Looking for a narrative

One facet of this season I’ve found to be a bit peculiar is the seeming lack of narrative. Usually by this point in the season the pieces of the puzzle are coming together.

For me, last year was all about Europe. The year before, we watched and wondered about what Roy could do with his first full season at the helm. Three years ago it was about how Sanchez’s reign would fare, and then how can we rectify all the mistakes. 2006-07 seemed fairly anonymous until around when Cookie got sacked. (I wasn’t a fan in 2005-06, so what was your legacy?)

On the surface, this year it seems its been a rebuilding year in everything but label. Roy left, but soon into our season so too (to the IR at least) did our talismanic striker Bobby Zamora . We’re in the relegation scrap, but so is a third of the league. A cup run seems on the table, but a tricky 4th Round draw to Spurs is keeping my optimism down.

Looking at the stats though, one big legacy is our drop in home form, while our away form has conversely improved. See below:

Now, things can obviously go pear-shaped. We still have trips to Anfield, St. Andrews, Old Trafford, and Goodison on the cards. But as things currently stand we’re getting more out of our away games than last year and 2006-07; and only marginally worse than the Great Escape. We’re also practically tied for our best defensive away year yet. It’s a smaller sample size, but we’re scoring more and conceding less under Hughes than Hodgson while away from SW6.

On the flip side, despite the fact we’re not getting much at home, not scoring a lot, and conceding a bit more (most since Sanchez — how much of that comes from the City and Boxing Day nightmares?) we still have matches against Newcastle, Blackpool, Blackburn, and Stoke to hopefully boost those percentages (or ratio? or whatever? I’m bad at math). Oh, and we’ve been without an actual or fit striker for a bit.

[After all, AJ’s goal on Saturday was his first since August 20 2009, in that Europa League qualifier against Perm. You know, the same match where he got cross-checked and subsequently started his long spell on the IR, and hasn’t really been the same since.]

Lastly, the overall scoring rate is about the same it’s always been, and our overall defensive rate is pretty good — buoyed by our away form.

So maybe that’s the narrative?

15 thoughts on “Looking for a narrative

  1. The trouble with calling it a rebuilding year is that very little has changed in the way of personnel and it takes a sharper eye than mine to notice a world of difference in the way we’re setting about games either. A bit more positive away from home and…..what else exactly? It’s more a case of going once more around the block, less rapidly, in the same vehicle.

  2. It’s more like a year of stasis.

    Hopefully we’ll survive and that Hughes and his team are feverishly preparing plans for the future and we’ll hit the ground running next season.

    I can, though, equally imagine that having kept us up Hughes will quietly resign in the summer saying thanks but its not really for me leading to Hodgson’s reappointment and this season having almost never happened.

    1. Do you think so?

      If Hughes’ plan is to use FFC as a stepping stone (which I’m fairly sure is his plan) I can’t see where leaving us in 13th-17th would get him. Doesn’t it make more sense to leave us, say, at the end of next season when a top ten finish might be achievable (and look better on his CV than “did pretty well with Wales/Blackburn, but has since done a mediocre job at City and a fairly poor one at Fulham”)?

      Do wonder about Hodgson. Could see him taking on another national job – he’s already had 3, and a small nation FA are less likely to care about his Liverpool record.

      1. I wasn’t being entirely serious but there is a feeling amongst fans that somehow Hughes doesn’t quite belong. Perhaps he feels that as well.

        b+w geezer is right that nothing much seems to have really changed with Hughes. Hodgson seemed to fit Fulham so well that his leaving and turning up with a different personality at Liverpool was weird in the extreme.

        If MAF would have him back who knows.

        1. Yes, agree entirely with b+w geezer.

          It’s taken me this long to realise, but if teams come in ‘eras’ (a wee bit grandiose a term, you know what I mean) then this ‘era’ is well beyond it’s peak. You can see why we not doing the rebuilding now (the JTW is expensive) and we didn’t have any time in summer cos of Roy leaving, but after the season ends assuming we stay up, a little bit of money does need to be spent, ideally on younger players so we have a longer ‘peak’ to look forward to.

  3. For me the narrative is Mark Hughes, the interesting angle being that he may have fancied himself ‘above’ Fulham, and if so, he might have been expected to do quite well with us.

    So this year was going to be “Fulham gets new big name manager” and (I thought) some more “famous players”. (Having seen Wayne Bridge’s nightmare on Saturday I’m quite relieved that we haven’t yet brought in any “famous players” living on contracts they earned a long time ago.)

    So get at b+w_geezer’s point, I think there’s a bit of a shift in our play. At home we’re much less predictable, which unfortunately has equated to “much more aimless”.

    Under Hodgson we could have frozen a game at any moment and more often than not guessed where the ball was going next. But it worked, and we were impressive at grinding out home win after home win. Now we seem to be attempting the same thing a different way, but to my mind we haven’t quite got the players to carry off Hughes’ approach. So our main players (now Murphy, Dempsey, Hughes and Hangeland) have all looked good but our fringe players have struggled a bit. I put this down to Hodgson’s ability to level the playing field, to make life easy for average players (I got slaughtered for this on TiFF, but I do believe that more often than not our players under Hodgson had been instructed who to pass to, when).

    What we mustn’t overlook is that the pool of teams that might get accidentally dragged down is very large, and that means that safety probably won’t be assured until really late in the season. It will keep us on our toes, probably keep us from enjoying things too much, but should ultimately make for quite an interesting season. I still think we might go down.

    1. What makes this season unique is that no team has yet got detached or currently looks like doing so. It could easily have been us after West Ham but we’ve got 7 points from 3 games yet haven’t really improved our position.

      It doesn’t alter the fact that probably 38 points will be enough and certainly no more than 40. Grinding out away draws may prove more useful than we appreciate.

      1. we’ll have to work out the chances of everyone ending around that point though. Then it becomes a bit of a lottery. Adn we’ve a tough run in, too.

        1. Simple arithmetical extrapolation. With nearly half the season to go most run ins will be similar and in truth probably only 5 teams are better than the others and they all drop points unexpectedly.

  4. The next two home games will go a long way to defining our season. Two wins should see us heading the right way toward safety and a cup run….two defeats will make for a grim remainder of the season. Ask the question again in February!

    It does feel that it must be reasonably difficult for the manager to improve the squad signing better players within our budget constraints in this transfer window, so Hughes will seemingly be content to work with what he has. One would assume that in summer, Hughes would look to make some more ‘gamble’ signings – be they foreign players such as he did with Dembele at Fulham; Samba, Nelsen, Santa Cruz at Blackburn; or some talented youngsters not quite making the grade elsewhere, such as Bentley at Blackburn etc.

    So I’m sure Hughes still see’s it as early days with Fulham, in that he has better players than he inherited at Blackburn, but would expect seasons 2 & 3 as the ones where he really stamps more authority on the side. Am looking forward to what he does.

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