If you have a runny nose you wipe it. But the runny nose is the symptom, not the real issue. By wiping it you’re doing some good but not getting at the major problem.
I say this because Fulham have conceded three goals late in matches. In three games, in fact. In the only three games they’ve played, for that matter. But these late goals aren’t, I don’t think, about fitness, because these days most teams are fit enough to run for a whole game, if not more. No, the late goals are the snot on the team’s face. And the snot is there because we have a cold, or, to try to break out of this dreadful metaphor once and for all, the late goals are there because we’re awful defensively.
So it’s not really that outlandish that a team that can’t defend might concede at this time.
The last time Fulham were afflicted by this particular bug was under Lawrie Sanchez, when, for various reasons, imprecise defensive work led to opponents gradually finding their way through late on in matches.
This isn’t chance, I don’t think. The last manager we’ve had who really didn’t do very well was probably Sanchez. I mean, I know about Magath, but you can almost discount him from discussions can’t you? Before him we had some halfway competent managers and after him came the master of defensive organisation himself.
I do keep on about Hodgson, and you might expect that, but I think a bit of the problem here, if we may be so arrogant, is that having watched Hodgson’s teams for a few seasons Fulham fans grew to understand that defending is something that’s taught, not just something that some people who cost £5m can do and some people we already have can’t. We saw how Hodgson took some supposedly lesser players and made them into a formidable unit. We know about this, so we know it can be done.
What’s galling at the moment is that this Fulham team, and let’s be honest, this Fulham manager, doesn’t seem to have a plan, or any evidence of having been coached. It feels like what would happen if you just bought a group of players and told them to run around to keep fit in the week, then to do their best on Saturday. This, I am aware, does the hard work of the coaching staff an enormous disservice, but what other conclusion can you draw when, by now, almost all of the division can say that they’ve outplayed Fulham at least once in the last year?
The fact remains, even Lawrie Sanchez had a plan. It didn’t work, but he had a plan. Martin Jol had a plan. Felix… certainly had ideas. But what’s Kit Symons trying to do? Does anyone know?
I, like all of you, like to think of myself as a reasonably good judge of a player. I look at the current lineup and I don’t have to do too much wishful thinking. I want a midfielder who knows how to defend, because we still haven’t got one of those, and I want a left back. We might even have the latter if Garbutt can play (and people say he can). So it’s really all there.
That’s partly why we’re all so fed up I think. Last year’s team was a cobbled together farce. This time we have a young, British core, and they are very capable. But we’re wasting it because we have a manager who, as best we can tell, doesn’t know how to make the most of the talent he has available to him. It’s really disappointing.