I am not an apologist

Or maybe I am: Apologist: “a person who offers an argument in defence of something controversial.”

Whatever. 

1

Suppose someone said: “we’re going to start again with this team. Bring in the youth team. Sign a few experienced players. Work to build a blend.”

How long would you expect it to take to get this right?

2

Here’s a run of four games that promoted QPR had late last season:

10 Feb 2014 Derby County 1 – 0 Queens Park Rangers
16 Feb 2014 Queens Park Rangers 1 – 3 Reading
22 Feb 2014 Charlton Athletic 1 – 0 Queens Park Rangers
1 Mar 2014 Queens Park Rangers 1 – 1 Leeds United

Derby made the playoffs, too, and many considered them the best team in the league. They had a run early on including four defeats in seven games. Late in the season they had a run of four games without a win.

Wigan were even more iffy: they had a run of one win in five early on. They lost four in a row halfway through the season, and closed out with a sequence of LWLLWL.

The difference here is that Fulham’s problems haven’t been a bad run in an otherwise good season, but a bad run with nothing else. 

But still.  Bad runs are part of football in the Championship.  

3

This is interesting: http://theonlystat.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/championship-week-4-fledgling-fall-of.html

The key part in Fulham’s predicament at the moment is that they simply can’t buy a goal for love nor £11m of Ross McCormack – although the League Cup winner in midweek against fellow Championship side Brentford may get him going.

Does anyone really expect Fulham to still be scoring just 13% of the shots on target at the end of the season? That’s less than half the league average of around 30%.

Defensively the west London team have also been burned – somehow conceding goals at double the league average – almost 60%.

Of course both these could be down to the quality of chances that Fulham are creating and conceding – but to have this wide a disparity must surely be very unlucky. (Consider it the reverse of when a West Brom or Sunderland or Swansea or other Premier League “minnow” is up near the top of the table a couple of months in – eventually every shot they take stops hitting the back of the net, opposition shots curl just inside rather than outside the post, and the team slides back down to its more natural (playing talent-based position somewhere in the middle of the table).

You know what that is? That’s just the bounce of the ball not going our way yet. If, across the league, 30% of shots on target are going in, and it’s half that when we shoot and double that when our opponents shoot, well that’s just the break of the ball. Last season every single team ended up clustered around the 30% figure, with 6 points either way.

So that’s just bad luck.

In conclusion:

1) we knew rebuilding would take time
2) most teams have bad strings of results. Even teams that aren’t starting from scratch.
3) we’ve probably been really unlucky so far. I know people won’t like this but it’s how things work.  If you toss a coin once anything could happen.  If you toss a coin 100 times you’re more likely to see a 50/50 split between heads and tails.  In short sequences of games things don’t even out.  They just don’t.  People will rightly say that we haven’t played well, but a lot of that is a function of the bad luck: when that starts to stabilise the players will appear more confident, the fans will overlook things that will get picked out after defeats, and the world is generally a happier place.

There. I did all that without talking about anyone in particular.  

Okay, now I will. Look, I don’t agree with most of what Magath’s doing either, but I’m not convinced that the sky’s falling down just yet.

20 thoughts on “I am not an apologist

  1. In some ways you could see it as a P.R. problem. Like a politician who doesn’t know how to get his / her message across.

    I think you probably do like a lot of what Magath has done, despite your last sentence. And you pretty much said it earlier. Clearing out the deadwood, promoting youth, giving new players a chance, lowering the wage bill.

    If it wasn’t that Magath, fairly or unfairly, is seen as “mad Magath”, and Khan is now seen as an asset-stripper, I would have thought the last two performances would be seen as cause for hope. Their message has been muddied by ‘interference’ from old players who did sweet F.A. for us over the last two seasons and an esteemed but notably eccentric ex-Chairman. And they (Magath and Kahn) have made the mistake of engaging in public which is exactly what politicians are trained not to do – it just gives credence to the opposition message.

    And it amuses / bemuses me greatly, that so many are calling for Ruiz and Mitroglou to be our saviours – based on what exactly? Ok, Ruiz is a talent, but last season he was a pariah and now he’s the messiah. And Mitroglou, FFS.

  2. I read that blog and excellent it was too and it put a lot of perspective on our current position. From the data supplied, we’re in a false position and we’re only 5 games in, so if we continue with that trend, we should start picking up wins very soon.

    I think the signing of Smith is very good for a couple of reasons.

    A/ He’s worked with McCormack before and they built a very good understanding together last season. If they can continue, we have a good partnership in attack and it’s one less partnership we have to worry about building in the team.

    B/ Like it or not, it’s a physical league and Smith will add a physical presence to our attacks. His stats suggest he’s strong, good in the air and plays short passes ie he’s a target man. We need someone of this ilk and it should allow not just McCormack to score more, but also our midfield.

    Yes, we’d have all liked to see a big name join and potentially someone who’s more of a rounded striker but it makes sense on a few levels. Plus, 500K seems a very good deal for a 25 yr old English striker.

  3. “Look, I don’t agree with most of what Magath’s doing either, but I’m not convinced that the sky’s falling down just yet.”

    Did you read TIFF last night? Mass hysteria in action. Amazing stuff. Previously sane posters sure we are being systematically dismantled to sell the club on and that we’re clearly more likely to be relegated than otherwise.

    I’m actually quite happy. Smith paired with McCormick sounds great. Ruiz staying and playing with them would be even better. We have a very good experienced keeper backing up two very good young ones. The fullbacks are excellent. I like the central defenders. Like Hoogland in front of the defence and cannot believe how great Hyndman looks. These are exciting times and if we see less chopping and changing from the manager I reckon results will come and I’ll be happy with the manager.

    The big thing is that it occurred to me last night while everyone was panicking about Khan’s intentions that what we’re seeing is exactly what Liverpool saw from Tom Warner at the beginning. Some mistakes with managers and big signings. He’ll figure it out, if he hasn’t already.

    1. With regards to Khan, you’re more of an optimist than me. I don’t know that he’ll ever figure it out. He certainly hasn’t figured it out with the Jacksonville Jaguars. This is in contrast to Tom Werner, who had success with the Red Sox.

      1. Khan has owned the Jaguars for two seasons. That’s not really enough time to properly evaluate whether he’s been successful at turning things around for them.

  4. Like several here , I disagree with much of what Felix is doing , but it is not all doom & gloom and nothing a couple of wins would not turn around – although we do have some tough games coming up . Hopefully now we can have a more settled squad , with less changes game on game . Tweaking a few is justified , wholesale changes every game is just disruptive .

    The defence looks better , and Hog , Stafylidis , Burn and the Bulgarian guy look a collective big improvement . Also Bettinelli has performed confidently in the last two games , and I hope the pole positioning of Kiraly on the players profile does not indicate he is first choice .
    I think Smith could be surprisingly good at this level , he looks a proper lower league forward who could develop , and provides us with a muscular target man , something we have missed since Zamora , and briefly , Pog . But I do feel we need to play with width , and George Williams looked good on his few performances .Plus of course we have Roberts who looked incredibly skilful , but maybe might not be so effective when the grounds get heavier until he beefs up . Ross Mac needs to be in the middle , not operating left wide or taking corners and free kicks , we need him in the box .
    Hyndman has probably looked the most impressive and consistent of the kids , very promising .Also David looks a good aggressive midfield talent .

    I can be the biggest critic of Ruiz , I nickname him Bambi as he has been so lightweight at times , but if he staying ( I gather still an IF ) he could play a part , as there is no doubting his skill and creativity .

    I remain unconvinced on Khan and his intentions , Macintosh is just a joke ridiculed around the Taverna’s of Greece and maybe many other places , and Felix is so hard to like – although he would probably take that as a compliment , and his tactics are frequently less than obvious even to his own players !
    But there are some glimpses of blue sky , it is still early days , and a rapid 6 points changes everything . But if we enter October with 3 points or less , it is going to be a hard season with dark clouds .
    The crowds are dropping , and our three home games have been against teams with a strong travelling support . If you take 3000 off the gates , you are looking at around 14,500 which is probably realistic . But you can see the big gaps in the Putney end , again not surprising as probably the seats taken by the casual fans who turn up at short notice depending on the game .

  5. It doesn’t help though that Khan has stressed that he’s willing to spend big and that the aim is instant promotion and that only two or three days ago Magath was talking about 2 or 3 new signings having stated the same immediately after the Derby defeat.

    Conversely the selection process at the start of the season was bizarre yet Magath made it clear that everyone was to get a chance – the opposite of freezing players out. He explained what he was doing yet somehow we chose not to listen.

    Hopefully it’s settled down with an understanding of which kids are ready and how we’re to play and with more consistency and better luck the season will improve.

    1. Has Khan really “stressed” that? Or is it merely something he’s said and people have latched onto as evidence of his duplicity?

  6. All good points. Including the comments. I confess to looking at it differently, and more fatalistically.

    We have had our share of bad luck, to be sure. Though by many measures we had a staggering share of “bad luck” last season too. Is it conceivable that what is being described as bad luck can to some degree small or large be better explained by an inability of the players selected to finish effectively and/or goalkeeping which has been positively mediocre at best? In other words, the men charged with the last act of putting the ball in the net and keeping it out are not just unlucky, but, er, ungood?

    We have nice players – I like the team that was trotted out there Saturday with the exception of McCormack wide. But the transfer window did not go well (other than Smith was a nice purchase, I agree). We kept players who just a week ago Felix said were “unsettling” the team and we failed to bring in depth at positions more critical than forward (particularly in light of keeping Hugo). Depth that just two days ago Felix himself said we would have.

    It is the truism of all management that leaves me with the fatalistic stance: every day you stick with the wrong guy = two days worth of damage on the calendar (the damage done by the bad one plus the right job done by the person you should hire). Now add to that the opportunity cost of a transfer window lost. I submit that Felix has offered scant (if not zero) evidence that he is the right man for this job. With the evidence he has provided, he should have been gone and another manager given the chance to work in the just-expired transfer window. I’m totally with the boys. I’m not with the manager. A lot is riding on the answer.

      1. Sadly, you’re absolutely right. Last year’s team was terrible, which is why I don’t understand how people can be baffled that many of the players involved have been sold or allowed to leave on frees (let alone think that moving on from that group of players is “asset stripping” rather than part of attempting to improve the team in the long run).

  7. Rich, if you take a deeper look at number 3 you’ll find it’s not simply “bad luck.” We’re 3rd in possession, 2nd in passing accuracy and 5th in total shots/match. But then we’re 17th in shots on target/match and 2nd bottom in goals for. Bad luck? Or…

    We are 19th (3%) when it comes to shots taken inside the 6 yd box. We’re dead last (35%) for shots taken inside the 18 yd box and, not surprisingly then, we’ve taken the highest % of shots (62%) from outside of the box. Of our 4 goals, 3 have come from within the 18 yd box, 1 from outside.

    Conversely, we’ve allowed our opponents to take 3% of their shots within our 6 yd box which is 5th best and rather good. However, the problem is that we’ve allowed our opponents to take a league worst 63% of their shots inside our 18 yd box. We’re 23rd (34%) for shots allowed outside of the box.

    I’d like to have faith that we’re close to turning a corner except poor shooting decisions and poor defending have been staples of FFC for so long now. New managers, new players, same problems. It’s discouraging.

    All stats were taken from whoscored.com

    1. thanks, that’s useful. I would still bet you ten packs of jaffa cakes that the numbers, both ends, will improve by the end of the season. Last year all teams were clustered between 24 and 36%, so given our wealth and apparent talent, it would be an obscene outlier if we’re where we are now by the end of the year. I could see that happening to Blackpool, conceivably, but whatever people say, we’re too good for it to stay like this. Your numbers do rather put things in perspective, though: there’s still a lot to do.

  8. The first team will eventually sort itself, and those concerned will be gone in any event before long. The underlying structures, rooted on the academy, matter more as they would be harder to reconstitute if they fell apart. That makes reports of Magath-related disenchantment in that neck of the woods top reason for concern right now.

    Still, it might help first-team results and would certainly boost morale if Khan put more of his money where his mouth has been. The loan system means he needn’t wait until January to do that.

  9. Cards on the table – I really don’t like Magath – I think he is a nut job who consistently fails to take accountability and in parallel publicly burns his players

    However, at the same time, I am also prepared to accept that in football, nut jobs can do fairly well and instead we should looking at what he is doing

    If you consider the bigger picture – at the end of last season everyone was saying similar stuff along the lines of ‘something needs to change so clear the overpaid, underperforming dead wood, increase the graft and give the kids a chance’ – which is pretty much exactly what has happened

    Whilst results may not be going are way – this is an inevitable consequence of the major surgery we asked for

    I might not be an apologist but at the same time I’ve got no problem with sticking with the plan, letting the anomalies iron themselves and seeing where are by Xmas

  10. Not sure this is the place to add, but one thing I found missing in yesterday’s transfer deadline day bonanza was everyone overlooking the fact that we are a Championship club, which means we can still acquire players after yesterday’s deadline.

    Yes, they’ll mostly be short-ish term loans, but it’s quite a detail. We can even accept players from fellow Championship clubs (somehow…?!?!)

  11. They first rid the club of players with a negative attitude accepting a loss, I’m guessing. But why sell your remaining assets when you’re getting low-ball offers? The remaining players from last season who are high value, (easy. I’m speaking relatively here), are either on loan, or still on the squad. They also brought in some veterans for the level of play we’ll endure this season, and brought in only one player on loan to our squad (Stafylidis, who is looking brilliant), and attempted to interject youth in the squad.

    Could this mean a long term plan is in place? Could this mean these professionals in charge, no matter how crazy I think they behave outwardly, actually be instilling a paradigm shift?

  12. Good rational article and comments.
    I find Magath frustrating as most of us do, he is doing the right things generally in terms of giving young players a chance and blending in some quality experience. Everyone is pleased with Hoogland and Bodurov, probably the same with Stafylidis, less so with Voser and Chihi. The actual money spend on McCormack looks value at whatever we actually paid which is way less than £11mm unless we get promoted and adding Smith will give him some support that Woodrow is failing to provide and sadly, because I like him, is probably why our stats for shots are so poor.
    His switching of players around in the first few games is on hindsight probably due to him seeing it as a trial period and wanting to see how players performed in true league circumstances not friendlies.
    However where the frustration and fears lie is the way that with some players they seem to have the opportunity, play well then disappear into oblivion. George Williams played well and got dropped not even to make the bench, Ryan Williams, ditto, lets see what happens next. Hugo and Amorebieta are two experienced quality players, especially at this level yet Magath has dropped them, as he did Kaca. Now unless those two are off to Turkey or Russia with Ruiz we should expect them to figure but will we?
    Another frustration is the poor substitutions, taking David off on Saturday, bringing Chihi on, a winger and then playing him thro the middle when he had Dembele and Roberts on the bench? And I am pretty sure no-one on here wants to see Fotheringham again on the field. I question whether his coaching team have any input or are they just yes men?
    As someone mentioned above the real concern is what is the relationship between the Academy and Magath? there has been turnover at key levels and we are lucky to still be playing in the Premier level U21 and U18, I hope we maintain that and see players progress through to the senior squad. On one hand there are great examples for the kids to see in Hyndeman, Dembele and Roberts, being given a chance on a big stage; on the other there is the rumor that he has banned the first team squad talking to the academy players – hopefully not true. Hopefully we will see positive signs of the relationship before too long.
    So the sky is not falling but it still looks cracked…

  13. Let’s be honest, Magath gave bad luck every chance to succeed. However, just read an article about Hyndman’s international call up where he says the fulham youngsters are all excited about their chances to play and fight for the club. 20 plus players used in the first 5 games but all fighting for a place in return for 1 point might be a short-term concern but a long-term gain. It should have been done in pre-season though. My big concern is that with some of the older and more experienced players not leaving, the plan to build a team on youth will be put on hold.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s