Fulham Focus – Tame Chelsea collapses shows Cottagers still need surgery

For all the credit that has come Fulham’s way after they reached 40 points in the Premier League following an impressive run of form, manager Martin Jol seemed to realise what was coming from the West London Derby with Chelsea when he remarked that the Cottagers ”remained in need of major surgery to their squad at the end of the season.”

So it proved as a Chelsea side that had only won once away from home in the Premier League since the turn of the year, losing three on the bounce coming into the clash at Craven Cottage, convincingly triumphed 3-0 over a tame Fulham side.

Jol’s side certainly started well and could have been a couple of goals up bar for some poor finishing from the likes of Dimitar Berbatov, Bryan Ruiz and John Arne Riise. For the Costa Rican, the match represented another frustrating outing.

Quite clearly full of maverick, creative talent, Ruiz has only scored three goals so far this season, adding to the two he netted in the prior campaing. For a player that cost the club £10.6m and who made his name in the Netherlands as a goal scorer in a successful FC Twente side, his Fulham record has simply been unacceptable.

However, what will probably disappoint Jol and the supporters more is the way the side lacked any sort of fight once David Luiz had fired the visitors into the lead. Some may point to Fulham’s safe league position, which rendered their ambitions for the match rather meaningless compared to Chelsea’s on-going fight for a place in the top four.

But that would simply paper over the cracks of a side that has long shown a tendency to produce such limp performances against the league’s bigger sides, particularly away from home.

Indeed, with another match against a Champions League-chasing side in Arsenal coming up at the Cottage on Saturday, Jol will be hoping for a more rousing performance for his troops. Certainly, a repeat of the display that saw Fulham almost take a famous victory at the Emirates earlier this season, only to be pegged back for a 3-3 draw, would be just the tonic.

Looking forward to next season, though, the Dutchman’s pre-match suggestions that strengthening his midfield would be the club’s main summer objective will come as no surprise to anyone who has watched Fulham this season.

Aside from the departure of the quite colossal Moussa Dembele, the Cottagers’ midfield can lack pace, drive and invention. The likes of Steve Sidwell, Chris Baird, Giorgos Karagounis and Emmanuel Frimpong have all done well in patches but for a club that has the likes of Berbatov and Ruiz up front, a more threatening midfield presence is really necessary if they are to begin seriously troubling sides like Chelsea on a more regular basis.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Fulham v Arsenal

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