer, it would leave Jol searching for a whole new spine in the transfer window, an exciting but worrying thought for all Fulham supporters.

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