Hughes, Jol, etc

“Danny Murphy is a fantastic player and he was great for me last year but he is not getting any younger and his influence on the team is huge.

“He knows and everyone knows that at some time in the near future he will have to be replaced and to replace his input, that will have to be a quality player.

“That costs money and they haven’t got that. If you haven’t got that within the building, you are going to have to spend money.

“My worry was that maybe the team would go off the side of a cliff, which wasn’t something I wanted to be involved in.”

So says Mark Hughes.

Also:

“I felt Fulham were probably a little bit too honest with me. In conversations, they were saying, ‘We know exactly what you’re about Mark, but, really, we are just quite happy to stay in the Premier League.’

And:

“There were players that I wanted to sign for the club and those negotiations weren’t going well. I had given them a couple of names and I saw a slowing down of the process.

“They were saying, ‘We will do it’ and ‘We’re speaking’ and I read that as the fact that maybe they didn’t want to do these deals.

“I read that as maybe they didn’t want to take the club and keep them in the top half of the Premier League – which was my ambition.”

This actually confirms what has been suspected (and indeed suggested by a couple of people): that Martin Jol’s job is to keep Fulham in the division while getting younger and saving money.

The scope of the task can be seen by looking at the squad we have now:

Past peak (we know what the player was, we know what he is, and there’s a difference)
Schwarzer
Riise
Hughes
Grygera
Murphy
Duff
Davies
Johnson

At peak (what we’re seeing now is the best the player is going to be)
Kelly
Hangeland
Baird
Senderos
Sidwell
Etuhu
Dempsey
Zamora

Not yet peaked (we don’t yet know what the player might become)
Briggs
Gecov
Fri
Kasami
Sa
Ruiz
Dembele

There is a growing realisation in the game that you have to bring through your players if you’re to get value, if you’re to keep costs down.  I don’t know what Matthew Briggs earns but you can bet your life it’s less than John-Arne Riise, and the performance gap isn’t huge; a club that can bring more Briggs’ through rather than paying for more Riise’s will be in a better position than one that must consistently pay big transfer fees, signing bonuses and wages.

The other element, one which Fulham have been awful at for a while now, is resale value.  The marketable players are in the bottom two groups, but these are the players we want to keep hold of.   If the club wants to raise any money from transfer sales, there isn’t a great deal of time left to do so.  In fact you could argue that there is no time left: the only players who might command a half-decent fee after this season are in the bottom group (with Dempsey and Zamora thrown in, although the former’s contract doesn’t have forever to run, and Zamora’s form means his value will never be higher.  If the club can get money for Johnson they probably should).

Further to this, beyond the need to balance the books and bring in money while it’s still possible, is Jol’s own preference for a different type of player.  I sense that he’s frustrated with his options and longs for a team that can play a different way.  It has been noted that the team is one of the few that doesn’t operate an aggressive pressing defence, and while I don’t know what other teams do, it’s true that we tend to sit back in our positions and let teams play in front of us.  This can lead to us being pushed back, but without pace to transition, can lead to frustrating matches as we attempt to putt-putt our way up the field and through an already massed defence.  I suspect Jol would much prefer to play further up the pitch but our midfield isn’t built for pressing all game (Sidwell could do it, but not sure about the others) and the back line isn’t quick enough to play higher up the pitch anyway (pressing is almost always accompanied by a high defensive line).    So we’re stuck in this neither fish nor fowl situation where the team is trying to attack from deepish positions but lacks the pace to do this really effectively.

Ambition? Well we’d all love to ‘kick on’ and it perhaps seems as if this is within grasp, but there’s real pressure to sort things out financially and now is not the time for a death or glory spending spree.  Hughes was right to suggest that Murphy is important and needs replacing with quality, but I suspect Jol’s realised that another Murphy isn’t within reach and therefore will strengthen in other ways.  He wants a genuinely creative player, he wants pace; whether he gets them might depend on what he can raise in sales, which could lead to even more raised eyebrows amongst fans as relatively established players are moved on.

Or not, we’ll have to see how things shake out, but this is a team in transition and it could make for an uncomfortable season. The rewards of getting this right could be exciting though.

10 thoughts on “Hughes, Jol, etc

  1. Couldn’t agree more with everything you’ve said. Problem is I’m not sure I can see Fulham playing Jol’s way…

    I thought Mark Hughes’ more attacking 4-4-2 was a decent compromise between Hodgson’s more defensive, counter attack system and the fluid 4-2-3-1 systems the bigger clubs employ and seemed to come together nicely for us in the second half of the season.

    But as you’ve discussed the 4-4-2 we played last season and the 4-4-2 people like Zamora & Johnson want to play this season relies greatly on players like Danny Murphy which we won’t always have the luxury of.

    Trouble is I can’t see us affording enough quality in attack to make a 4-2-3-1 work either…pacey, attacking full backs aren’t cheap nowadays (we’re very lucky to have Briggs and hope we don’t lose him in the future) and we have 3 more defensively minded right backs. The attacking front 3 is expensive to put together too – look how much Ruiz cost – 10m. We’ll need probs the same 10m to replace Zamora when he goes and another 10 to replace Dempsey. In the future I see our front 3 being Dembele, Ruiz and then whoever replaces Zamora.

    Will be interesting to see what happens in January – whether Jol puts his foot down, gets some cash for Zamora, Johnson and really pushes forward with his system or whether he carries on with the 4-4-2 gets the last bit of juice out of Murphy and co and changes things up in the summer.

  2. I wouldn’t worry too much. We are a rebuilding project, definitely, but I think we have the quality in the squad to pull through a tough transition period.

    We may not have the exact squad to play ‘Jol’s way’ but I would refute the idea that we cannot rebuild the squad on a budget. Other than the top 6, no team can afford to spend big to rebuild, and since other teams have been successful, there is no reason that we cannot follow suit.

    This season may be a bit of a write off in the league, but I get the impression that Jol is too much of a pragmatist to see us relegated. He has already fiddled about with the squad, rather than sat by and demand we play a certain way. There are some ‘creative differences’ supposedly within the camp, but at least there is dialogue.

    I get the feeling that the key players this season will be Dembele and Ruiz as they have the ability to hold the ball higher up the pitch, due to their wonderful footwork. This should help to alleviate pressure from Murphy and potentially help Fulham learn how to play without him.

  3. just a quick question – do you guys feel Dembele needs to be a goal scorer or are you happy with him as a more of a assister/creative type player? I think it was mentioned on Channel 5’s coverage in one of our Europa games that he doesn’t seem too keen to get inside the box during attacks. Do you think thats due to specific instruction from Jol or lack of confidence?

    1. It probably isn’t his confidence so much as what he’s been asked to do. There was an interview in which he said FFC shouldn’t look to him for goals (this was before Ruiz got signed). Who knows what he meant by that, because.what forward playing footballer doesn’t want goals? I took this to mean he probably understands his role as the creative hold-up and distribution guy in the attacking half.

      I have the feeling however Dembele could find the net more often if we had more overall pace and fluid play: his skill on the ball would make him look like Nasiri or Suarez in the box. Since his average positional play is deeper he just isn’t in the box enough for that kind of razzle-dazzle.

      1. “For me personally, Martin knows me already and he talks to me a lot,” said Dembele. “He will say, ‘Mousa, you’re a good player and I like you a lot, but goals, goals, goals.’ If I’m on the pitch he will say to me, ‘Mousa, you can shoot from here. Try to do this.’

        “He [Jol] always gives me advice and I like that he talks to me a lot to help me improve. I want to score a lot more goals now but I’m not a player like Didier Drogba who will score 35 goals in a season.

        “My aim is to score more and then I’ll be more important to the team. At the end of last season it [scoring] was at the forefront of my mind and I feel like I’m improving. I’m always thinking about scoring in training now.”

        Read more: http://www.fulhamfc.com/Club/News/NewsArticles/2011/August/MousaDembeleInterview.aspx#ixzz1bWjrlmkT

        1. Yup, that’s the interview, and yup I got it wrong. Reading the abbreviated version on my cellphone from skysports or the guardian obviously gave me a vastly different vision of what he said. Thanks for the full link!

          But I still think he’s being asked to play deeper and take shots from distance which isn’t so much a matter of confience as of his relative position. “Goals, Goals, Goals,” for sure, but how many shots does he take from outside of or at the top of the box?

          1. seemed that originally Jol wanted him playing centrally behind Bobby where i imagine he was expecting him to latch on to bobby’s flick ons and assists – realised that dembele wasn’t gunna do that so has now stuck him on the right cutting inside (where Ruiz plays) where he’s looked fairly decent. Its fine when playing with two strikers as his goals then aren’t needed. Wander what will happen when Ruiz finds form…

  4. Just confirms what you wrote in The Review, Rich. Hughes was never a Fulham manager, but a manager who just so happened to manage at Fulham.

    Sounds so completely bizarre considering our second highest finish ever and other more “worse” seasons; but I so, so wish last season could just be erased from our memory.

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