Sharing the blame around

One question I imagine Martin Jol is asking himself a lot is “why have my players stopped defending?”

It’s all well and good everyone going “Jol out” all day every day but as per the post-sacking player interview cliche, there’s an element of the players having let him down, too.

One by one:

Stockdale is an inexperienced top flight goalkeeper, so no blame to him here.

Sascha Riether is, if you listen to the message boards, the second coming of Cafu, so he can’t be to blame.

Amorebietta (can a song to the tune of De La Soul’s “Eye Know” be worked in here at some point?) was an important player for the fabulous Athletic Bilbao.

Brede Hangeland was Sir Roy’s main man at the back.

John-Arne Riise has been an important player for Liverpool and Roma. Kieron Richardson played for United and Sunderland and was generally well thought of along the way.

Then before them you have players like Scott Parker, England’s player of the year quite recently and every club’s dream combination of effort and ability.

Steve Sidwell is not everyone’s cup of tea but he’s had a good track record and our dive only started when he got suspended last year. Georgios Karagounis is old but experienced.

You would think that whatever training or tactical brain farts the coaching team is wafting their way, these players with their collective know how would still have the experience and ability to defend. Bad coaching or man management can’t single handedly destroy the intellectual faculties of all these people.

So what’s happened to these people? Have they all got too old at the same time? Is the team structure really ruining their competence? I don’t buy it completely. Hangeland was in a back four under Roy Hodgson that would’ve seen how to shut down the best. He is a bright man; he would know the difference between now and then. He could use this knowledge to work with teammates to make things better. Parker’s seen it all and done it all. He can recognise a team struggling and a team doing well. Can’t he diagnose this team’s shortcomings and personally decide to help out at the back or something?

Or are they all just running around like headless chickens because they haven’t got a precise framework to work with?

8 thoughts on “Sharing the blame around

  1. With respect, I think you’ve completely overlooked the crux of the problem in this post. We used to have forwards that defended from the front and set a great example. Zamora, Johnson etc. But now we have the lazy, workshy Berbatov and his terrible attitude, who thinks defending is something all his teammates have to do (which would be fine if he was scoring for fun, but he isn’t). The worst thing is, no matter how poorly Berbatov plays (and let’s face it, he’s put some shocking performances in this season), Jol won’t drop him! The players know now that the team is not picked in a meritocratic way (in other words, Berbatov can do whatever he likes knowing he will not be criticised by Jol) and this has been extremely damaging to the team spirit that has been the bedrock of Fulham’s success down the years. It’s funny, the more I see of Berbatov, the more I appreciate what players like Andy Johnson brought to the team!

  2. The players are slavishly following instructions from the manager and coaching team (although jumping at corners may have been overlooked by them ). The manager picks the team and sets out the tactics and that is where the buck stops .

    If Berbatov isn’t pulling his weight then it’s the manager’s job to bring him to heel . The problem is that our offensive offering is so thin that we have no credible alternative to Berbatov , as Rodellega is of Championship quality and for that I blame in part the chief executive for allowing us to start a campaign so short of alternatives up front – perhaps he was sold on Jol’s strategy ?

    Sorry , but we need to change our manger and start the process this week .

  3. You can kinda see Jol’s point in his post match interviews. If you see tactics as the macro view, across 90 minutes Jol’s plans are in effect. They’re not working of course, and hit it long and aimlessly run around lots will get you found out eventually.

    However if you take the last 3 minutes in isolation, the players must know that if you’re not going to win, sure as hell don’t lose. Very little Jol can do to affect the teams setup across very small points in time. There were enough experienced players out there to stop that shot on Saturday and they’re getting away with scapegoating Jol.

  4. I was hoping you’d provide the answers but you sort of stopped as soon as you’d lavished praise on each of the players individually.

    We’re not shipping goals actually although we do seem weak from set pieces and at the death, usually from set pieces.

    What to do? Like you I don’t know but I suspect confidence is key and that’s badly missing. That could be corrected with new management especially if understandable tactical plans are put in place so that the players understand what they should be doing and trust the management to deliver.

    Right now we have talented individuals doing their best with no obvious direction.

  5. I’m a season ticket holder of many years, I’m with all of you – Martin inherited a decent set up and a confident team that delivered fun and at times exciting football, a good platform to build upon or at least consolidate. The late loss of Moussa and, to some extent, Clint at the start of last season was a set back but there have been two transfer windows since then with ample opportunity to recover yet we seem to have done nothing better than accumulate a muddle of players without any vision or strategy. I understand football but I really struggle to understand where Martin thinks he’s taking us.
    Villa bit the bullet and went for youth, others have bought players better than the one’s they already had and with an eye to the future…….we haven’t done either. Tactically we have gone backwards and team spirit seems to have left the building.
    So, what to do? It seems to me that we have some decent players but a poor team, the win over Everton was fortuitous and cannot hide the problems. Martin has had time and a fair crack at the job he has not demonstrated that he is capable of building a team or motivating the players – indeed some good players seem to have been very badly treated.
    For me it’s time to call it a day, an opportunity for the board to show leadership and responsibility – please don’t wait for Stoke (and our friend MH) and Crystal Palace, by then we could be in a very unhappy place!!

  6. I don’t think Berbatov is necessarily the issue, but it’s clear that the balance isn’t working for Fulham at the moment. Our fear was always that between Tarabt, Bent, Berbatov & Ruiz, they wont do enough work in a defensive capacity, putting strain on the rest of the side. It’s not immediately apparent that Jol has worked this connundrum out yet with the balance of the rest of the side, despite approving/signing them all.

    Jol has been unfortunate at times – Parker limping off after an impressive performance against Everton perhaps conceded the initiative to Cardiff somewhat in the first half. Steklenberg is clearly a quality performer, but he has been deprived of his services. Whether both would’ve made a significant difference to our current position is debatable. Boateng appears a glaring omission – what point in playing 37 year old Karagounis against Everton if Boateng needs game time to adjust to the league and team-mates? Clearly something is amiss here.

    I have found myself repeatedly wondering though, just what are Jol & the coaching staff doing all week? Cardiff clearly have a workmanlike side, functioning with a game plan and keeping positional sense – fair play to them. They’re no world beaters though, yet they should’ve been 4 up by the break. They have height & will look to make use of that at set plays. Fulham looked like they’d never been asked to mark players in their life at the corner kicks, yet surely any basic scouting would’ve identified this as a threat against Cardiff? Time and again players weren’t being marked, and leadership was conspicuous by its absence in that horrible first 43 minutes.

    Last season, we seemed to concede the same type of goal in every home game….Fulham caught up the pitch, sloppy in posession and then the opposition break on us. The defense is all over the shop & we concede goals easily. This happened time and again last season, yet still, this season we appear equally as vulnerable – Arsenal & Everton both appeared to pick us off at ease in this situation already. Cardiff perhaps less so, but as you pointed out 20+ efforts towards our goal is, quite frankly, ridiculous to a side outwith the top 4 or 5 in the premier division.

    With no marking & little defensive organisation without the ball, we are clearly coming across as a soft touch to opposition sides – indeed I can imagine visiting sides allowing us possession in their own half as they feel comfortable that if they keep their shape (a) we create too few shooting opportunities in any case [as highlighted in your shots to possession indices Rich] and (b) we’re lame ducks when we lose the ball with players committed to forward positions.

    So it just feels that we’re watching repeated errors compounded each week. And if they’re not working on these deficiencies each week in training, then what are they doing? This squad feels more than capable of holding its own in this division, but not if the manager, coaches and team aren’t prepared to work hard to learn from mistakes and find ways of balancing attack with defence. Working on shape & working without the ball were a hall mark of the Hodgson days, which just makes it even more glaring by their omission. Even if they are not the principles Jol lives or dies by, he surely has to admit that in the present predicament there is a lot to be said for investing time with the players coaching our shape when we lose the ball.

    Finally, to your analysis Rich – we’ve seen that these players have been good enough in the past. The question feels simple: what’s required to get them back to that level of individual and team performance again? The answer will be more complex, but either the manager or the CEO have to fathom an answer rather quickly.

  7. I think it is entirely down to Jol now and agree with Ben in comment #1 – Jol’s insistence in indulging Berbatov is at the heart of things. Ditto Ruiz and latterly Taraabt. A mid table side like Fulham cannot Indulge these alleged ‘talents’ – without wishing to turn us into Stoke, we need to be solid & organised first of all and (again) Rich has it right that this starts from the forwards. We have ‘flair’ players (allegedly) but we don’t have enough players putting in proper shifts.

    Work hard first of all, then play our football….

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