Tuesday Team Talk: Is ‘Felix bingo’ the cause of Fulham’s abysmal season start?

A post-relegation hangover is certainly causing major headaches over at Craven Cottage at the moment.

After 13 years in the top flight of English football, Fulham’s return to the second tier, the Sky Bet Championship, has been largely inauspicious so far.

The Whites are winless after the first five league games, losing the first four, and only achieved their first point of the season in a home draw with Cardiff leaving the club surprisingly in 23rd position.

This return of one draw and four losses from the first five games amounts to Fulham’s worst start in 58 years.

With 17 players away on international duty, including first team players Emerson Hyndman, Nikolay Bodurov and Jesse Joronen, under-pressure manager Felix Magath will be hoping to use the break as chance to put the dismal start behind his side.

Relegation to the Championship was confirmed on May 3 after a 4-1 defeat at Stoke City and, after a summer of upheaval with 14 players arriving and 26 players leaving the club, Fulham are yet to find their feet upon their return to the division.

There are grumbles of disquiet among the Fulham fan base about the disappointing start, most of which relate to the capabilities and decisions of bespectacled German manager Magath.

After all, it is only four seasons since Fulham participated in the inaugural Europa League final at Magath’s former home ground the HSH Nordbank Arena in Hamburg.

Magath’s coaching techniques are under heavy scrutiny by the Fulham faithful.

While the pedigree of the former Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg manager, winning the Bundesliga with both sides, cannot be questioned, his disciplinarian nature and an over-reliance on fitness based training methods have been.

However, much of the derision from fans comes from Magath’s inability to stick to a formation or teamsheet.

This season, Magath has alternated between a 4-4-2 diamond and a 4-3-3 with neither formation has proved successful.

In addition, Magath has already named 23 different players in his starting line-up in just five league games.

This constant rotation has given rise to the term ‘Felix bingo’ across social media where bemused fans attempt to guess which players will comprise the starting 11.

Magath is undoubtedly keen to use both sides of the resources available to him both financially and in terms of personnel.

With the vast monetary support of owner Shahid Khan and an academy which comprises a youth team that has won the Barclays under-18 Premier League title for the past three seasons, Magath has a variety of options at his disposal, but regrettably they have not been visible so far this season.

Of the 23 players selected in these games, Magath has been keen to promote players from the academy squad rather than opt for more experience names.

This decision divides opinion – fans of the club are keen to see the youth players develop but not at the expense of a return to the Premier League.

Patrick Roberts, 17, and Cauley Woodrow, 19, are two youth team graduates that have featured prominently this season but, in a league as physical as the Championship, is it wise to throw these inexperienced and youthful players into the deep end at such an early stage?

New £11m signing Ross McCormack, an example of the wealth at Fulham’s disposal, proves the club has the resources to go after the top names in the division. His transfer is the highest value to occur outside of the Premier League.

An apparent veteran of the team at 28, he has been critical of his own form but knows the importance of impetus in the division as noted in an interview with the club’s website.

The Scottish international, who has not been selected for his country during the break, said: “When the international break is over we’ll start having games Saturday, Wednesday.”

He later added: “In the space of a couple of weeks, if you win three out of four then you’re up in mid-table.”

The Scot was also keen to emphasise that there are still 41 games to go in the season and that at this early stage, there is no reason to panic.

His German manager may not share his view however, especially if the voices of discontent rise in volume.

Magath took his post as manager of Fulham on Valentine’s Day in 2014. Should the poor performances continue, even after the international break, it may be time to bring this rocky relationship to an abrupt end.

Picture courtesy of treevis, with thanks

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