Friday Football Feature: Inconsistent Fulham are underachieving


The club have taken just 13 of a possible 30 points since beating Arsenal and now lie just one place better off in the Premier League.


By James Dickenson

This column tipped Fulham for big things in 2012 after the West London side dispatched Arsenal 2-1 at Craven Cottage during a pulsating clash in January.

Capitalising on a tense ten-man Arsenal, Martin Jol’s team seized the initiative and scored two goals within the final five minutes of the match to snatch three points against illustrious opponents.

Fulham looked ready to push on in the second half of the campaign and improve upon their 14th league position, unshackled by the rigours of Europa League competition.

However, the club have taken just 13 of a possible 30 points since beating the Gunners, getting knocked out of the F.A. Cup in the process and now three months later lie just one place better off in the Premier League.

Fulham may be eclipsing their newly promoted local rivals QPR, who are struggling to stave off relegation, but are way behind old foes Chelsea who are not exactly enjoying a vintage domestic season.

The Cottagers were not expecting fireworks when Jol replaced Mark Hughes in the summer, but the group stages in Europe, early rounds of the Carling and F.A. Cups and a mid table league finish were not quite the blueprint for this season.

Their Dutch manager has implemented huge changes to the team’s style of play and is beginning to stamp his authority on the playing staff. Pavel Pogrebnyak and Mahamadou Diarra were exciting January arrivals, with the tall Russian striker impressing early on with five goals in his first three games, including a perfect hat-trick against Wolves.

Fulham do play an intriguing brand of football, not afraid to go long from the back but also willing to play a possession game through midfield, the likes of Moussa Dembele, Bryan Ruiz and Danny Murphy oozing confidence behind prolific forwards.

Pogrebynak, Andy Johnson and Clint Dempsey are all solid finishers, with the American proving his worth once again this term with 18 goals so far. However, something has gone wrong up front recently, as a 5-0 battering over Wolves was followed by three consecutive goalscoring blanks.

It is hard to suggest the team has pushed on since that victory over Arsenal, even if they are playing an attractive style of football that should be commended. Fulham need to produce an end of season run of form that breaks them into the top 10, otherwise this season may be put down as another campaign of mediocrity.

Jol is a good manager and a likeable figure that undoubtedly deserves time to improve the club’s fortunes, but an inconsistent term may see his summer plans rocked by departures. Dempsey and Dembele have hinted at wanting to test themselves on a bigger stage whilst Brede Hangeland is always linked with other clubs during the transfer windows.

If Fulham can hold onto their stars and bring in players to supplement their squad, especially in defence where the Whites are looking increasingly shaky, then the future is definitely bright on the banks of the River Thames.

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