Alright, maybe it is possible: how Fulham can bounce back

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Thank you to those of you who took yesterday’s post in the spirit it was intended.  The idea is not to literally claim that we need players of a certain absolute quality, more to point out that there’s a long way to go between here and there.  The comments section was suitably thought provoking, which leads me nicely onto why we may be better able to bounce back than I think.

First, this notion of a +5/-5 player relates to what that player accomplishes on the pitch. So a -2 player might be a +2 player in other contexts.  That other context here cuts two ways:

one, if we have a new manager, or if Kit gets a full head of steam, can this player contribute to a good Fulham team?  Put another way, is the player better than he’s shown this season?

two, if the answer to the above is no, is there reason to believe that the player can mature into the player we need him to be?

And here’s where things get more encouraging.

Having watched a lot less of Fulham than most of you this season, here are a few thoughts to start things off:

Good enough to make Fulham effective again: Christensen, McCormack.  I think these two speak for themselves. McCormack lacks for nothing at this level, Christensen emerged as a potential star.

Good enough to be part of Fulham’s next effective team: Bettinelli, Burn, Kacaniklic, Smith, Rodallega. I might be overreacting to Bettinelli, who seems to have had one of those superficially spectacular seasons whilst conceding bucketloads of goals.  Hunch is that he’s done about as well as anyone could have been expected to this season and that the issues are largely in front of him. Burn gets a pass having demostrated some ability at this level before and indeed, to a lesser degree, in the Premiership.  He’s not the finished article but I feel the materials are there.  Kacaniklic – and I appreciate I’m in a minority here – is a Premiership player so ought to be more successful than has been the case here.  He’s been messed about no end and needs a defined role and some patience. Smith I like, and have been gratified by his performance this year.  No, he might not be your first choice striker in a promotion chasing team, but he’s good enough to be in the conversation.  As is Rodallega, who can happily function at a higher level and therefore presumably just needs better teammates/managers/attitude?

Not in either of the above groups but shows potential/some evidence that might be improvable: Joronen, Hutchinson, Bodurov, Kavanagh, Grimmer, Tunnicliffe, Hyndman, Williams R, Roberts, Woodrow, Taggart, Dembele, Burgess, Eisfeld, David, Mitroglou, Williams G.  More on this group in a minute.  Some real talent in here, which is encouraging for our purposes.

Not in any of these groups: Kiraly, Hoogland, Stafylidis, Voser, Parker, Amorebieta.  I’m being harsh here because Fulham aren’t going to progress by not being harsh.

The missing link in all this is the manager.  We’ve talked about needing a 40 goal swing next season and as people pointed out in the comments below, that absolutely can happen.  A bit of positive momentum and the squad we’ve just itemised above can look rejuvenated in no time.  So while we have castigated the team all season, there’s some talent in the group.  It just needs unlocking.

Can a new manager do this?  Absolutely.  The current manager *might* be able to.  Momentum’s everything: with a good start and some new ideas, anything might be possible.  The season’s a bit too long to fluke anything (unless you’re Derby, for whom the fluke worked backwards) but for sure things can get better.

What does it take then?

First, we need to address the whole “diabolical defence” thing. I think that means a commitment to 4-4-2 until we’re good enough to grow out of it.  No, it’s not sexy in this day and age, but for as long as I can remember we’ve wondered whether Scott Parker can protect a back four (no); whatever happened to the midfield protecting the back four as a group? Two banks of four, hard to beat, then let the McCormack and Smith combination do its bit as and when it can.

I do think this means we need to buy the best centre-half we can lay our hands on. We need two very good full-backs whose first job is to defend, and from there we might be able to muddle through with a midfield built around LVC, Tunnicliffe, Kacaniklic and an up and comer on the right learning his trade. If Kacaniklic doesn’t work back enough he can’t play; from now on it’s about teamwork.  The team is incentivised on clean-sheets, the team becomes about clean-sheets. Nobody wants to play Fulham. That kind of thing.  This Fulham side is far, far too easy to play against: those Norwich goals were just the latest in a constant stream of dreadfully defended concessions, whereby opponents entering our area were neither closed down, tracked, or any of those things that might make it harder to score.  You don’t concede nearly 90 times in a season with any idea what you’re doing back there.

So yes, maybe I can see grounds for optimism, and maybe it doesn’t need millions of pounds either. But it’s about time Fulham stopped just throwing muck at the wall and hoping some of it sticks. It’s time to address the very obvious weaknesses, not by constantly trying new players and hoping they’re the answer, but by making a real commitment to doing things better.

12 thoughts on “Alright, maybe it is possible: how Fulham can bounce back

  1. In reality, we need a lot, a heck of a lot, because the balance of the squad is poor. Betinelli is a very good young lad, but I don’t really think he should be first choice yet. I’d like an experienced number one, ideally someone in the vein of a Mark Schwartzer. Hoogland is good but injury prone prone. Don’t rate anyone in the back line as first team ready. I love big Burn but I think, like Brede did, he needs an Aaron Hughes, to lead and cover him. Grimmer I think will be a good lad going forward. In midfield I agree that LVC is a good player, Scotty P is not at his best anymore, but he’s a definite leader. I’m disappointed to have seen so little of Roberts, but I fully believe he’s going to feature more next season. Kaca doesn’t do nearly enough for me. I think Mccormack is quality, think Matt Smith is a good target man, but we need to use actual wingers. Good crossers. Woodrow can be great one day, Dembele too. Beyond that we’re woefully short of players worthy of first team footy. Kit too has got to be replaced, I’d like to see him stay, great clubman. But if you’re going to play a diamond, you need to have wingers to link up to the forward line, or its long ball. Realistically I think we need to use a 5 man midfield to stop ourselves being so leaky at the back. Still what do I know

  2. Derby finished 20th with 50 points in the ’05/’06 season. They had a goal difference of -14. (67 conceded, 53 scored). The following season they finished 3rd with a +16 goal difference. That is a recoup of 31 goals in the goal difference.

    Anything is possible. I know Soccernomics etc say only 2% of managers actually make a difference. That does not mean that the other 98% are all equally and homogeneously useless. We need the best of the 98% and I fear Kit is near the bottom of the barrel. Someone like Sam Allardyce or Warburton would make a great difference.

  3. It IS easy in principle.

    1.We need a manager/coach who know(s) how to organise a defence. Do we have this? No and things won’t improve until we do..

    2. As you say two banks of four until we’re tight enough to be more adventurous.

    3. We need to populate these 8 positions with mentally strong, defensive types playing in positions where they’re comfortable. The right manager, appointed soon, will judge which of our present players ate up to that standard.. .

    1. Fully agree that Kit has shown little sign of being able to organise a defence. But is that not astounding? How can it be, given that he was himself a defender of some quality who played in some decent defences? I know that we know comparatively little about what exactly managers do on a day-to-day basis at the training ground and elsewhere, but this just baffles me. How can a guy who made nearly 500 senior appearances as a defender not be capable of organising a defence? Does he not know what’s required? Surely he must. Can he not communicate it to the players? Surely it’s not as difficult as all that? It’s enormously puzzling! Or am I missing something?

  4. 1. We cannot change managers again AFTER the summer transfer window. If we bring somebody in, we need to do it soon so they can bring in their players. I’m very worried we’ll get this wrong. Again.

    2. While not sharing your opinion about every single player/category, the fact there are so many players that do unarguably fit into group 2 does lend credibility to the idea that improvement in the 40 goal net improvement is almost certain to occur. But we have one critical problem that we all see clearly — we have to stop picking up the ball out of our own net. And there is no clear talent on our team for fixing that. Which is why #1 is so important.

  5. Have to agree with you there, if we’re going to change managers.it really should be before the window opens. Some will believe Kit should have the chance to try with a squad he’s built himself but frankly I don’t think he’s the man to do that. Sorry Kit. But like Magath I can’t fathom your selection process. Don’t see enough to think you ought to be entrusted with building a squad.

  6. ^^^ Yes, to all of this. ^^^

    The recent rumors of a Mitroglou for Emenike swap seem to imply the kind of bad business / desperation I’ve started to expect from Fulham. For the love of Roy I hope it all comes to an end soon.

  7. Big breath…a lot of built up frustration coming your way…like you comments by the way.

    Starting up front:
    McC is class and can lead a team to promotion. Smith is a good impact sub for the last 20 minutes. Woodrow, Taggart and Dembele are all talented enough to provide the depth. Ruiz, the Mitro and Rodallega have to go. The leave a vacancy for one striker to score 15-20 goals alongside McC, sadly I don’t have any good suggestion.

    Attacking Mid:
    I think Kacaniclic is good enough for a top championship team (although I am Swedish and may be bias). Beside him I don’t think we have any other starters. G Williams, Eisfeld, David, Roberts are talented to be given a chance in pre season but we need one or two established players here. Few players show more determination than James McClean and he will be available following Wigan relegation, he was not long ago considered a +£10m player in Sunderland…I am not fully convinced by Guthrie but on a free transfer and to try to reduce the players turnover, I think he should be given a contract. Chihi and R Williams have to go, R Williams possibly on loan for a season.

    Running out of characters so lets jump to keepers, I would normally prefer an experienced keeper but Bettinelli is very promising and we need to tie him down with a new contract and give him one more season. Alternatively he can be sold to Chelsea for £8m and we can replace him with someone old for a fraction of the cost, not overly concerned about this area yet. A sale to Chelsea could also involve a season long lone of one or two players…

  8. Me again…

    I forgot the forgotten man in the above, I still think Cole might become a decent player and we are missing a right winger…would give him another chance in pre-season.

    Holding Midfield:
    Christensen looks a good players already and Tunnicliffe and Hyndman are good enough for the squad. I also think we should keep Parker for his experience in the last 20minutes ans to guide all these new players, I would be happy to see him in a coaching role in a few years. Fofana is also a decent squad player but I think he is heading elsewhere. A few of the defenders can fill in here as well but we need at least one transfer. I have a cracy suggestion that will be success or disaster…Jamie O’Hara is an old favourite of mine and he will not stay in league one with Blackpool. Both the talent and experience is there but he certainly needs a good manager to guide him (similar to Kacaniclic).

    Back four:
    Amorebieta, Voser, Casasola and Stafylidis and all be sold on go on loan, don’t care either way. Burn, Hutchinson, Bodurov and Burgess are decent squad players but a leading central defender must be added. Turner has all the experience but I could easily be convinced that there are better options…

    Kavanagh, Grimmer are decent squad players and I actually think Hoogland and Richards are ok if we can get the later on the cheep. Didn’t see enough of Husband but one or two wide defenders must be added. Marcus Olsson is on an expiring contract in Blackburn and Tyrome Mings looks very good in Ipswich? Aron Gunnarsson of Cardiff would also be interesting.

    I’m loosing my chain of thought but Redmond of Norwich and Hoilett of QPR would be other good additions, although they might not be interested to join us at this stage…

  9. Simple maths. Fulham scored 62 and shipped 83. Even if results for the first 8 games were comparable to the last 38, they might have scored 6 more goals and conceded 6 less, still not good enough for more than mid table. Bottom line, next season’s target has to be 2 goals scored per game vs 1 against, i.e. 92 for and 46 against. Assuming another goal scorer can be found to share the load up front with McC and Smith, the goal scoring is less the issue. This is the second season in a row that the club has shipped over 80 goals. The club needs to go back to Roy H’s days and review the system he installed that survived through 4 years before the managerial merry go round took over. Another strong central defender and defensive midfielder are absolute must have’s for the start of the season. As for Kit, his passion and enthusiasm for the club are second to none. Give him a chance to prove his worth with the right talent in the right positions and …….make sure he studies Roy’s defence first system.

  10. I am still of the thought we are in for a long tenure in the Championship unless Khan suddenly wants to invest the money necessary for success. I am not sold on Kit losing his job as this was never his team and it appears he was only allowed to loan players; which I am sure did not exactly sell the team on camaraderie.

    Teamwork is another thing we need to discuss as I feel it’s the elephant in the room. The Ruiz saga is possibly draining on our younger players as they are biting at the chance to star for the team, but are held back by a player who oozes ability and has verbally stated he wants to play elsewhere. Additionally with all of our loanees, they are potentially fighting to show their parent clubs they are worth retaining and also may cause problems with the current players because they are not going to be around more than the duration of their loan. On top of the high turnover from the previous season, it had to be quite a divided locker room for many reasons.

    Parker is an interesting situation as his age is now a problem on the pitch. He is a great voice for our youth, but he cannot function as a positive member on match day outside of late sub. Hyndman was a good option at the beginning of the season before he broke his collarbone. Injuries and lack of experience devastated our midfield and lead to more goals than necessary. Our back line was surely at fault and if we continue to ignore the need of buying a strong and creative central midfielder again, we are in the same situation as the previous two years following the departure of Murphy.

    Outside of these issues, I agree with most of previous comments. The potential is there and how it gets turned on is the difference between improving or continuing to stagnate.

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