A relegation dog fight

I wonder how many teams have cemented their own relegation by deciding that “now is the time for fighters”.

We see this everywhere now. Alan Shearer will talk about Fulham and declare that “now is the time for fighters”, noting in due course that he’s not sure that the likes of Dimitar Berbatov “have the stomach” for a relegation battle.

There’s something to this: the best football teams combine great skill with absolute commitment and this gives them an edge over other teams who might lack either.

But at the bottom it’s not enough to just decide that sleeves need rolling up. You actually need to get better at football.

We have already jettisoned the sleeves down Bryan Ruiz and are likely to see the laid back Dimitar Berbatov on his way, too.

In their stead the fans want people who know they are in a “dog fight” who will scrap for every last point.

In all these situations it’s useful to think: “what would Roy do?”

He would tell Dimitar Berbatov what is expected of him, Berbatov would do it, and eventually this would prove fruitful.

It’s easy to forget that before Hodgson arrived, Danny Murphy was a fairly marginal figure. Hodgson realised that if he was to pull of the survival trick he needed quality above all else, and that meant making sure that the team ran through Murphy. Hodgson got the defence organised as priority #1, brought in some players he knew, and set about turning things around.

Fulham need to get better. It’s about effort but more than that it’s about coaching and structure.

There is some evidence that we’re on the right track. By all accounts the defence looked halfway organised against Arsenal, and we’d seen some suggestion of same in the preceding games. Hodgson did a lot of work with our attack during the great escape, too, particularly emphasising crossing (and a number of goals came from crosses). So it’s about attitude, of course it is, but that’s secondary to having a coherent approach to playing football. The players need to be capable of buying into this and executing instructions, and we don’t know how this applies or doesn’t apply to the squad we have now, but please, let’s not get bogged down in all this scrapping for points rubbish. There’s so much more to it than that.

5 thoughts on “A relegation dog fight

  1. If we end up flogging Berba, we’d have lost the two players who scored or created 60% of our goals for the entireity of last season. It’s a brave move, let’s see how it pays off for us…..

  2. Couldn’t agree more. Every time I hear ‘grafter’ and ‘fighter’, I think of Graham Taylor and Carlton Palmer. (shudder)

  3. I think i’d be tempted to do the exact opposite of whatever Alan Shearer says. A fantastic player in his time, duly noted, but his actual experience of management in that season at Newcastle was somewhat shambolic. I think he tried 8 different formations in the 7 games he was in charge. And I’ve yet to hear him offer an opinion that provides an insight better than “good pass” “good shot” “good goal”. Thanks for coming Al, here’s my BBC license fee for the observations.

    I prattled on before about that Roy Hodgson interview I attended, and interestingly it coincided with Shearer being appointed Newcastle manager. Roy’s reaction? Perhaps predictably enough, it was something along the lines of – “It always astounds me that someone would trust the managers position of a large turnover football club to someone with no managerial experience, no coaching experience and no previous experience of how to motivate a set of professionals to work towards a team goal in a concerted effort. You wouldn’t do that in any other facet of business – it’s akin to putting a graduate in charge of a bank or other business. And it would suggest that chairman put the likelihood of success more down to chance & football contacts than they do to organisation and game plan. Yet it happens surprisingly frequently.”

    As has duly been noted – organisation is likely to be the key – better organised teams are likely to have a greater chance of success across a period of games, you would imagine. In a one off game, anything can happen, but across 16 games you’d imagine shape, discipline & carrying out the task required are likely to lead to a consistency of performance, and resultantly points. Although we’ve had our trials & tribulations this season, the squad has ‘enough’ about it talent to give themselves a chance of survival, but there needs to be a clear plan & everyone to know what their role is/what’s expected of them. I think Rene can do this, but Sunderland was an alarm bell alright.

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