Based on the final analysis it looks like Fulham will end with a goal difference of about -20, which means they’re something like 5 net goals above the relegation places.
Looking at the table, the promoted clubs had goal differences of 41 and 50, which we’ll call 45, and the playoff clubs are 19, 31, 32 and 38, which we’ll call 30.
In short, next year Fulham need to be a +30 team for the playoffs and a +45 team for promotion, from a base of -19 (this season).
That’s going to be a +50 odd swing for playoffs and a +65 swing for promotion!
The other day we figured that a really good player might be worth 5 net goals to his team.
You might think of footballers on a 10 point scale, ranging from -5 to +5. At one end you have a team that, if comprised of players of this quality, would end with a goal difference of -50, e.g. Blackpool. At the other end you’d have a team romping away with the league at +50, e.g. Bournemouth.
If we think Ross McCormack really is a top quality player, a +5, then his teammates are most likely a bunch of -1 to -3 players. Nothing else adds up. I mean, we can argue that the players are better than they performed, which might be reasonable, but ultimately good players play well. Fulham’s players didn’t play well, so it’s hard to say they’re good players.
If I’m going to keep this mathematical, Fulham need to turn the -1 and -2 players into +1 and +2 players. To make the requisite jump you’re looking for a 50 goal swing remember, either not conceded or scored.
You’re either having to improve players who almost got relegated into a promotion machine (how?), or you have to find the equivalent of 10 more players who can all play at a level that’s 4/5 net goals better than the player they replaced. I don’t think that’s really possible.
In any case there are two possibilities:
1) better coaching can radically transform these players
2) we need a complete overhaul and even then need to spend massively and effectively
Does point 1 work? As best I can tell there aren’t many managers who have made a career out of turning water into wine. Most managers achieve what they should with what they have. Now, we come back to this argument that the squad significantly under-achieved, and I’m not completely against this idea, but it seems more likely to me that the players simply weren’t very good. Our eyes might see promise there but the goals against totals suggest that something’s up. That the team was unable to stem the flow at all suggests that either the coaching was awful or the players didn’t have it in them, probably both. Either way, if you want a +50 swing in goal difference it’s not going to happen by magic.
Does point 2 work? No. To acquire that many good players, without misjudging any of these acquisitions, is too big an ask. You can’t just buy 9 more Ross McCormacks. You couldn’t afford to even if you could find them all.
As things stand I simply can’t see how this squad can become the squad it’s meant to be. To believe otherwise seems to me too great concession to wishful thinking. It’s too much.