Derby 5-1 Fulham – time to change

The more this goes on the harder it is to assume Felix is the right man for Fulham.

The first three results were all sort of reasonable.  Losing away to Ipswich was likely: fine.  Millwall have been on a great run, and got the crucial early goal, so alright, that happens.  Wolves aren’t a bad side and that one went against in what was by all accounts a fairly awful Fulham performance. But these things happen: you can lose by a single goal and three defeats in a row with a young team is not necessarily unexpected.  

And I suppose by the same reasoning, yesterday’s catastrophe is explainable. Derby are well coached, deserved to go up last year (they were at least the third best side in the league) and by that token ought to have had us quaking in our boots.

But two things: one, we just came down from the Premier League, where for years we did well enough. We shouldn’t be petrified of a good Championship side. Two, except there is nothing left of that team. A lot of us felt this was a good thing, but with every game there is a sense that Fulham dismantled in too much of a hurry.  

The game, anyway. I’m going off highlights and what trusted observers told me, but it sounds like we were okay in parts of the first half, but conceded again from a cross and a runner hitting the box hard. If you look back on the season:

Ipswich we conceded to one dribble and someone running quickly to meet a loose ball
Millwall was a cross and someone meeting it at the far post
Wolves saw someone charging in and meeting a loose ball first time
Then the first goal at Derby

In all four games we’ve conceded to someone arriving in the area and hitting the ball first time.  I don’t know what this means but it suggests we’re not picking up players and we’re not doing a good job of making our area tough to negotiate.

Derby’s second was like something off the beach, their third saw Burgess turned inside out and another first time finish.  The fourth was a tap in off the post.  The fifth was an embarrassment to everyone involved with piecing this shambles together.

Fulham, then, consistently undone by first-time shots.  It suggests a side not coping, a team not able to impose itself at all.  A team that is to the Championship what last year’s team was to the Premiership.

The thing is, people will say that we can’t expect kids to come in and play, but I still think this is the only way this club can right itself over time. We need to grow through the academy, to develop a group of players who are familiar with each other and play “the Fulham way”.  It’s not the plan to go to youth that’s the problem, it’s the implementation of this plan.  As Mike Gregg has pointed out on twitter, we have bypassed a generation of young players who could be a bridge between the first team and the lads we’re seeing torn apart now.  Maybe Mesca, Trotta, Burn, Tankovic, even Hoesen, would have been worth working with here.  But the main point surely is not that we’re using kids, but how we’re using them.

If Roy Hodgson can make Dickson Etuhu into a valuable player on the European stage then this lot can be made into a team, too. Young players are presumably not that different to older players: tell them what to do. Make them comfortable in their roles. Take the pressure off them.

We have used 20+ players in four games and in various formations along the way. How can a young player learn a role if the role, and his place in this role, is changed every week?  How?

It sickens me to say it but if we want promotion now we badly need a dour, organiser.  Chris Hughton was the organisation between Jol’s good teams at Spurs.  Alec McLeish used to make Birmingham a dour 4-4-2 Roy-lite side. It wasn’t fun but at least it worked, to a degree.  A 0-0 draw or two would work wonders.  When did we last draw 0-0 for that matter?  We haven’t been able to control games enough for that.  

And yet we still have World Cup players we won’t use.  We have Dan Burn, who has towered above Championship forwards in the past. We have Marcello Trotta, who has flickered and occasionally succeeded in an upwardly mobile Brenford side (being run with intelligence and purpose).

At this point I don’t really think things could be much worse. Having committed to the youth approach we desperately need to stick with it – the next good Fulham team is going to be built this way – but increasingly it feels as if Felix Magath is not getting through to this group, is the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. Fulham need to get their next appointment right, a manager with a track record of developing young players *and* of organising a team. It really needs to be someone who can connect with the players, which may be Magath’s failing here.

I don’t think this is about getting promoted now, though. That would be too quick. I’d like to see Danny Murphy and Kit Symons take things on for this reason. Murphy talks more sense than half of “the football community” put together, Symons for his understanding of the youngsters.  Give them five years and acknowledge that the transformation may take a few years, but that when it’s complete we might have one of the most vibrant and exciting young teams in Britain.  This group of players, if they are used well, will get the first team experience so few of their contemporaries see, and get it together.  Keep at it.  Keep going to the kids. But for god’s sake give them a chance, a positive environment where people aren’t simply discarded because their face doesn’t fit, or because they arrived before the manager, or because they earn a bit more than we’re comfortable with (stripping the wage bill at the moment is fine, but hang on: we spent a lot of money on Mitroglou that we’re writing off as a sunk cost?), or because of whatever.

Just get this club back in the hands of grown ups, running things sensibly and efficiently. The waste we’ve seen has been awful.  I’m happy that we’re starting to take the right approach, which is the only encouraging thing here, but we’re doing it badly. Stick to the plan, but change the way we’re aproaching it, and fast.

11 thoughts on “Derby 5-1 Fulham – time to change

  1. But does the problem extend even higher than Magath. Magath is the third in a row to fail. Magath apparently was not behind the colossal blunder of buying Mitroglou, when all we needed to stay up was a semi-competent, fit striker. If say Murphy (or anyone else) comes in, will his hands be tied by the rotten hierarchy he reports to? I agree we need some basic organisation – build from the back as you’ve always said. But how come Jol, Muelensteen and now Magath, all far more experienced than Murphy, have been unable to see that? It’s a mystery to me. Do we need to clear out the whole club structure above the manager as well.

    1. I don’t doubt that there are deeper organizational problems, but Alistair Mackintosh isn’t the one changing formations and starting young players in different/unfamiliar positions every game.

  2. I watched yesterdays game on a stream, having watched all of our games now it’s very obvious that we are weak all over the pitch and there’s absolutely no continuity or plan. It’s essentially a debacle. I agree we need to give someone/some management team some time and it’s not the dodgy german. Who comprises that team we won’t be party too but.. Curbishely, Symons Murphy must be up there somewhere please

  3. I have to agree the management above Magath is a serious problem. I always felt Meulensteen lost his job because of Wilkins. Sheffield United replay lost him his job but i felt he was getting somewhere and we would have stayed up with him though it was right Wilkins should go. Something is very very wrong now and to be honest nothing would make me happier than hearing a change being made today

  4. Small sample size, but after posting unfortunate but respectable totals in prior defeats this season; Fulham showed more Jol-era crap being outshot 23(14) to 10(5). Maybe it was just a bad day at the office against a very good team, but those numbers are totally unacceptable.

    Another small sample size, but we’re averaging 3 shots on target per game. No wonder we’ve scored…2 goals (one of which was really an OG). This is also totally unacceptable.

    This may be akin to complaining about your kitchen appliances when the house’s foundations are crumbling, but Joronen’s time in net is about done. No, not just because his team gave up 5 goals today. The fella has as little presence in the box and command of his CBs as I’ve ever seen.

    The active squad, as it stands (ie not including the 3-4 nebulously “frozen out”) is mediocre at best. Sorry, but it’s true. Yes, there are flashes of brilliance and immense promise here/there but the sum is not positive enough. Part of this may be due to lack of people management 101 (the gist of your entire piece), part of it is due to age, part of it is due to several talented players stuck in purgatory for no evident reason.

    1. A guy on the way out from the Millwall game was informing everyone that Magath was just trying to make a point. The point as far as I could make out was, I’ll show that you can’t win things with kids and then you’ll have submit to my complete power. Then after the Derby game FM declares a new awareness of the need to bring in more experience. I don’t think FM is this sinister, I just don’t think he knows how to execute a 3 to 5 plan as Rich has alluded to. But he has to go immediately before he does more damage to the squad, some of which I do believe is intentional or at least reckless. Eisfeld when he joined talked of coming to a club where youth is given a chance. A penny for his thoughts now, eh. Who in their right mind would sign up for Fulham under Magath.
      Contrary to FM, I think bar a holding midfielder we do have the calibre to be competitive in the championship. I don’t know if we have a golden generation in the wings, but it is something to be truly excited about, even patient. But if it’s not managed correctly our youth set up could become comparable with the admirable Crewe, rather than the success of Southampton over recent years. From a business perspective the youth policy is also critical. The parachute payments will run out and financial fair play means our sugar daddy can’t step in. I agree there is something clearly wrong in the management structure at Fulham. But someone (presumably Mr Khan) please start with Felix first thing Monday morning.

  5. Its all such a mess.

    I think you’re right about an organiser. It feels like the most sensible appointment at the moment would be one that doesn’t inspire the fans too much, not a name but someone to steady the ship which is listing badly and is in danger of a second relegation in a row. I feel like we should be steering clear of ‘flavour of the month’ managers such as Tim Sherwood, but I thought Magath might be alright so what do I know.

    The impending transfers of the experienced expensive players (Amorebieta, Ruiz, Mitroglou etc) should be stopped immediately and a new team built around these players. Magath will never do this so he must have to go.

    This season has become about survival which is a bloody disgrace. Mid/lower table would have been fine, but this is not acceptable. The sooner we get rid of the key figures the better.

  6. I believe the decline started with the appointment of Jol and the subsequent lack of investment. Recent events have made a mockery of everything that has gone before. Yes we needed a clear out but why discard loyal club men like Hangerland, Stockdale, Sidwell and even Kasami? Why are we not playing Burn and Amob? Why not give the World Cup guys a chance? If we don’t get rid of The manager immediately we will replicate the events the last time we were relegated from the top division.

  7. I agree with Dipper. I think we all knew that many of the players from last year where either simply not good enough for the premier league at that point, or were being badly managed (or both), and that there was a clear need to inject new players, particularly the talented youth. Unfortunately, the way this has been done is madness. Some of our previous squad could have been immense in the Championship – Hangeland, Stockdale, Kasami, Sidwell, Richardson, for example. We may not have been able to keep many of these guys, but it seems like little effort was made to try. I would kill to see Dejagah cutting in from the wing and smacking some goals for us right now. I feel that with a more gradual integration of youth and new players, we might have actually amounted to something this year. We need to keep what quality and experience we have left (i.e. Burn, Mito and Ruiz) and get a couple more before time runs out in the window. Oh yeah, and move FM on of course.

  8. The absence of Burn is in some ways most perplexing to me. He’s young and in many ways green, but he’s excelled at this level, and in his games in the PL last season he seemed to demonstrate some ability for helping organize the back line. That in particular is something we’re lacking right now. Our CB pairing is acting like two defenders playing separate one-on-one games on a lot of these goals.

  9. I’ve recently read that Magath reports directly to Khan everyday, bypassing Mackintosh. Who the hell knows what’s going on anymore…

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