Fulham: wasted talent

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.

(Lots of goals are scored right at the end of halves)

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.

29 thoughts on “Fulham: wasted talent

  1. We were all bitterly disappointed that the club stuck with KS , almost out of a sense of loyalty , as his record as a manager last season was enough to have prompted the board to show him the door .

    I wonder whether they are already regretting their decision but we have to live with that .

    The measure of the club’s ambition will be seen in what happens in the transfer market over the next 10 days and how much more time they give the manager .

    It would be pointless to sack him now as it would make it very challenging to sign new players .

    I would prefer that they give him another 6 league games and make an assessment then .

    I have no faith in his ability to manage this team effectively and I don’t think that 2 or three new signings will change that .

    1. could not agree more but is so obvious it make you wonder about the owner and Directors intent. We have wasted another year in this division. As I have been saying from from the start of this managers period in charge we need a manager who has experience of taking clubs up and a board to go with it. I watched the Wycombe Fulham match and the manager stood there like a scare crow (no emotion) and they were almost outplayed by Wycombe.
      How much longer do we have to suffer.

  2. I agree with your comments in general. The key is that we do have a tactically naïve manager with low football intelligencia. He was hardly going to worry Championship Managers of the calibre of Hughton and Bruce. We will struggle against Huddersfield, when they drive forward the Fulham defence will concede their usual two goals by failing to cut out crosses and lose aerial duels. There is a solution, a temporary fix, to play deeper and pack the midfield, which may enable us to scrape a draw until the Managerial position is finally sorted at the club.

  3. could not agree more, the difference between kit and Roy is Roy is a weathered experienced manager and bar the exception of Rene, that’s what we have always had. I want a new manager, it’s clear kit can’t get the best out of this team and we need to make the change now before another season slips away.

  4. The Fulham I watched against Brighton was the same as the one seen last season, but the names on the shirts have changed. The one exception is O’Hara who looks to have cracked the Danny Murphy role we have cried out for. Tactically lost, without a doubt. No pace up front most certainly and a defence that creaks. The manager talks about being tired of saying the same things over and over, surely he should have the answers. KS is a nice man appointed as a counter the German Clown who ruined a club already in decline. We are looking to win promotion and with the signing of Gayle from Palace and a decent controlling centre back it is possible, but this will be lost in a very short time if we continue to execute so poorly. KS needs to establish a game plan (don’t worry about Plan B, we have no plan A) and remind the players that the game starts when the whistle is blown by the referee at the beginning of the first half, not when you are a goal down at the beginning of the second half.
    In short, a plan, pace and 90 minutes, plus a new manager if we do not win the next 3 games.

  5. Why does KS continue to play Bodurov instead of Burn Bodurov is awful.Burn seems to have at least some sort of understanding with Hutchy.They seem to be a more solid unit when they play together instead of the clumsy Bodurov.We desperately need at least one new CB,LB and defensive midfielder.Otherwise its gonna be another long depressing season.

  6. I completely agree with you Scozza. There is an understanding between Burn and Hutchinson. That’s something that made Hangeland and Hughes exceptional rather than just decent defenders. Surely Symons knows this? He was a defender by trade. Surely Curbishley knows this? He built Charlton sides on a solid back four. My biggest disappointment about the game was the way that Hughton could see his team were under the cosh so he used his substitutes wisely. He introduced Rosenior to solidify his right flank and Forster-Caskey for added bite in midfield. He killed our impetus going forward and to add insult to injury they nicked a winner (self destruct button pressed). This team cannot and will not keep a clean sheet in the league. The system doesn’t work, the manager is failing to make the correct decisions with what he has available and the same players who let us down last season are doing it again. However to open up further discussion, can Dunk and Ream change this? For me it’s a no. It’s as much attitude and organisation as it is ability.

  7. Its a shame we didn’t go for Hughton last year when he was available, he had brighton well drilled on Saturday. They are a team without so many quality players that we have however we were outplayed for 2 thirds of the game. I don’t think there are any tried and tested Championship winning managers available so likelihood id that we stick with KS

  8. It’s a funny old game, isn’t it?

    I was all committed to taking the positives so far after some ‘unlucky’ results, and am loath to call for a manager’s head so soon into a season, but I don’t really know what else can be done at the moment. The team just looks lost.

    Statistics from last night’s game show we had more shots on target, Hull scored from their only two shots on target, and we about equalled them in possession. All true – but I was there, and there was only ever one team winning the match, and it wasn’t us. The stats don’t account for the two (or was it three?) Hull efforts that came off the woodwork – and I dare say Hull’s half of the possession was generally in much more threatening positions than ours.

    And yet – at 0-1 down, Richards made a great run down the flank, picked out by a nice ball into the channel, beat the defender, and had players queuing up in the middle to tap the ball in from 8 yards out. But, of course, the only player he found was the Hull defender who came crashing in to block what seemed a simple cutback.

    The story was similar against both Cardiff and Brighton – on another day we’d have won those games, but we couldn’t take advantage and conceded late on to draw/lose. And, fair to say I think, we deserved no less on the balance of the whole game.

    Kit and some of the players have made noises about being disappointed with the results so far, hinting at some bad luck or unfairness. But at some point, they have to acknowledge that it isn’t solely luck and that we’re not helping ourselves.

    I fear that confidence is already at rock bottom and the malaise seems to be setting in again, same as last year. I hope I’m wrong, but it just doesn’t seem that Kit is up to the task of coaching this lot into a successful team, does it?

    1. I know this is out there but what about Roy kean, he took a nothing Sunderland up when he was a very inexperienced manager and demands 110 from every player, I think kit just might be too much of a nice guy. we only seem to play 45 min in any game. I’d love a Steve Bruce and we should have gotten pulls while we had the chance. it’s going to be a long frustrating season. but I can’t help but think if we are this frustrated the owner must be 10 times more it’s just will he have the balls to take leap of faith and fire him or stay with kit, we will know after game 6

      1. I don’t think that Roy Keane really wants to manage. He always seems to move on pretty quickly. Punditry probably fits him better.

      2. I think football clubs are no different to most companies in the sense that you don’t want a nutcase like Keane running them. He’s psychotic, threatens players with beatings….

  9. The writing is plainly on the wall. We need to remove some of the tired members of the board. They need to take accountability for this mess. Kit needs to go and he should never have been appointed. Where is his mentor and what is he doing? Macintosh should fall on his sword as it is long overdue.
    Act now and save our season. COYW

    1. Rigg has brought in some very good players at reasonable prices. That is why they hired him. Kit just can’t manage them no matter who they are. He is incapable of getting an inspired performance out of footballers at this level. I keep saying, different team, different year, same manager, same results.

  10. Tough to do anything with a team that doesn’t have a clear idea on how we want to play. Are we possession based or direct? We seemed to be set up to do both and it just doesn’t work. While you want to get your best players on the pitch, you can’t just throw McCormack, O’Hara, Pringle and Cairney and expect them to work it out. It seems like they keep getting in each other’s way and because each of them prefer to take a few touches and dwell on the ball, we rarely can stretch and break down the other side’s defense. At least when Demebele came on, Dawson and Davies knew that they needed to be alert to his pace and that helped open things up.

    Left back is a real problem. Voser is a liability at both ends and it’s a lot to ask Bodurov to keep putting out fires over them. It was like a jailbreak last night on our left side.

    I think the two center backs are fine (Ream and potentially Dunk will help), they were both good last night. If you get the midfield and forwards straightened out, we’ll see more positives out of Richards as he has shown a good ability to get forward.

  11. A look at the fixture list illustrates 3 very winnable games up next – Huddersfield (h), Rotherham (a), Blackburn (h) – I’d imagine they have now turned into a big 3 games for KS. 7 points from 9 will put us back in the chasing pack – 3 or less points will leave us treading water again this season. To be fair, away ties at Hull & Cardiff probably wouldn’t have been considered ‘easy’ to start with, leaving the home game against a well drilled Brighton as still the biggest disappointment, and although the results have disappointed it has been small margins.

    I think your main article is spot on – it’s very tricky for those who sat through the Roy years to wonder what the present coaching set up do all day! But then, if it was that easy, everyone would be doing it too I guess – what was it Roy was able to do that lesser managers are simply unable to do? He did it with us & with WBA brilliantly – organised teams, working greater than the some of the parts….why wouldn’t any coach look at that, and just think “I’ll copy that – there’s clear evidence it works”.

    Thus, thinking about it, I wonder whether we are possibly also understating the role player recruitment had with Roy still – true, he kept us up through a drilled team which improved every week, and mostly via hard graft, but he brought in Hangeland straight away (first transfer window)…a key player in a key position, from which he could build his defence around. With the repeated repetition of Hutchison, Bodurov & Burn, it does suggest to me that Kit Symons doesn’t fancy any of them at this level. In his defence, it’s no secret we’ve been trying to recruit Centre Halves all summer, through which he can build a functioning back 4 from. Should they be managing better in the short term? Sure. They should. But I wouldn’t underplay the importance of having a player that the manager trusts to lead the back 4 (a la Hangeland). No-one is doing this currently – every game they look around, shrugging shoulders, questioning who & why….theres no obvious candidate in charge. I appreciate that it’s a team game defending, and a good part of that coaching will be how the midfield sits with the defence and the shape they work in together, but I’m guessing at the heart of that someone needs to be in charge? In addition, both Grimmer & Garbutt (and you could argue Amborietta too) are out leaving him with Vosser, who’s out of his depth here…as mentioned in a previous post, any scouts worth their salt would target him to (a) run at and (b) cross the ball to his corner of defence. Which can’t help either. So the defence is still ugly.

    Also thinking about our great escape under Roy, two returning injury players also coincided with an upturn in form – Bullard, and most importantly McBride who gave us a presence the team could attack through. Furthermore, having stayed up, his major signings for us in the 1st summer were Johnson & Zamora – to have a style of play that became identifiably ‘Hodgson’, we mostly managed it with McBride/Zamora as the link – ball into them, held up, spread to wide positions, team up the pitch. Currently, we’ve got (had after last nights injury) Smith back….well he’s not quite at the level of those previous names. So what do they build the attack around? It does look like the answer at the club is ‘no-one knows’. Is it the big man? It kind of has to be at the moment as there’s no pace over the top, and the big man can’t do much other than be physical/win headers. But it doesn’t look like the team are playing ‘off him’ as it were. Last season, it seemed to be more ‘go through Ross’….and we seem a bit of a halfway house at the moment. And given he’ll be out a while now, that’s already gone as a game plan. Does KS brand of football revolve around pace in behind, trying to catch teams playing a high line? Possibly – he might just not have a player to do it with.

    With Roy, it was small margins we stayed up by in our Great Escape. Really fine. Low points total etc. helped keep us up. We weren’t exactly dominating games constantly. But we did it. And everything turned round from then on, the coaching was a major part of that….but so was identifying the right players to fit the pattern he was aiming to develop. Fast forward to now – it’s difficult to know what the pattern is, but I’m pretty sure that KS still wants new players to build the team around. And, KS will probably still feel it’s only truly fair to judge him if he gets in a Centre-Half and another striker, which appears to be what he’s been craving all summer. But, to have any chance of getting the players mentioned in the papers, they’re going to have to go some and probably win both remaining games before the transfer window shuts….who wants to join a team that’ll be battling to get out the bottom 6 in the Championship!?

    And a small final point – I was never very sure of what Martin Jol’s plan was…apart from “Give it to Berbatov”. And as I think it was Christian Erikksen commented on their time at Ajax, the plan there was “Give it to Suarez”. I’d stick him in the same bucket as Lawrie Sanchez!

  12. Possible managers……well this always comes down to what the fans would like to see to move us forwards (romanticism) over the boards wishes (a “yes” man). For me I don’t really see us replacing KS anytime soon. Surely if we pick up less than 4 points against Huddersfield and Rotherham we can expect to be in the bottom four. For me, I would like to go with someone who can make a difference, Di Matteo has a decent track record with higher profile clubs, what about Montella or Kevin Keegan? Decent managers attract decent players, it reflects ambition of the club. If we had ambition we would be after Karl Robinson but the ultimate…….why didnt we just go for Ottmar Hitzfeld in the first place before Martin Jol showed up!

  13. I’m hoping Kit gets fed up with the defense, dons a kit, puts himself in the starting 11, then does his knee, is out for 6-8 weeks, is then replaced by ______, who is an experienced manager with a clear method, who turns the team around in short order, leaving Kit relegated to the U21’s.
    One can dream…

  14. So l’ve flicked few most of your comments and seems that apparently there aren’t any managers to replace ks!
    So l wonder why you think this is the case when last l heard some Italian bloke who took the wankers next door on to win the cl & fa cup is just floating around without a club. In my option they should have signed either him or that spainish fella who did wonders a Wigan when they had the chance and we may never been in this shit we are today.
    Fish rots from the head people, stop wasting big money on player (dunk – they know we’re desperate) and sign a manager that can manage!

  15. It’s not like he has never coach in the championship before, won promotion l believe, pay the man! Now that would be the sceptic tanks money well spent for for a change!

  16. bad night, lost 2 players why replace a winger with another who hardly gets a touch.should have put on a defender who just might have been in position to clear the cross for the goal.might have got a point which everybody would have been pleased with before game.+stop this run of conceding at the end of games

  17. We could soon see a starting XI with no academy products. I like the new players but it is dramatic just how much we’ve become a championship side so quickly. The academy was a ray of hope that some premiership quality was on our books. I think Kit is too inexperienced to have the confidence to play the kids (now given the choice) or the credibility to manage championship pros. Kit is now a hell of a risk. At the end of this season the money really starts to run out and you have no choice but to figure out that Burn is as good as Dunk with the right manager.

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