The kids are alright

One thing we all do when talking about sport is look for narratives. Presently the narrative is:

“Fulham are playing with kids and it’s possibly not working”

Now I don’t know. That feels a bit too easy to me. I’ve seen some really ordinary grown ups over the years. It seems too obvious to say that we’ve played kids and lost as a result because “this is different”. I’m not saying it’s not different but in terms of absolute ability I don’t know that anyone we’ve had on the pitch is showing inexperience. I don’t really know what that means anyway, other than it’s largely intangible. Again, I’m not saying it’s not important, but I don’t really understand it.

The big thing for me is that we’ve conceded earlyish in both games. Here’s something: there have been 19 victories in the Championship this season – all 19 were earned by the team that scored first.

Simply put: if you go a goal down it’s really hard to come back. Yes we’ve had 60% of the ball and quite a few shots, but that’s what happens when you’re behind. I don’t think it’s evidence of a good performance particularly, nor do I think it’s necessarily encouraging.

As we’ve discussed a lot over time, football hinges on small moments, and at this point in the young season the two big moments were Ipswich’s Murphy burning Shaun Hutchinson and the collective lapse that led to Millwall scoring so early on Saturday. The other moments were the Dembele save at Ipswich and Rodallega’s chances on Saturday.

So far the big moments have gone against us. I don’t necessarily know that this is because we’re using kids, rather that this is just what happens in football.

A final thought on Patrick Roberts. It’s true that he can come on and run through tired legs. It’s also true that both times he’s come on we’ve been behind. If you play your best players from the start, are you more likely to swing the match and control of same in your favour?  Then you don’t have to chase the game in the first place.

7 thoughts on “The kids are alright

  1. We’ve played two teams who probably intended to sit back anyway, but had no compunctions about doing so having gone ahead. And they did so through three shambolic concessions not just from an individual, but also a collective point of view. No brilliance was required. If we analyse who was involved in those shambles, only one was a `kid’, so to that extent your point stands up.

    More generally, a birds-eye view of the age issue is in order. If an average career is around 14 years, then we may reckon the peak for an outfield player is around the middle 7 or 8. Examine last year’s top two clubs and 20 out of 30 of their most used players were in that age band. (As it happens there were no teenagers among the 30, but assuredly they’d have used a few of ours if available.)

    Our kids are not the problem, which is rather that — having for latter years in the prem been light on (approx) 23-29 year-olds for the reason that we couldn’t afford them — we are now light on them (and especially ones with convincing pedigrees and early performances) for …..well, I really don’t know what reason. None that stacks up, I suspect.

    Talking squad here, over a long and busy season, you need the appropriate mix and, despite being in a better position that almost all rivals to equip ourselves that way, at the time of writing we have not.

  2. I just don’t know though. Here’s the opening day lineup, as it were:
    Joronen – young and we made our beds here… has he cost us? Maybe, probably not.
    Hoogland – experienced player
    Hutchinson – has played a good amount of first team football
    Bodurov – international
    Burgess – young
    Stafylidis – young but has pedigree and experience. Not completely green
    David – young but much expected and deemed ‘ready’
    Parker – old
    Hyndman – young but many people felt MOTM against Ipswich
    Dembele – young
    McCormack – experienced and very capable

    I just think the narrative’s too easy. The back four ought to have been experienced enough. Three of the four midfielders are maybe on the young side, and maybe that told a bit. Up front Dembele is young and was ineffective but might well have got the goal and played no worse than did many ‘forwards’ last season.

    I suspect the answer is to see what loan deals we can make with friendly Premier League clubs, but I absolutely don’t want to see us abandon plan A after a couple of ordinary performances. They can’t say ‘we need time’ then just do something different because this isn’t the way things are normally done. We have a great chance to develop a team that can play together for a number of years, unquestionably the best way to get good again.

    There’s a balance here and presumably we are slightly wrong in that sense, but I think the missing ingredient is quality, not experience. I’ll be gutted if we bring in more journeymen just because they’re older.

    1. It’s not either/or, ……we are missing quality coupled with experience. The defenders you mention have yet to demonstrate that they are **UP TO** Championship `journeyman’ standard. (There is nothing in their pedigrees to insist that they must be, after all — is there — merely that they might be.) Evidence is awaited.

      And if not forthcoming, what then? The existence in the squad of some mature players who have done OK in real-life Championship defences (like boring old Ipswich and Millwall’s) would cheer me up.

  3. I think it’s fairly clear that we’re not going down the journeymen route. If we were there would have been signings by now.

    It’s not out of the question that by the time we’ve played Brentford panic will have set in but I think this is a thought through strategy and not an inability/unwillingness to spend money.

    May or may not be right but if the kids are to be good enough they have to be played.

    No good saying we need an experienced keeper for example unless the decision is that Joronen is not to be trusted. He won’t improve watching someone else play.

    Need a strong, experienced central defender? Step forward Richard Dunne. He did the job last year and I imagine would come but that prevents Burgess, Hutchinson or Burn progressing.

    I’m happy to be patient because I think the potential reward is enormous. There are always Premier League loans available if necessary but that feels like going back to what got us into this mess.

  4. I think it would be a surprise if there aren’t a couple of additions to the squad, I don’t think anything has particularly changed since the kick off 10 days ago. And I would’ve thought they will be more experienced pro’s. I’m sure the board still feel there are 2 or 3 positions they will look to improve, if they can get the right combination of player + price.

    But there are a raft of teams in the Championship all looking for the same, and there’s a raft of teams in the Premier League who will let players go, but only once they’ve added to their squad. So there’s a merry-go-round still to start, that always happens in the last week of the transfer window.

    So nothing is really going to settle down with this squad & team until mid-September at earliest…what would really help would be some wins to ensure we reach that point with (a) Magath having a better understanding of which of the players are responding to his methods/requests most, so that he has confidence in his more regular XI and (b) we’re not scrapping to keep our necks above water, having spent a whole season doing that last year.

    There was a reason he sent a letter out on Friday to remind everyone that ‘Patience’ is the buzzword for the next 6 months! That note gave me lots of confidence that he has a vision, is experienced, has been through this process before and knows what he’s trying to do. And we’ll all keep our fingers crossed that we start getting a little bit of fortune now and again to help.

  5. We had plenty of matches last year with lots of experienced players on the field where we A) conceded goals through team defensive breakdowns, and B) were unable to get back into matches once we fell behind, no? It seems awfully premature, after two matches, to say that the things that have gone wrong thus far are because of inexperience, if you ask me.

  6. Think it’s hard to say either way.

    The proper milestone for the EPL to gauge a squad’s ability; unless some advanced metric displayed otherwise, earlier, was at the 8 game mark.

    Using that same ratio (8/38=~.21), we shouldn’t really be making any definitive conclusions until we’re about 10 games in.

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