I could go into the details of the match, but I will save my fellow Fulham supporters from them as they were not good. The bottom line is that Wolves dominated the Whites in most every facet of the match and made easy work of a Fulham team that on paper is a much better squad than Mick McCarthy's bunch. However, on this day, it was Wolves looked the better team and Fulham paid dearly for it.
After the debate about reserves or regulars last week against CSKA Sofia, I thought the goal was to rest the starters and have them fresh for this match. They looked far from fresh and looked a step slow all afternoon long. Only John Pantsil started in both matches, while the rest of the starters on Sunday, including a healthy Mark Schwarzer, did not play Thursday and looked as though they were playing a preseason game with the lack of energy and intensity they displayed throughout much of the match.
While I do think Roy Hodgson and his staff will get this sorted out, it makes me really wonder if this club prepared correctly in the summer to field a team in various competitions like the Europa League, the Premier League and now this week, the Carling Cup. Did Hodgson bring in the kind of players that can really help this club in all competitions?
Perhaps I am overdoing it and maybe the Cottagers simply had a bad game against Wolves. I hope this was a one-off, but for the second time in a row, Fulham was outplayed after a mid-week Europa League match. The first was at Villa and that was somewhat expected while Sunday's encounter with Wolves was expected to be a win.
Unfortunately, the Europa League will continue to wreak havoc on the Fulham league fixtures in October, November and December. In fact, the Whites next three league matches after a Europa League mid-week match are all on the road, which does not bode well for the Whites over the next few months and could put them in a bad spot in the Premier League table come the middle of November. Those three trips in include a quick jaunt to Upton Park to take on West Ham United on October 4th followed by another Sunday match at the City of Manchester Stadium against newly rich Manchester City on October 25th. Finally, on Sunday November 9th, the Cottagers will take on Wigan at the DW Stadium. The only time in which Fulham plays a mid-week Europa League match and follow it up with a home league match is on December 6th when Sunderland comes to London.
Looking at that fixture list and the various challenges that are in front of this Cottager squad, it is going to be tough for Fulham to not only advance past the group stage of the Europa League, but to also and more importantly, hold down a respectable league place heading into the busy Christmas and New Year fixture build up in the league.
Unfortunately, I do not have any answers or cures for this club to find success in both of these competitions. One idea is that if Roy Hodgson is going to field a majority of reserves in the Europa League matches, perhaps it would be a good idea to not even have the regulars travel with the team. More often than not, the matches are not the only tiring part of these European adventures, but the travel and time changes the players have to endure are what usually wear players out. If this is the case, Roy needs to put his foot down and do what he thinks is best for this team to be competitive in the Premier League, which is by far the club's most important competition and will be forever.
Fulham is blazing a trail of their own for the first time in trying to play in Europe and in the Premier League at the same time. Hearing and reading stories of past clubs struggling with this very issue I figured it would rear its' ugly head into the Cottagers season and it looks as though it has hear in late September already. All is not lost in either competition, but in looking forward at the fixtures that lie ahead, things are going to get much harder before they get easier for this club.
So, where does Fulham go from here? Does Roy Hodgson strictly field a reserve team for the remaining Europa League matches to ensure a fresh group of regulars for the league matches or does he try to mix and match reserves and regulars with the possibility that this could back fire and the Cottagers will be in trouble in both competitions? To be honest, I am not sure where I stand. I am hoping the loss to Wolves Sunday was a one-off situation, but things are trending toward the fact that Fulham is not playing well in league matches following a mid-week Europa League match. That is concerning and that is a problem.
Where do you stand on all of this? What were your thoughts on Sunday's match and what kinds of ideas do you have on how Fulham can succeed in both Europe and in the Premier League? Is it possible or do you think the Europa League will be a big problem in Fulham's ultimate quest of consolidating last season's club best 7th place finish in the league to another top ten finish this season?