Three strikes and out

Posted by Phil Mison

Matthew Peters/Man Utd/Getty ImagesFulham's Bryan Ruiz was all but non-existent in Saturday's dismal 3-1 defeat to Tom Cleverly and Manchester United.

With less than a quarter of the match played Saturday it was game over at the Cottage. Fulham were not coming back from three down to United, as for the second week running, a referee might have stepped in to stop the contest and save the Whites further punishment.

Added to the defeat mid-week at Leicester ending any interest in the Capital One Cup, you have to say by some margin it has been a miserable week for Fulham Football Club and their long-suffering supporters.

- Horncastle: Pressure increases on Jol
- Report: Fulham 1-3 Manchester United

Over the past 12 months from 39 league matches Fulham have managed just 36 points. That spells only one thing -- relegation form. There are no two ways about it. This current run is not some blip. All those who think the Cottagers are going to turn a corner any time soon with the current manager are deluding themselves. You can dress things up any way you like, Martin, with your inane press quotes and bland assurances that, "we will be fine." The stark truth is that we are in deep trouble and the side is shambolic.

You don't need to listen to my thoughts, boss, or pay heed to supporters, who like me have got no closer to top-flight management than an X-box: but you might give credence to all the pundits out there, including our own Danny Murphy. Here are people who actually played the game, to a higher standard than you Mr. Jol, and know what they are talking about.

Let's just round up the salient points. If you're still blind to the realities behind this dismal decline, with any luck someone at Motspur might just spot my humble little blog and take note. Even better, perhaps send an alert to Mr. Khan in Florida?

We have two toxic figures in the side currently who, far from being sent to the reserves, are guaranteed a start -- in fact, it's fair to say Martin Jol has for some time looked to actually build his side around them. I refer of course to Dimitar Berbatov and Bryan Ruiz. Berbatov even wears the captain's armband sometimes.

Roy Hodgson talks a lot about getting his teams to 'defend from the front'. When you have two figures who can't tackle, exhibit low energy levels, tenacity and commitment and have a poor positional sense, you are in trouble from the off. Fulham are effectively playing with nine men.

Fulham no longer offer the tried and tested 'two banks of four', which makes it very easy for teams to play through them. The team are far too open all across the park, and worst of all there is too much space between the back four and midfield. Manchester United demonstrated in classic fashion from Saturday's first half just how to profit by playing early balls into precisely that area.

You will remember how effectively Southampton filled that space last week to crowd Fulham and deny players any time on the ball? Of course, when you build a team around a bunch of 30-somethings, as they have done, it's a high line pressing game that Fulham themselves are currently incapable of.

Once you saw the ease with which United moved the ball up the park and by-passed Fulham's midfielders, one is left with the awful prospect of speedy attackers having a straight run at last men Philippe Senderos and Fernando Amorebieta.

All three United goals may have had a whiff of offside about them. They were certainly marginal decisions for every goal. On the day none of the big calls went Fulham's way, but that should not detract from how superior the Reds were overall. I genuinely feared they might run riot, so ragged did Fulham look. Please don't read too much into the second half, where energy levels improved, and, thanks to Alexander Kacaniklic, the Whites managed to find a goal and hit the bar. United sat back. The game was in the bag, and David Moyes was forced into making three changes.

An expected defeat then -- against the defending champions and a team with resources way beyond Fulham's scope. Just as predicted in my preview. They drop just a couple of places over the weekend to 16th. With further defeats for the bottom three, Jol quickly reminds the press, and us, there are teams still worse off than Fulham, and "we will get better." So in the eyes of the board and team manager, it's still business as usual?

It cannot be. Here's where we deal with the contentious issue of the day. Shoot me down in flames fellow fans, if you will. I have never been shy of nailing my colours to the mast and this blog was forthright in saying Jol was not the man for us long before the current clamour.

I have also been consistent for a year in my criticism of the massively over-rated Ruiz. The Costa Rican has never adapted to this league and is a luxury we can no longer afford. Ruiz, for me, reached a new low point with his pathetic display Saturday. His second-half withdrawal saw him leave the field to mass derision and booing from home fans. And Ruiz felt it, no question.

This has clearly upset a number of supporters in the crowd. Posters are calling it shameful and 'not the Fulham way.' But this is the level of toxicity the bumbling Jol has engendered now around the ground. I say this. There’s no place for sentimentality in football.

While the Corinthian spirit is to be admired, the history of Fulham Football Club has for decades been stamped with a taint of spirited amateurism -- as if we were still teaching the game to natives on the North-West frontier. Right up to the al Fayed era we had a chairman who believed in doing things in 'a gentlemanly and patrician fashion.' This in the face of brutal, hard-nosed commercial agents bent on driving the club out of existence.

As I say above, the modern game is a jungle where the fittest survive and the slow get eaten. Something I'm sure this writer doesn't need to tell Mr. Khan.

If you have worked all week to afford your over-priced ticket for Fulham, navigated your way through the awful West London traffic, and then been served up such appalling fare from a bunch of extravagantly over-paid misfits not fit to wear the shirt, I reckon you have the right to boo all you want. The louder the protests, the quicker the board will be provoked into action.

Keep within the boundaries of legality of course. We worship at the cathedral we call Craven Cottage. At present we don't very much care for the vicar or his sermons. With respect, we request a change please. And in time for Christmas.

COYW! twitter@fulhamphil


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