Numbness

It’s that numbness again isn’t it?

Anger, no, because that fizzled out a long time ago.

Hope, no, because every time we think we’re turning a corner – not that we think that anymore – but every time it feels like okay, maybe, just maybe… we just see more of the same.

You keep trying to puzzle out what’s wrong and ultimately you come to the conclusion that if we’re having trouble keeping positive then the poor players must be finding it even harder.

We all know how confidence can affect us. I played sport for years and you really are a different player when you’re in a groove and when you’re not. There is no confidence in this team.

One reason this is a problem is the coaching experience of 2013/14. I’m still trying to write this Roy Hodgson book and spoke to Martin Dahlin a couple of weeks ago. Dahlin, who played for Sweden, mentioned that he had been schooled by Hodgson and Tord Grip from a young age and they really worked hard on his basics, his fundamentals. He said that throughout his career he knew that if form was deserting him he just had to keep doing the basics, keep with the fundamentals. He liked having that available to him; it gave him confidence.

This team has nothing to fall back on. There is no underlying ethos, no underlying plan. It’s XI representatives of Fulham FC trying desperately to do what XI representatives of Fulham FC have not managed to do for a very long time. They are probably at the point where they’re trying too hard, or probably reached that point a long time ago.

This is why they can be rolled over by a more than ordinary Cardiff team.

It’s a horrible situation: on the one hand, we all know we can’t judge Felix Magath on what he has inherited. On the other Rene Meulensteen was judged on what he inherited and Magath’s Fulham look no better than anyone else’s. But it’s too early for him. But there isn’t time for a bedding in period. Results had to come instantly.

You look through the team and see problems.

In goal David Stockdale watches from the bench as a goalkeeper who has performed no better than he allows one of the softest goals of the season. We paid £4m+ for this upgrade, the equivalent of 100,000 replica shirts sold in the club shop.

At right back we have the ever willing Sascha Riether. I remember the old Stoor v Paintsil debate and for all the world Stoor looked a better player to me, but Hodgson went with the player who could be counted on to defend.

At left back we are still fidgeting around with either Richardson, who looks a player sometimes and appeared to have found a niche on the left flank, but who is now back at the back while… John Arne Riise does the left midfield gig. Seriously, what?

Heitinga and Hangeland are probably our best centre-back pairing of the season.

Sidwell continues to draw the plaudits, but again, central midfield is the most important area of the pitch and given that we’ve ceded control of the game basically every match this season, failed to support our defence, failed to support our attack, I can’t help feeling that he must be culpable. I can very well believe that he’s played well and been let down by the rest of the team, but I think there’s more too it than that. Scott Parker seems to have physically broken down, which is a shame as we have awarded him a long and lucrative contract. Ashkan Dejagah is another fan favourite but I think he lacks quality.

Lewis Holtby doesn’t lack quality but if you’re picking him and Sidwell and Dejagah and two forwards you’re alread unbalanced.

Mitroglou is a debacle. He might turn into an outstanding signing for the club but it’s hard to see how.

Cauley Woodrow made sense: if you want a certain type of forward in the team you play the best of that type available. If that’s Woodrow then so be it. Better to have an approach that’s slightly compromised by the personnel available to it than to just throw 11 people onto the pitch and see what the gods of football allow us this time.

As Danny Murphy noted, we had a proven goalscorer in Darren Bent on the bench, but who knows what to do with Bent at the moment? He still has that knack of scoring goals, but… but… he sums it all up.

It’s frustrating. EVery season a club like Fulham is always theoretically at risk. It’s within the scope of any mid-table team to play badly for a series of games just by luck alone, then the ever decreasing circles of pessimism and lost confidence kick in and before you know it the mess is worse than anyone ever dreamed it would be. What now?

33 thoughts on “Numbness

  1. No wins since the new year 2014 was but a few hours old. It’s March 10. That says everything for me.

    Saturday felt somewhat cathartic, as if all the illusions of safety and survival were finally quashed and the bleak realization of perdition appeared in totality. Time to find a new hobby I suppose…

      1. No, but across the ocean it’s nigh on impossible to catch a match in the Championship for a variety of reasons. Sorry, but listening to GJ and ~10 seconds of highlights on a pirated Football League Show isn’t going to cut it in this day and age.

        1. At the bar where we watch Fulham in NYC, they’re often showing a couple of Championship matches on BeIN as well. These drew particularly big crowds in previous years when Newcastle and West Ham were down, but this year I’ve caught parts of matches involving QPR, Reading, Leeds, Wednesday and Birmingham City among others. So, maybe not as impossible as you’re worried it will be.

          1. Sky do a couple of Championship matches a week but you’re only looking at probably a couple of Fulham games a season that way. I can’t see that international TV will be falling over itself to cover games really?

            1. Between Gentleman Jim, BBC local broadcasts, the occassional live televised match, extended highlights, and match reports, it’s hardly going to be impossible to support Fulham. Frankly, this is a bunch more than most Fulham fans based in the UK but not living in London had in the days before live streaming!

              1. I hope we get a lot of BBC. I actually prefer football on the radio, which is what I and probably a lot of people grew up with. In those days you got a game on Sunday afternoon if you were lucky. So the radio was fabulous.

                It’s probably sacrilege but I don’t really like listening to Gentleman Jim so hope we get BBC London over more.

                It’s just a shame that you can only really get into the nitty gritty when you’ve watched a game, but I suspect it won’t be that long before there are streaming options. Championship clubs would presumably do quite well taking these things in house, but would presumably worry about how it might affect matchgoing.

                1. I’m with you on the radio. I like it a lot and listened to a lot of football that way years ago. Agree also about Gentleman Jim. The one problem with being in London is that BBC London has so many clubs to cover. I expect to be able to listen to many away matches on BBC Local Radio however. And come to think of it, there are only three London clubs in the Championship these days, so hopefully we will get a decent amount of BBC London coverage.

  2. I agree with everything in this post until the suggestion that here is a place for Darren Bent in this squad. Even assuming that Bent’s best days are not behind him, contrary to what Paul Lambert would suggest, Bent’s style of play does not fit with the current squad. If Fulham played a high pressing, up-tempo style, creating indecision in the back for Bent to exploit with his runs, I would say yes. But the team defends at the back, and attacks (or mostly couterattacks) at a walk. Of what use is a striker who plays on the shoulder when the back two have nothing to do but prepare for his runs”? In the years I have watched Fulham, the team has never succeeded without a good hold-up striker. Even Berbatov was good at relieving pressure on the defense. Bent gives nothing in that regard, and only has the potential to run onto passes that never materialize.

    1. Of what use is a striker who plays on the shoulder when he’s not fast enough to beat the back two at this point in his career?

  3. I’m not sure I’d agree we were “rolled over”, which would assume that the run of the match was strongly in Cardiff’s favor. Shots were a bit unbalanced (19-14), but not nearly to the extent that we saw earlier in the season. We passed at a higher success rate and had more than half the possession over the course of the match. I think once again we were undone by our inability to defend set pieces, which speaks more to A) not much understanding between the various players given the utter lack of consistency in the lineup, and B) poor coaching going back to Jol and Meulensteen.

    Regarding Bent… I mean, Alan Shearer is a “proven goalscorer” too, should we sign him up? Andrew Cole? Robbie Fowler? If being a “proven goalscorer” in the Premier League were the main thing that would result in continuing to score goals now, then surely letting Berbatov leave was the height of folly? People keep harping on the fact that he’s (Bent, that is) got a great record of scoring goals in the Prem, but if he really had all that much left to offer, why would Villa have been so willing to let him go to a relegation rival? (Don’t forget that they weren’t all that far from the drop last season.) Too much reliance on what players used to be able to do (Parker, Bent, Berbatov, Bent, Riise, hate to say it but Hangeland too) is a big reason why we’re in this situation.

  4. Not tryign to suggest that Darren Bent is a good idea, but that there really aren’t any good ideas left at the moment, so a bad idea that might result in a goal is probably worth doing.

  5. I’m personally looking forward to playing matches vs. Leeds next season. Polite Fulham vs. those rough Northerners. Should be interesting!

  6. Your point about this team having nothing to fall back on is a very good one.

    We are a team with no identity – we can’t pass the ball incisively + hold possession because we don’t have a proper CM. We can’t play ‘direct’ football because we don’t have anyone to hold up the ball a la Zamora. We try to do a combination of both but fail because we have the wrong players and too many old players.

    It comes down to starting again next season, clean slate, new players and a coach with a strong team ideal. Magath *might* be that manager, but I have no idea if he will be about for any amount of time.

    I just want to watch a cohesive team again.

    1. My main concern for Fulham has always been about what’s happening (or not happening) on the training pitch. You could watch FFC under Hodgeson and Hughes and see a definite plan on match day. Under Jol and the subsequent parade of people with “manager” and “director” in their titles, we can’t even execute a throw-in without turning the ball over. Perhaps going to the Championship is the right thing to do (in regards of clearing house and starting over), but Magath has had 3 games over the course of 4 weeks and hasn’t really shown us anything substantial in the way of system or tactics. In that light I can’t imagine how he’d be the man to lead us back to the PL.

  7. At the start of the season an ‘expert’ on football finance said Fulham were now safe as we had a new owner and the go ahead to increase ground capacity. How wrong experts can be?
    Surely one of the problems with football is that no one knows what is going on. In politics there is meant to be transparency and accountability and they still hide behind smoke and mirrors. In the world of business there is supposed to be accountability to stock holders and we still get horror shows like the co-op bank debacle.
    In football all we get is platitudes and clichés. You can almost script Felix’s interview with Sarah next Friday now. ‘Felix we didn’t get the result we wanted at Cardiff, what is the feeling in the camp?’
    ‘Zo Cardiff was unfortunate but, zis week we work hard on set pieces, there are still twenty seven points to play for…….’ .
    The closest we’ve ever got to knowing what really goes on is The Secret Footballer, who may have been Danny Murphy (unlikely though), the fact that he had to keep his identity secret speaks volumes. Football is a closed world. Fulham is ‘our’ club but we’ll never really know what was behind this car crash of a season. Sadly, most of us will still be here for years, but those responsible will likely soon be long gone.

    1. It’s this murkiness that has really grated me and my enjoyment of the sport. Is Martin Jol still on the payroll? Was Rene ever really “manager”? What the hell happened with Clint two years ago? Zamora?

      Richard Whittall recently adapted footballing logic to real life and the results were hilarious. And quite sad.

      What is so dreadful about this total ignorance it seems a majority of fans and media folk alike are a-okay with being in the dark. The less they know the more it fuels their “debate”. It’s like a musician in a punk or hardcore band; forever satisfied with the same 2-3 chords and never developing. Feels like we/the sport is dooming itself to perpetual adolescence.

  8. Lots of good points here. Numb is a good word. The defending was very poor and though two of the goals were unfortunate ( 1 & 3) Cardiff had plenty of other opportunities. We don’t seem to have a plan, its just pick 11 and see what happens – Riise in midfield ie or did he read his instructions upside down? My only thought is that Magath is trying out a number of combinations? As for Hangeland, I was a fan but he was positionally awful on Saturday. What and who was he marking for goals 2 & 3. Sad that Holtby seems the most distressed about what happens, but then when you score the equaliser and watch two awful goals go in you must feel hurt, depressed and numb.

  9. Yes the defending for the second goal was really incredible in its ineptitude. How can a professional premiership defence leave 2 players including one of their top scorers completely unmarked at a corner. The more I watched it the worst it looked. Regardless of coaching or practice that is actual just common sense? I can’t actually think why that would happen as we have relatively experienced defenders, bordering on the weird. I think it’s going to get worst, first signs of the manger blaming the players after the game insinuating that they are not up for the fight, slight betrayal of team ethic to do that publically. I really like Holtby he wears his heart on the sleeve and seems dismayed by the performances as a fan would be. He is really connected emotionally to the support and running his heart out. Hope he gets a decent club after this, he deserves it.

  10. on the upside, felix magath is currently the top story in chessbase.com of all things.

    on the less than upside, it’s hard to see this team or any team promoting. also, fwiw, as an American, Khan’s ownership of the NFL franchise here has been mostly shambolic.

    well, i’ll try to watch the games somehow. maybe they will get one of those annual subscriptions for me cheaply where i can live stream.

  11. It’s time to move past the numbness. It’s time to start some serious planning for how-we-get-out-of-the-Championship-in-one-attempt. Won’t happen otherwise.

  12. Saw the result and said “that’s it, we’re down”.

    Mind you, I felt the same way after the draw at Derby and defeat at home to Sunderland in 2008.

    After the promising first half displays against West Brom and Chelsea you think maybe we could sustain it against the likes of Cardiff, but we never even got going.

  13. For me, the biggest debacle has been the signing of Mitroglou. What the f**k was that all about? We needed half-decent hold-up, bustling, hard working striker to hit the ground running. What do we sign? An expensive, injured, half-fit bloke who is only easing himself into the team in mid-March! What sort of incompetenct advice led to that signing? He may or may not turn out to be good in April, or next season, but that’s way too late

  14. It can’t get worse can it? Yes it can. 3 games under Magath and i can’t see anything in his team selection and formation or inane post game comments that indicate he can get us out of the championship.
    I know his predecessors didn’t achieve much, but he could have learned from what did and didn’t work under them. Essentially all that worked was the teams that Rene put out for the first few of his games, and the last two. A 4-5-1 formation with a defensive midfielder covering our porous defense and the best creative player we can muster (currently Holtby) as a number 10. Only one striker (not Bent), and hard working wingers – that’s what worked best for us. Magath has completely ignored this formation in all 3 games. He doesn’t have time to experiment and we seem to be living on his ego.
    Will probably be another long season coming up.

  15. Key thought….”..no underlying ethos.” Beyond the very important issue of first team tactics, the whole notion of what Fulham FC is about has this season become unclear. What do we stand for, what is the Fulham way? What is one supporting? What will we be bringing to the table when we dine downmarket in August? It takes pathetically little for devotees to kid themselves they can answer such questions, so not to be able to currently is an odd feeling.

    1. “The Fulham way” effectively died under Jol’s reign. Perhaps he isn’t 100% to blame for that, but it happened on his watch.

  16. Is there any danger of us going down next year as well and ending up in League One? Are we that bad? I’m scared for the future…

      1. We have, however, lost this season to Leicester and Sheff United and only triumphed over Burton Albion AET on penalties. In the latter case we were fielding virtually a full-strength (sic) lineup; in the other matches we weren’t, but the opponents weren’t either. Is that irrelevant information in all three cases out of three, or reality check?

        Hard to know right now who our stalwarts are envisaged as being. Are we banking on Sidwell staying put and repeating his excellence at that level a decade ago with an all-round excellent Reading team? (Hefty assumptions.) Or is Parker expected to roll back the years at the lower level? That was hardly Murphy’s fate at Blackburn (or Haynes’ in the equivalent division in 1968-9)? It’s true there are some promising youngsters bubbling under, but how many would in other circumstances have been reckoned ripe and ready to go on loan to the Championship and flourish? All told, there’s as much reason at this stage for concern as confidence.

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