The Bolton problem: the Jol question

The problem with football is that issues that would ordinarily go away of their own accord tend to get magnified and therefore linger. Martin Jol’s Fulham side have attracted more off-field press than any other in memory, but on the pitch there are signs that things aren’t all bad. Results have not been from the top drawer, but nor have they been terrible: we’re well within the bounds of reasonableness. But fans are getting concerned.

I remember in the last days of Sanchez there was a lot of anger on Stevenage Road before and after games.  I’m a laid back sort and found it all a bit depressing, but in the end the negativity became almost tangible, and when we went down to Newcastle in December there seemed almost no choice but to make a managerial change.  Anything else would have been unfathomable given the atmosphere around the ground.

We’re not there with Jol yet and nor should we be, but the natives are growing restless. Suppose, for example, we don’t beat Bolton. This will be taken as evidence for the collapse of Fulham Football Club, when really it would just be ‘one of those things that happens in football’.  Last year, for instance, saw the following sequence of results:

Sun Jan 30   FAC 4 Tottenham Hotspur Home Won 4-0
Wed Feb 2   Premier Newcastle United Home Won 1-0
Sat Feb 5   Premier Aston Villa Away Drew 2-2
Mon Feb 14   Premier Chelsea Home Drew 0-0
Sun Feb 20   FAC 5 Bolton Wanderers Home Lost 0-1
Sun Feb 27   Premier Manchester City Away Drew 1-1
Sat Mar 5   Premier Blackburn Rovers Home Won 3-2

If you can lose at home to Bolton in the middle of a fairly good run, you can certainly do the same when you’re struggling a bit. Dechtech, who study these things, put us down as fairly clear favourites, but even that means a 60% chance of winning, with the remainder divided by a draw and a defeat.  That feels about right: if we played Bolton 10 times on Saturday I’d expect us to end up winning about six of them. 

The problem is that on any given day you don’t know which way the ball will bounce (particularly given midweek commitments!), and there’s a 40% chance (conservatively) that we won’t beat Bolton.  Then we have to play Manchester United, and Chelsea, and so on.

So it’s not going to get any easier and we might be at the wrong end of the table for some time yet.

Fulham are established as a Premier Division side, and as such it’s not unreasonable to expect us to have a manager of a similar or better standing.  So you have to make up your mind:  is Martin Jol a good enough manager for a club of Fulham’s stature?  The answer to that is ‘yes’, I believe. I don’t know that you could reasonably argue otherwise (I’d like to see a well thought out argument of why Jol is not good enough for Fulham Football Club). And this being so, you have to back him through the ups and downs and accept that in football sometimes you don’t always do well, play well, or pass smoothly through a season without the odd problem.

The only ‘but’ I can think of is if there’s an extra level to consider: yes, Jol is obviously a good enough manager for Fulham, but for some reason is not the *right* manager for Fulham.  This is possible, too. What grounds for this supposition we might have I don’t know, but the stories about player unrest indicate something, although we don’t know what.  Probably a strong manager doing a difficult job and trying to overhaul a too-old team, thereby bruising a few egos, but this is conjecture in the same way that accusations of poor man-management are conjecture. Jol got Tottenham playing at a high level and his work with Ajax looks borderline implausible (have you seen the goal difference!). He hasn’t always been a huge success but nor has he failed as a manager.

We can’t afford to think short-term here.  Instead we must watch the transformation of Dembele into a top player, the emergence of Bryan Ruiz’s splendid talents, the fizzing directness of Kerim Frei, the encouraging Senderos/Hangeland partnership, and the interesting fringe players like Kasami and Gecov, both of whom look to have something to offer Fulham for years ahead.

It might not always look good – I’ve been underwhelmed myself – but Fulham can’t keep changing, can’t keep starting again. Jol knows what he’s doing and needs to be given the chance to prove it.  Football teams, and especially mid-table football teams, go through spells like we’re going through all the time.  To expect any different is unreasonable.


11 thoughts on “The Bolton problem: the Jol question

  1. Good article. We need to stick with Jol and let him do his thing. We will suffer over the Christmas period if we dont play well and dont get the luck. We are playing well and not getting any luck and this will change over the course of the season. We came eighth last season from a similar position, while this will not happen, it is too early to get the daggers out. Also considering the older members needing changing, at some point, we cannot just expect results and success when we are gong through a change of the guard. Good luck to Jolly and the new members. We have played some exciting stuff and I think it will click and we will race up the table. To 2012.

  2. Its inevitable that a team will suffer in the short term after such a number of squad AND managerial changes, nothing can be done about that.

    Also any striker guilty of shooting a tame strike directly at the keeper from a good position should be shot…

  3. Yep, in agreement. Jol definitely needs to be given more time. Plenty of people were calling for Hughes’ head this time last year – me included – yet things turned around. The result on Wednesday night will be crucial. We need to progress. Failure to get through to the knock out stages of the Europa League will be a psychological kick to our season

  4. Agree – stick with Jol.

    I’m a little concerned with the lack of a solid backup to Murphy though. When they annouced the team on Saturday, and I saw Dickson and SD (excited as I was to see him return) in the middle, I didn’t hold out much hope for a victory. I can see the benefit of playing Dickson (especially away) but there’s little cutting when he’s in the squad imo. Perhaps SD can play Murphy’s position given time (and fitness), but he’s certainly not a longterm option there.

    Also, sorry to be so negative, but I have two other comments: 1) is it just me or does Ruiz give the ball away waaayyyy too much?, 2) when I see Senderos going in for a tackle (or even to kick the ball), I get that same kind of fear in the pit of my stomach I used to get when watching Zat Knight. He’s going to get send off soon soon, which will suck, but at least Jol might be forced to relook at the Hughes/Hangeland partnership.

    1. I agree with Ruiz and we discussed this the other day, but that’s partly the price you pay for creativity.

      Senderos and Knight though… goodness, miles apart in style and ability. Senderos is unfortunate that people seem to think of him as less than perfect just because he had a few hairy moments for Arsenal. he’s largely been fantastic for us.

    2. Totally agree on Senderos. While he can be very tidy with the ball, he has odd movements when he’s defending, like he’s not totally in control of his body. Sort of like watching a young colt trying to run or watching a deer trying to cross a frozen lake.

      Agree with Rich’s post that we give Jol more time. At some point, this issue of an aging squad needed to be dealt with at the club. Woy and Hughes generally avoided it which has now put it on Jol’s doorstep.

  5. Damn you and your unshakable ability to be reasonable *shakes fist*

    I want to be angry at someone and cling to the hope that there’s a magic wand that will make it all better instantly!!

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