Are Fulham already doomed?

02.10.2020 09:11:39 Adam England
  •  Fulham bottom of the Premier League with no points and -7 goal difference
  •  Cottagers knocked out of Carabao Cup by Championship side Brentford
  •  Manager Scott Parker not happy with vice-chairman’s apology after Villa loss
  •  Vice-chairman Khan promised new faces – Ademola Lookman has since arrived on loan

 

“The thing I'm actually disappointed with is how he's apologising for the performance. He shouldn't have.” These were the words of Fulham manager Scott Parker after vice-chairman Tony Khan apologised for the team’s 3-0 loss at home to Aston Villa in the Premier League on Monday.

As of September 30, there are three teams still yet to pick up their first point of the Premier League season, and Fulham sit rock-bottom with a goal difference of -7, having already conceded 10 goals. It’s been a disappointing start – fellow promoted team Leeds have began fairly well, and even West Brom were able to manage finding one point from somewhere. They’re favourites for relegation already, with odds of around 1/3 with most bookmakers. Will Fulham be able to pull themselves together, or – despite it being so early on in the season – do they already look set to hurtle through the trapdoor and back into the Championship?

 

Second Time in Three Years 

The general feeling was that after their relegation from the top flight in 2019, the Cottagers were doing things a little differently this time round. Instead of big-name, big-money signings like Jean Michaël Seri upsetting the balance of the squad, they’ve been a little more savvy in the market this summer. One-time AC Milan target Antonee Robinson looks like a bargain buy from Wigan at £2m, and re-signing last season’s loanee Harrison Reed from Southampton, this time on a permanent deal, looks like a smart move, amongst other first-team signings:

Ola Aina Torino - Loan

Alphonse Areola PSG - Loan

Anthony Knockaert Brighton - £10.5m

Mario Lemina Southmapton – Loan

Ademola Lookman RB Leipzig - Loan

Harrison Reed Southampton Undisc.

Antonee Robinson Wigan - £2m

Kenny Tete – Lyon Undisc.

 

However, despite a more low-key summer, Fulham have still started off with some woeful form. A 3-0 loss at home to Arsenal wasn’t how they wanted to kick off the campaign, but in fairness it would have been unfair to judge them solely on a game against one of the top six. Likewise, a loss away at a fellow promoted side by the odd goal wouldn’t normally be a huge worry, but another four goals conceded is far from ideal. 

Then, of course, came the second successive 3-0 home defeat. Losing by this margin to Aston Villa is clearly far less acceptable than losing to Arsenal, and it’s incredibly concerning that Fulham not only couldn’t score against Villa, but again conceded three – against a team that averaged just over a goal a game last season, and stayed up by just one point. 

 

Vice-Chairman Apologetic

This then led to vice-chairman Khan taking to Twitter to apologise for the team’s performance, promising new players too. Parker said that he was “disappointed” in the vice-chairman’s statement – could this point to unrest in the Fulham camp or at the very least some friction between manager and board?

If nothing else, Khan has come good on his promise, former Everton forward Ademola Lookman arriving on loan from RB Leipzig. Still only 22, it’s thought that a move back to England might help him regain the form he showed on loan at Leipzig before signing a permanent deal at the German club. 

The Carabao Cup fixture against Championship side Brentford was a good yardstick in terms of gauging Fulham’s progress. Unfortunately, they laboured to a 3-0 defeat (spotting a trend here?) against the side they beat in the summer to clinch their return back to the big time. Yes, the XI starting against the Bees was much-changed from the side who lost against Villa, but there was still plenty of quality there. The one positive was Lookman’s introduction, as he played the second half and made a decent impression.

 

Getting Points On the Board?

The main worry, however, is Fulham’s defence. Arsenal, Aston Villa and Brentford have now all put three goals past them without reply, and Leeds managed four; even when Fulham score three in a game, their opponents can still manage to outscore them. Their only competitive victories have arrived in the Carabao Cup, against League One Ipswich Town and Championship Sheffield Wednesday, but when faced with a team at the top end of the Championship or higher, the Cottagers seemingly crumble. 

Looking at the upcoming Premier League fixtures, it’s difficult to tell with any certainty where Fulham will be able to pick up points. Their next match, away to Wolves will see them face a side looking to make a statement after their heavy loss to West Ham, and likewise after the break, Sheffield United will see their home against the Cottagers as a chance to pick up three points after their own poor start. 

Fulham then have two home games, against Crystal Palace and West Brom, and both will be seen as winnable if they harbour any hopes of remaining in the Premier League beyond this season. Crystal Palace might have started the season well, but are arguably one of the weaker teams in the division, while West Brom have picked up just one solitary point so far. Even at this early stage of the season, they are starting to feel like must-win games for Fulham, as after the Baggies they face a tricky challenge away to West Ham, and then a nightmare four fixtures against Everton, Leicester, Man City and Liverpool.   

By the end of that run, it’ll be mid-December, so it feels vital that Fulham get some points on the board soon. Their safety depends on it. Ultimately, however, it feels inevitable that barring a miraculous turnaround, we’ll see Fulham playing Championship football yet again this time next year.

 

 

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