The draw on Saturday leaves the Whites in 10oth place in the table with just one point separating the Cottagers from Sunderland and Stoke. Fulham will play Sunderland next Sunday at the Cottage in what will be a huge mid-table clash. A win over the Black Cats would go a long way in cementing Roy Hodgson's boys in the top half of the table after a somewhat shaky start to the season for the Cottagers.
Off the pitch, things this past week went well for the Fulham as well. Brede Hangeland signed a contract extension through 2013. The Norwegian international, long rumoured to be on the radar for bigger clubs like Arsenal, has stabilized the Cottager defense and it was vitally important to keep him in the mix at Fulham.
While I am not a believer that contract extensions mean a player will not leave, it is nice to know that if he does leave, Fulham will receive a large sack of cash from another club for his services. Overall, I do think Hangeland will stay in the black and white though for at least another season. I hope longer, but time will tell.
Probably the most significant event of this past week was the contract extension that Roy Hodgson signed. I can't stress enough how great of a job Hodgson has done over the past 23 months at the club. The way in which he has transformed a perennial relegation contender to a top ten team and a Europa League qualifier is nothing short of miraculous. As we all know, Fulham was not a club people expected to be where they are now. The work Hodgson has done in building this team to where it is now has not been talked about much in the press, but Hodgson deserves all the credit for this turnaround and this contract extension is long overdue and well deserved.
Hodgson and his team have progressed in November and heading into December things will get a bit tougher. On Thursday, the Cottagers face a must win Europa League match at the Cottage against CSKA Sofia. The Bulgarians are bottom of the group and if the Whites have any ambitions on reaching the knockout stage they will have to step up and beat CSKA on Thursday. If they do not, their Europa League dreams will come to a crashing halt.
I expect Fulham to beat Sofia and with that will in all likelihood set up a one-match battle with FC Basle in Switzerland on December 16th where the winner of the match will advance to the knockout stage. However, Fulham must take care of business first this week against CSKA if they want the chance to duke it out with Basle in two weeks time for a spot in the knockout stages.
In league play, December looks as though it will be difficult. As mentioned before, Sunderland makes its' annual trip to Craven Cottage next Sunday in what should be a good matchup. Following that, the Cottagers travel to Turf Moor to take on Burnley. While Burnley has not been outstanding this season, they are not terrible either. In fact, they have been solid on their home ground and will look to use that advantage against Fulham on December 12th.
After those two league matches things get very difficult with Manchester United coming to town on December 19th followed by a Boxing Day London Derby against Tottenham. The month ends on December 28th when the Cottagers make the short trek down the road to Stamford Bridge to do battle with Chelsea. Any points Fulham takes from those three matches will be great points as all three teams are in the top four and playing quite well right now.
As things stand, Fulham is playing well right now. Despite injuries to Danny Murphy and Andy Johnson, who will be returning in the very near future and now an injury to Diomansy Kamara, who will be out until around Christmastime, the Cottagers have battled on and done well. The squad is showing it has some depth and that is evident through Erik Nevland, Jonathan Greening and Chris Baird, who has settled in the defensive midfield role very well this season.
Two players that I want to mention that have been outstanding are Clint Dempsey and Erik Nevland. These two are hard nosed players who work their socks off each match. Both can score goals and both have picked up the scoring slack for the injured Johnson and Kamara. It could be argued that Dempsey has been Fulham's player of the season thus far.
Dempsey has improved immensely since his arrival to West London nearly three seasons ago. He was not a first team player when he arrived and even when Roy Hodgson came on board in December 2007, Dempsey was relegated to a role on the bench. However, Clint persevered and worked hard to fight his way into the starting eleven. His efforts have not gone unnoticed and he has made himself a solid Premier League player. I do not have many positive things to say about former boss Lawrie Sanchez, but him signing Dempsey was shrewd move that has paid off well thus far.
Now it's time for your say. Who is your player of the season thus far? And on the opposite end of things, which Fulham player has underachieved and not met your expectations this campaign? I look forward to reading what you have to say.