Time to start over

This team’s done. It’s like a diseased tree or something. It just needs cutting down.

You can blame Stockdale or the defence or whatever but ultimately the attack’s rubbish and the defence is rubbish and even if sometimes they’re not the results keep on going horribly against us. It’s not just like the odd unlucky defeat either: we lost 4-1 at home to Sunderland. 6-0 at Hull.

Serious investment in January? I wouldn’t bother.  If you can find someone who’s young, talented, and might be part of the next good Fulham team, by all means snap them up. Ryan Bertrand, for example.  But otherwise just leave it.  Sell what you can while you’re at it.

Honestly, start again. Sell everyone. Recall Dan burn again. Call up Kerim Frei and ask him to come back.  Field 17 XIs where the oldest player is 24.  See who might have a future.  Give us a glimpse of what this club might be.  Stop papering over the cracks; it isn’t working.

There’s just no point to anyone out there at the moment.

Stockdale has been hard done by in his time at Fulham but as many of us have decided, he’s not really a Plan A.  Stekelenberg doesn’t look that way either but either will probably suffice for now. The problems aren’t here, really.

I still don’t think Riether’s any good.  It’s one of those things: everyone rates him but my sense is that Fulham have not looked much of a team since he became our right back. Sacrilege maybe, but there we are.

I don’t know about our centre-back options, except that they’re all presumably so traumatised by what they’ve been through this season that whatever quality they may have is now well and truly buried.   Let’s start again.  Let’s try Dan Burn and Brede Hangeland and work with that.

Left back…  look, I was impressed with Riise’s return but like many of his colleagues he’s old and not elite.  I think Danny Murphy kept going a while because he was very very good and got to play a role that worked for him.  Riise’s not at Murphy’s level and it just feels like his famous days are well behind him, that we’re getting a recognisable version, which we feel we ought to be happy with, but which is dangerous for exactly this reason: you think you have John Arne Riise because it looks a lot like the bloke who won all that, but he’s 20% worse than he was here, 20% worse there, and in the end is that a workable full-back?

Scott Parker can stay. He’ll lead the youth revolution.  The Riise comment probably applies to him as well but he gets a pass for being so convincing an imitation of his former self.

Sidwell’s making himself undroppable with all these goals but ultimately this is another thing that the management might ultimately have to swat aside in their analysis.  I am chuffed for Steve but he’s not going to be a part of the next good Fulham team and might be useful to another team.

What did Clint Dempsey do?  Have I talked about pale imitations of former selves?  If Bryan Ruiz is a luxury we can’t afford then so is a rehab trip down memory lane for a player who is A) my favourite Fulham player and B) someone who didn’t stand out in MLS this year.

Taraabt is probably another who can stay.  If Rene can harness these talents then maybe he’s a keeper. He’s young.

Damien Duff.  Is he interested in coaching?  IF so let him work with the younguns.  I love Duff, I really do. But.  Well I’ve said it a few times haven’t I?

Sell Berbatov somewhere.  None of this mess is his fault, of course, but we’re starting again aren’t we?  He might make money for the club.

Get back to 4-3-3.  We hashed this out on Twitter earlier, and while I think Dejagah’s as overrated as anyone, I understand that if we’re to put out an XI of dynamic players he probably has to be in there.   Try that thing that worked: Dejagah, Taraabt, Kacaniklic (who I think starts all games now to see what he can do. Pointless to keep selecting him, dropping him, selecting him, dropping him… ) Use three midfielders, Parker, Chris David, and Sidwell until we indentify someone who can do a job in his stead.  

Someone will point out that we’re not in the relegation zone.  Whatever.  We’re dead one way or another.  It’s time to start again.

25 thoughts on “Time to start over

  1. Yep, totally agree Rich. It’s time to be brave now in both the selection and recruitment policy. Go for young, talented players with a big upside and mix them with a few older pros like Parker and Hangeland to guide them.

    This team has been dying for years and it needs to be put out of its misery.

  2. This was the most dire, least scholarly post I’ve ever read at CCN, but I entirely agree with it. When we went down 3-1 I gave up on the season and any hope of staying up. I had hope with Dempsey’s return and the relative easy fixture list during his loan spell. I was wrong. Today’s display exposed our all-around impotence. There’s almost no way this team will get to 30 points, let alone 40. Our only hope of survival is for the teams below us to be the worst teams in PL history, and that’s not likely to happen. It was a good run while it lasted.

  3. One of the things this season has shown us is the extent to which ALL our defensive players were made to look good by Hangeland. IF he gets back to full fitness for the lady 10 games of the season, AND we spend with wild abandon in the transfer window, we might just manage one more great escape. Maybe.

    1. You’re forgetting that Hangeland has looked dire for quite some time. Think of the way Taraabt skinned him at Loftus Road last season, and there are many similar episodes before and since, interspersed with the odd good game. If we are depending on Brede to be our saviour, we are seriously f**ked.

  4. I have to agree,

    What shocked me was how this was a reversion to the worst of the latter day Jol performances. Whatever positive effect Muelensteen appeared to have wasn’t apparent yesterday and the obvious conclusion is that certain players upped their game briefly but either couldn’t or wouldn’t sustain that. Rene can’t have thought “sod that – let’s do it Maarten’s way”,

    So yes – bring on the kids and if we sign anyone let it be for the future promotion effort and not a sticking plaster of experience.

  5. Good post. If we’re going to stay up, lets do it in the most glorious way possible and play some kids. At least they’d give some injection of belief for the future and some drive in future matches.

    What has continuously confused me for a long time is our youth academy- we’ve poured massive amounts in, brought in the three people that oversaw Saint’s rise (at look what they produce now) but yet, nothing is being produced?

    But hang on, they’ve overseen a club that has gone from having its scouting records in a filing cabinet, to a club that has become highly competitive, ambitious *and* successful at youth level.

    Is the club really telling us that not one of them would do a job in the first team: Dan Burn- surely couldn’t have done worse than any player out there yesterday. One of the best players in the Champ. Chance at least?

    Chris David: “Best youth product in Holland” according to Jol (well, ok, but the premise is there). Would he not provide a driving passing emphasis we need (at least, it would be better to see him out there than say, the 37 year old Karagounis).

    LVC. Dembele. Grimmer. Passley. Minkwitz. Plumain. Tankovic. Are not one of them ready?

    If we’d had some of the youth players Saints had, say, Luke Shaw and Ward-Prowse, would they have been sitting on our bench right now? Wouldn’t put it past us.

    A bit more faith and commitment to the youth please, could just discover a gem. After all, Pajtim Kasami was underrated and about to be sold until we played him for a bit. And now look.

    1. Point is they reall can’t do any worse than those blocking them.

      My hope is that american ownership brings greater proclivity to properly rebuild.

  6. Thanks for your post Rich. Its good to hear your opinion as you always see things I don’t. I think I also get some kind of relief hearing from someone that is being affected as much/badly as I am by our performances. The friends and family I go to games with definitely don’t care as much as I do; this result is not going to ruin their week.

    This game was crucial and objectively it looks like we are going down now. I am with you 110% on the 4-3-3. I am honestly shocked that Rene has abandoned this. Yesterday was a fall back to some of the worst aspects of Jol’s team. Without the the 3 in CM we are totally exposed at the back. And by playing Dempsey, Taarabt and Berba we lacked pace or width so that we were forced to go through the middle again – Ironically, I think Ruiz would have been far more suitable for this role. Worse still, our fullbacks were given the task to compensate for a lack or attacking width leaving our center backs totally exposed. Some might argue that we lost yesterday to a few key moments. But Sunderland made a mess of several counter attacks where we were totally outnumbered.

    As deflated as I was leaving the game yesterday I think your assessment of the gravity of the situation is exaggerate (I also hope that you are wrong about Riether and Dejagah). Moreover I think the game wasn’t lost by the any of the individuals (although Stockdale, Riise, Senderos need a break) but by the choice of formation and tactics. If we go back to the what worked (performances not results) against Spurs, Villa, Everton and Man City then we will be difficult to play against for every team.

    Perhaps I am wrong. We did beat Norwich on boxing day with 2 CM and Kasami playing further forward. But that game did seem like it could of gone either way and I definitely saw several situations that mirrored the lack of protection the CB’s were getting in the post you wrote “Defending Phillipe Senderos” that had been obsolete in the previous four games.

    We are going to have to play more defensive at the Emirates. I pray that Rene goes back to what worked. This also includes playing either Berbatov or Taarabt, not both. If we get a couple decent performances in next few games and a couple reinforcements, primarily in CM (obviously we could improve in quite few positions, like left back, etc. but 36 year old Karagounis is the third of only three CM that the management have any trust in!) we can and must turn this around!

  7. Does anyone fear relegation anymore? Earlier this season, the prospect of relegation really irritated and upset me. I’ve now come around to the idea that if it brings the first team to the speed and style of the youth team then that’s football that I’m going to enjoy watching much more than the rubbish we’ve been subjected to for most of the last 2 years.

    Whether or not we stay up their MUST be a clear out. I would keep Stekelenberg, Reither, Hangeland, Parker, Kasami, Kacaniclic (maybe), Tarrabt, Dejagah and Amorebieta (giving him the benefit of the doubt) and get rid of the rest of them. Most of these guys wouldn’t necessarily make the first team, but help provide a better handover to the next generation of players.

    And hopefully then we can go back to enjoying the football again. As a Fulham fan, I don’t expect to win every week, but I do expect to have enough backbone to not get smashed as we have at Hull and again yesterday.

  8. I agree that what you suggest in the penultimate paragraph is a less unlikely bet than the setup (sic) yesterday. As you say, there was something that worked and had some logic to it, an invigorating change. And now not. There seems wide agreement on this online, not just here.

    But there are still the essential points that we need huge turnover of personnel and that this is a depressing time to be following FFC. Anyone who isn’t old and stubborn enough to have done so for the past 20 years will be experiencing this for the first time. I did wonder if I’d forgotten what it felt like, but it’s coming back fast.

  9. If we carry on conceding goals at the rate we have been doing so far this season, the total Goals Against for the season will be 83. That would be the worst since Derby County went down in 2008 with one win and eleven points. Good grief.

  10. As Danny Glover once said, “What’s the worst that could happen: we’d fall out of last place?”

    I do think we deserved better than 1-4 yesterday, but whatever the result should have been is still bad at home v Sunderland. So yeah, I’m down for this plan. Play the young guys and see who sticks. If we stay up, great, of not we’ll have young players with some solid experience and ready to dominate the championship. Right?

      1. I joked with some buddies at the half about RM trying a 3-3-4 with the “luxury” players up top. If only…

  11. Nice piece Rich.
    Very much along the lines I was thinking, but dared not say.
    Glad to see CCN back btw – though I am probably very late back to the party (again)!

  12. Yip, it was a shocker, and the chances are we’re very likely to fill one of the bottom 3 or 4 places in the league, unless something drastic happens. Something drastic feels like it can only be:-
    – a formation change that provides greater solidarity (I think back to Martinez changing Wigan to 3 centre halves around this time in 2012 which kept them up that season)…..this feels worth exploring for me, certainly in a team that the opposition just walk through when counter attacking against us
    – a signing which acts as a talisman for the season (Dugarry at Birmingham a few years back)…this feels less likely to work now the premier league has consistently grown in professionalism
    – hard, hard work which might just get the rub of the green in a game or two…..this is not to say that the players aren’t working in training, but more to say you just find the hardest working players in the team and simply play them in a formation to make the game as difficult as you can for the opposition

    We’ve won 3 at home, and 3 away this season – is it concievable we can still do the same in the remaining 16? It’s possible, but they can’t go on conceding first in games and hoping to overcome it. It also feels that there will need to be 2 big wins against teams we wouldn’t expect to win – away at Swansea, home to Everton/Southampton for instance.

    That said, it did feel with hindsight that we made a mess of our own making. The formation set out was far too open & given our history of conceding the first goal in 7 of the previous 10 games you have to say that starting Berbatov (who was appalling), Taarabt (was wrongly substituted at a time when he had started to influence the game) and Dempsey (annonymous) played right into Sunderlands hands. Hopefully there were learnings from this game that Rene might apply for future ones, given his relative lack of experience to date, but who knows.

    I do question whether the best thing for youth development though is to throw them in a struggling team – if this ship is to sink, it might be best to let the experienced hands crash it & allow the younger ones to lead to a fresh approach next season. While I take on board the point that the older pro’s aren’t necessarily doing enough to block progress/merit their place, surely the worst thing that could happen is that we put the youngsters in and we sink even further in performance and goals against column?

    1. I think guys like Burn and David are of an age where it’s reasonable to suppose that if they’re going to be good enough it’s time they were allowed to demonstrat it. Kaka and Kasami are in and out of the team and i’m not clear that that’s helpful to them or us.

      If i was putting together a team from scratch aspiring to mid prem standard I’d have Reither, Parker and maybe Sidwell (with reservations) from our squad but that’s it on current form. We have far too many players who were good enough once but no longer seem to be plus a few (only a few) who are young enough to improve.

      Put another way there is no player that I would fear losing because of relegation. None. There are no crown jewels to be picked up by Prem League predators. Has that ever happened with a relegated team?

      I’d protect the 17 and 18 year olds from the mess but the best of those that are a bit older should now be allowed to sink or swim in my opinion.

  13. Saturday was simply shocking. Thankfully, I guess, NBC SN didn’t have the game running on my TV system, I know not why. So I only listened to Gentleman Jim. I would have been much worse off had I seen it. The retrograde to the Jol tactics and formation is totally bamboozling. I am now, officially in fear for this club because once there’s little optimism left for Rich? That’s what really cemented my support of this club, a few years ago, Rich’s detailed breakdown of the matches and the club, but the optimistic tone, same for Hammy End.

    I like the suggestions. Over on our pessimistic FB group there are some who want to bring up, wholesale, the youngsters. I like your idea better, Rich. One or two here and there in the XI with the serviceable older guys. I don’t think that relegation is necessarily unavoidable, but worse, I don’t think promotion, right back from the Second Division…er….Championship would be automatic, either. Better not to have to find out.

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