ESPN Soccernet - Correspondents - Fulham
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Posted by Phil Mison on 01/28/2012

Inside a week a welter of frustration boils up again with Fulham's elimination from the Cup. Deconstructing this broken model is proving a devilish task for Ray and Martin (above)

I pore over reports and postings from those who witnessed the surrender at Everton and confront every wordsmith's worst nightmare. With no desire to turn these blogs into yet another tedious rant, I am running out of anything to write without sounding like a broken record. Admittedly I only followed the first 45 before heading out for the night, but the football I saw from Fulham was a million miles away from the side who carved up Newcastle last Saturday between 4.15 and 4.55. It is beyond my comprehension.

Fail to prepare and prepare to fail. Watching that first half of total Everton pressure I wondered if our manager actually studies opponents before we meet them? Like all sides struggling to create from open play and lacking cutting edge strikers managers stuck with an ordinary squad compensate in two obvious ways. Get the maximum return you can from set pieces. And determine to put as many crosses into the box as possible and trust to luck. That's your current Everton team. For the embodiment of that approach, Fulham fans need look only to the man responsible for my quote atop this paragraph.

Mickey Adams was the no nonsense Yorkshireman who took the reins at FFC in 1996 with the club at its lowest ebb. Near the foot of the old 4th division and in real danger of losing league status. The bank owned the ground, the club had debts edging towards ten million, the team was demoralised and no money to buy new players. With home attendances around 4,000 losses mounted while the board struggled to maintain unity. Over the summer of '96 Adams cobbled together a fresh squad and team and management - sensing they were all in this mess together - bonded on a short tour of rural Ireland. Games ended inevitably with everyone in the local pub.

Now Mickey's maxims were not the stuff of Descartes. But football folk are simple and down to earth. His little motivational speeches struck a chord. He would drop them into his programme notes. That summer he told his players to lie back on the downs and imagine the train was leaving the station. Did they see themselves on board and ready to make the journey? It sounds trite now, but it worked. Promotion was won in a memorable season. Fulham stepped back from the brink, and then a Mr. al-Fayed got interested...

I was in the press box for every home game of that campaign, quite a few away matches, and had easy access to the players and Mickey. By November I knew precisely what was coming from every free-kick and corner. We had both a long and short ball routine. Even clearances from the keeper, thrown or kicked, were pre-meditated. Three seasons later under Tigana, another coach obsessed by discipline and structure, it was also possible to read the hugely effective patterns of link up play that routinely put Saha, Hayles and Boa Morte through on goal - each striker notching 20 goals plus in the year that took us to the top flight.

In the seven months since Martin Jol and his staff took charge of this team, I see no evidence of a master plan. I see confusion, a severe lack of attention to detail, naivety, a damaging insousiance to setbacks. See how often the word 'hope' figures in post-match interviews by Jol. "You play your game, and you hope to play around them..." "You have good strikers on the pitch, you hope they will get you a goal..." If planning for success on the field is all about hope then we all might as well have a go. There is no consistent formula at work here and as a consequence the side who finished 8th last season is going backwards.

Let's not start dissecting the defeat at Goodison or criticising the players. I will just say this. Last week we carved Newcastle open by going more direct (Jol's words) and attacking down the middle at pace. AJ, Zamora, Duff and of course the Deuce all subsequently cause problems and goals result. What do we do at Everton? We go back to trying to play round them in endless and fruitless triangles, having elected to sit Bobby on the bench. And therefore, just like every away game this season, it does not work.

As for the pre-match plan in dealing with Everton. You do not allow Phil Neville the freedom to advance deep up the right flank and send over cross after cross. We never got the hustle on Everton, just sat back and hoped to mop up the deep ball into the box. With Hughes off the pace and Stockdale uncertain we should have been three down at the break. Secondly, we allowed Fellaini to sit deep and run the game. Nobody again detailed to put the bite on him.

Our full-backs are not good enough and that's been apparent for months, AJ alone up front out wide is an irrelevance, Ruiz is not presently able to handle the English game...oh shut up Mison, we know all this. Can you tell I'm annoyed again? Plenty on the boards are saying, get over it, the Cup's an irrelevance, we can't expect to win at Everton, I say, why not? Why did we not play to our strengths and attack Everton's makeshift back four with the same style that worked so wonderfully last week?

That is what I find so hard to take. Why stand with hands in pockets throughout Mr. Jol and not give the team some impetus to change what so clearly is not working? Where is the mid-week spade work that gives us the edge come matchday? We have three times exited Cup competitions this season in which we have held the initiative. A man up at Chelsea and handed a penalty. Two up at home to Odense and Europa League progress tossed away from the last action of the game. Danny's perfect early penalty...but we fail to punish a very average team shorn of five regulars. Three failures that speak volumes. I rest my case.

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Posted by Alex Bishop on 01/28/2012

I can just about understand the players not getting to grips with Jol's system. What I can't understand for the life of me though, is why we aren't getting the basics right.

Our defensive positioning hasn't been this poor in years. Fulham has always been known as the club with the organised defence, now we're the complete opposite. We have two beasts of centre backs who should be able to deal with crosses/set pieces yet our set piece defending and defending of crosses has been abysmal. Has the coaching team scrapped set piece training altogether? From an attacking POV we're clueless. Gone of the days of corners into the box and Hangerland heading them in. Neither do we have any free kick takers capable of shooting over the wall and on target.

We have Hangerland, Senderos, Zamora and Dempsey - four great headers of the ball and yet no wingers crossing into the box.

The above is the bare minimum I expect from Fulham and we've lost it all in the last 8 months. I can't understand it.

Posted by Drago on 01/28/2012

Bobby, our England international, the linchpin of our attack, on the bench for 70 minutes -- Jol's thick-headedness knows no bounds. In Bobby's place we have Ruiz, who can't win a header or 50-50 ball to save his life, keeps possession too long only to lose it, and shows no workrate.

Contrast Jol's tactics and team selection to that of Moyes, who always maximizes his players. He's had Landon Donovan for only a few weeks, and he's already figured out how and where to use him. Two pinpoint assists are the result.

After this and the Odense fiasco, how can the players have any confidence in Jol? Fulham fans shouldn't simply be happy staying up -- we deserve so much better. When are the fans at Craven Cottage going to start calling for Jol's head? Seems to me they've all been patient enough.

Posted by Michael Doane on 01/29/2012

It was another frustrating defeat. Total confusion and complete lack of discipline. It was 30 minutes before I even realised that Hangeland was on the pitch. Dempsey and AJ had no where to go. As soon as Everton got physical, we got on our heels and lost almost every 50/50 ball. Donovan, seriously, carving up our formerly solid defence....The bigger problem that we are going to have, aside form a relegation battle, which we will most likely win this year, is that Bobby, Duece, Brede, will want away. Clint has already said he wants a bigger venue. When Fulham were on the rise with Roy, we were able to secure these lads to longer term contracts. Long term, our fear for our survival as who would want to play the style of football that we have been playing. It is boring, disorganised and frustrating. As Duece might say; it is time for y'all (Jol) to go away.

Posted by Sean on 01/30/2012

Phil, more than anything I think the voice of your column this week speaks to me. Frustration...

However, the call for his head by some seems extremely premature to me. The fact that we have had much better success thus far against top teams than last year gives me hope, albeit an equal amount of confusion and frustration when coupled with our cup exits (not to mention our first Everton debacle this season).

I am tired of the transition period that comes with a new manager. Roy took over in late Dec 2007, and the team got 10 points from his first 14 matches. Last year we saw Hughes take us from a rough start in the relegation zone to eighth in the Premier League before abandoning ship in cowardly fashion.

Overall, in fact, this is the best start of the three managers. How well we've played with Roy's old boys minus our far superior wingbacks of that time (Konchesky, Paintsil)-such as 5-2 last week-has impressed me. I agree "staying up" is not the goal, but more time is needed.

Posted by 'Sota Dan on 01/31/2012

With the coaching carousel that has been Fulham the past few years, I think "staying up" is the target right now.

Posted by 5815dan on 01/31/2012

Carling Cup - Done
Europa League - Done
FA Cup - Done

Now it's all down to maintaining top flight status, which probably should have been the case all along in Jol's first year on the job. As part of my new attitude, I'm not going to get too down about the loss. Would have been worse if it was a league match.

I am anxiously awaiting any transfer news (come on, AJ, I hear it's beautiful up north this time of year) in the meantime.

Posted by Nate on 01/31/2012

It's not every team that spends their deadline day selling their best player for half what anyone would expect for him, and then replacing him with Pavlyuchenko's backup for Russia who's scored exactly one (1) goal this year for Stuttgart.

Of course, we did spend 6 hours examining the Russian, whose name I'm not even going to pretend to try and spell, after which we concluded he needed to gain weight if he was ever going to be able to compete in the Premiership. And we still signed him.

So, yeah. Fun transfer deadline day. Good stuff, Jol. Heading to the pub. I'll be the guy in the back drinking whiskey, repeatedly watching Zamora's goal against Shakhtar on my computer.

Posted by Sean on 02/01/2012

Nate, I imagine that your sentiment echos that of others, so I think it is important to address it.

We bought Bobby for 4.8 million (a 6.3 million package deal with Paintsil when Bobby was 27 and a half years old). Yesterday we sold him for between 4.5 and 5 mil at the age of 31.

While I loved Bobby when he hustled (which was about half the time this year), when he finished (which was few and far between in the Premier League--his first year he had 2 goals in 32 starts and 3 sub apps, and he never had more than 8 goals), and especially when he held the ball up and created for others, we were never ever going to get more than a desperate and frivolous Mark Hughes was going to pay for him.

By next window he'll be 31 and a half, and the one after 32 yrs old. An injury-proned striker with 38 career premier goals as a featured number 9 is not going to command more than 5 mill, let alone double that as you suggest.

As for the 28yr-old Russian striker, I choose to be optimistic.

Posted by 5815dan on 02/01/2012

Well that's certainly not the transfer news I was hoping to hear...

Posted by Rob on 02/01/2012

We all knew Bobby's days at the Cottage were numbered. This was a sound business decision. Bobby and Jol clearly had issues. Bobby's health is a big question mark. Clearly there wasn't much interest in him if the Chairman agreed to sell him to Hughes and QPR.

My issue is what he was replaced with. We shell out 3 millon for 5 months of a guy who has 1 goal to his name so far this season.

AJ,Sa, and this fellow are sure to strike fear in the hearts of our opponents the rest of the way.

Thank you Bobby for your service to FFC. You will be remembered fondly.

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