The bookies’ odds for Saturday’s game against Ipswich are closing in. For a time Ipswich were favourites but we’re getting to the point where it’s almost too close to call.
I’m not sure what the odds should be. Nobody knows what Fulham 2014/15 will be, but we know that Ipswich, managed by the authoritative Mick McCarthy are a more than decent side. This chart, from Statto.com, shows that last year they were strong at Portman Road, only losing to the very top teams and Leeds. There were a few draws thrown in but you’ll get that. Generally speaking they performed well at home. They scored almost every game, too.
I had a look at the odds and when the bookies have a home team in the Championship as favourites, that team will win 80% of the time, and when they have an away team as favourites that team will win about a third of the time, so whichever way the odds drift you would have to imagine that Ipswich SHOULD be favourites.
On the one hand you have a good Championship side with a goodish manager (McCarthy’s career win percentage is around the 40% mark, which actually isn’t bad; Felix’s is 48%; Roy’s was 43%; Mark Hughes is 38%). They’re playing at home against a team that has barely played together, that is basically starting from scratch.
As I type this it’s really hitting home how little we know about our team. We don’t know what formation they’ll play, what style, nothing. We have a forward who scored 12 goals in 23 away games last season so that’s something, but otherwise it’s just so hard to know, isn’t it?
Unknown goalkeeper, presumably Accrington Stanley goalkeeper Marcus Betinelli. I’m fine with this. Most goalkeepers save most shots and the games will be won and lost in front of him for the most part. If the team limits good shots against him he’ll probably do as well as most people; if he’s exposed he’ll let a lot of goals in. I’m assuming a base level of competence here and he may not have that, but as we’ve said a million times before, experienced goalkeepers make mistakes too. That doesn’t make them ‘not ready’.
Unknown defence, presumably largely unused to playing with one another. It’s a worry, it really is, particularly if rumours of us playing in a diamond are true and we’re really expecting the fullbacks to provide all the width. That sounds a lot like last year’s death by a thousand bad overlaps (not that the middle was solid or anything).
In any case, I’m supposed to be doing background checks on the new players aren’t I? So here’s a quick overview of Konstantinos Stafylidis.
What are the lions doing to Konstantinos here?
Konstantinos Stafylidis is on loan to us from Bayer Leverkusen. He’s only 20, which is in keeping with the new Fulham, and I think we have an option to buy. He plays left back. When Leverkusen signed him they said this:
Bayer 04 Leverkusen have signed Greek U19 National Team Konstantinos Stafylidis. The 19-year-old left-back for PAOK FC signed for the club a valid work from June 1, 2013 five-year contract. About the fee arrangements agreed both clubs silence.
“This investment in the future, we have once again traded 04 Leverkusen in the style of Bayer early to bind young and highly promising players to us. Konstantinos Stafylidis is at PAOK despite his youth already a fixed size., We are convinced that he will prepare ourselves in the coming year as then further matured players a lot of fun, “said CEO Wolfgang Bayer 04 wooden houses on the transfer.
Indeed. This is actually half interesting to watch.
I haven’t got where I meant to go here, but this is a young player with little by way of a track record who’s been signed by a decent club then allowed to leave on loan at the age of 20. Frankly he could be anything. So let’s move on.
A midfield anchored by Scott Parker and with Chris David and Alex Kacaniklic in it feels like it ought to do well. Kacaniklic is absolutely my dark horse tip for this season, but saying this, for all I know he’ll be sold to Helsingborgs for an undisclosed number of tracksuits before he players another game for the club. It always feels like Scott Parker needs an asterisk next to him denoting that it’s not the Scott Parker many football fans will remember. Parker’s like the Big Macs you see in the adverts and the ones you get served: fundamentally the same but disappointingly not quite what you hope for.
Which begs further questions, doesn’t it? Will Parker thrive amongst lesser players in the Championship? Or is he still not going to be able to cover enough ground? The trick here will be in his usage. Put a stake in the ground on our penalty spot, take a 10 metre piece of rope, tie one end to the stake and the other end to Parker, and I suspect all will be well. Show him video clips of his greatest moments as a West Ham player and we’re in for a long season.
Up front we seem to be rich with options: Rodallega can be a fine big man (he can: he plays taller than he is) to McCormack, or Woodrow can do more of a general forward role. There are other options, too.
I’m no nearer an answer. Fulham feel half reasonable, to the extent they can feel half reasonable when I’ve only seen about three of them play. But we’re away to a decent team, and that’s got to be a big factor in any prediction, however half-baked.
PREDICTION: Home win