Going to the Cottage on Saturday it was evident we were all looking for a more positive outcome than we achieved last Saturday in Wales. However, despite our desperation for signs of progress, it feels like we aren’t moving in the right direction, after 10 games of a season that we had all dreamed would be different after the years we spent outside the top flight. Personally, I think that without Slav the club would’ve slipped into League One and who knows where after that. The day at Wembley and the months leading up to it were amongst some of the best there have ever been as a Whites supporter – but we are seeing too many of the same failures that characterised our start to the season last year in the Championship.
To state the obvious, everyone both within and outside the club would have been hoping to put the abject performance in Cardiff behind us and move on with 3 points today. That isn’t to make light of Bournemouth and the impressive performances they have put in this season, but as the cliché goes, these are exactly the games we have to win to have any chance of survival. The changes at the back are understandable after the defensive horror show last weekend but it negated the best things about our play. The one player who looks like they aren’t sure where to go positionally is Sess. The best thing about his game is being in the box to score goals with late runs that are hard to track for opposition defenders. But we don’t see that in this system as he spends too much time out of the dangerous areas on the pitch.
From the perspective of our team selection, it looks seemingly rational on paper, although in practical reality it looks far from it. Allowing Fraser and Brooks too much time on the flanks and leaving our two centre-backs unsure of whose responsibility it is to mark Wilson, is an obvious error but one that the players seemingly didn’t grasp. The first 10 minutes might have been a positive start to the game but another example in our long list of defensive errors means we are consistently playing catch up on teams that enjoy facing our defence. The front line – and the team in general – lacks any of the flair and pace that have characterised our best periods under Slav’s reign and can’t be expected to bale out the rest of the team every time we take to the field.
Tim Ream’s comments in the week caused a fair bit of controversy – even though he was keen to play them down – but it appears there’s a decent amount of truth in them. The side doesn’t play with anywhere near the required intensity to secure points at this level and Bournemouth had it far too easy throughout the 90 minutes. The easiest evidence to support this is the number of times it took Bournemouth one pass to break into our half of the pitch. Once they got there it was far too easy for them to play it around knowing that there was no pressure being put on them. Anyone who has played football at any level knows it’s a lot easier to execute your skills when you haven’t got anyone from the opposite team within 5 yards of you.
We attempted to change that in the first 10 minutes of the second half but once again we haven’t been able to put together a good sequence of play for more than a brief period of time during a match. The heavy possession in the oppositions half worked wonders in the Championship when our quality on the pitch was too much for the rest of the league, but we have looked toothless so far this season. Most of the goals we have been able to celebrate this season have been individual moments of quality as opposed to team moves that demonstrate a solid plan. The defence is the easiest to malign but the whole team is culpable for the poor performances so far.
Which leads me onto what I honestly think the biggest problem in the team is. And no it’s not the defence or the manager, it’s the midfield. KMAC was one of the standout performers of the season last year and it genuinely pains me to say it but there’s no evidence that he can perform at this level. He doesn’t anchor the midfield and protect the defence, nor does he provide the base for the rest of the midfield to flourish. The expectations for Seri haven’t helped either. He isn’t a midfielder that scores a lot of goals or provides a huge amount of assists. What he does do is continue to pass the ball but without Cairney, he looks a little lost. There were quite a lot of fans who have got on the back of our captain since the beginning of last season, but without him, we have seen the significance he has for the team. The quality of the passes played within the first few minutes he came on proved that with him we are a much more impressive side. The crazy situation of his fitness is a concern but any basis for a successful Fulham has our Wembley hero as the focal point.
Now to the really uncomfortable bit that is likely to divide a significant percentage of the fan base, what do we do about Slav? Some might think that a run of games like we’ve had means there isn’t an alternative and that he has to go. He will always be an icon for the fans after what he’s done for us since his arrival, but even for those that will support him to the end, there does need to be some significant alterations to the side. I can only hope that the club retains the face with Slav and gives him the time he needs. Bringing in so many new players was never likely to produce a settled team from the off but anyone that thought we’d be in this situation at this point isn’t being genuine.
Huddersfield was always going to be a pivotal game but now it’s crucial. We’ve been through worse as fans before and we will again so the only thing I can say to finish this off is don’t get on the back of the team when they need us the most. We all spend a lot of money to follow Fulham home and away and every one us has the right to say how we feel but a negative atmosphere won’t help the players produce, however, frustrated we feel inside. Keep the faith everyone, we’ll come back stronger.