I’ll have to watch the highlights later, but for now, here’s a quote from our manager before the game:
“It depends how we play and how the result goes. If we have a good game and good result, we will not change so much. If we have no result, like on Saturday, we have to change something.”
Does he mean that he’s looking for something in his team and sees every match as an opportunity to find out whether he’s found it? (like a lottery ticket, where you buy it on Wednesday and see if it worked out on Saturday). Will he, after we do win a match, think: “yes! that was the configuration we’ve been looking for!”
We have talked about partnerships around the pitch, and Steve Claridge on the radio did the same last night. When I was researching the Roy book (have you got yours yet?!) David Elm told me how during the week forwards would practice in pairs (he was with Eddie Johnson) to help build up an understanding.
Fast forward to 2014 and it’s not clear that anyone in the team has played next to someone else more than once, except for the back four, which was remarkably stable until being hacked up last night.
If we think we need 10 games for luck to even out then does that not become about 30 if we field a different team every week? When you want to test something you generally try to stabilise the test as much as possible. So if I want to see what impacts on students’ abilities to pass exams I look for two groups with as much in common as possible except for the variable I’m interested in. By looking at their results I can deduce that the variable they didn’t share may be responsible for any variation.
(say you make two sandwiches: one has jam in the middle, the other has mashed snails; when you get people to rate the sandwiches sandwich A might get 8/10 and sandwich B 1/10. If you want to know why, you can deduce that since they both had bread, they both had butter, and they were both freshly made today, the difference is in the filling).
Put another way, if Fulham play a different team every week, one with 5 or 6 changes, it’s very hard to learn anything. Suppose he makes 6 changes for Saturday and we sneak a 1-0 away win. What do we deduce?
That football is very random and we can’t read too much into it
That these six changes were collectively responsible for the turnaround
That one of the six changes was crucial. Which one?
I don’t know. What you would hope is that Magath has a vision for his team and wants to identify the team that best fits this. Anyway, here are our stabs this season (formations as per the Fulham website):
Hoogland Bodurov Hutchinson Stafylidis
Hoogland Bodurov Burgess Stafylidis
Hoogland Bodurov Burggess Kavanagh
David Parker Hyndman Burgess (Diamond)
Parker Christensen Hyndman (4-3-3)
Roberts Parker Fotheringham Stafylidis (4-4-2)
Williams Rodallega Eisfeld
There are a few scenarios here:
He knows the opposition well and has designed a master plan for each team
He is ‘trying things’ to see what works
He is rotating the squad like Sir Alex Ferguson
He is wary of young players having a long season and trying to guard against burnout
He’s trying to make Fulham impossible to scout
He’s trying to keep his players on their toes and create a “battle for places”
He doesn’t know what to do
Whatever, my guess is that the players are as confused as we are.
I sometimes think of football managers as being a bit like doctors. “Do no harm”. Fulham seem to have stumbled into the opposite. I am the most patient person around but this just looks like chaos. We might well improve – conceding early goals in all three games has been unfortunate – but I haven’t seen anything in our play to suggest that we’re better than this.
The reasons to be optimistic are:
The defence has been quite settled so might come good
Parker and Hyndman seems like a reasonable basis for a midfield
We have Patrick Roberts
Ross McCormack does score goals.
And perhaps much else besides. But sooner or later we need points.