Whites hit rock bottom

Posted by Phil Mison

Three points adrift at the foot of the table after a miserable month that saw Fulham lose all four league games, scoring just once while conceding eleven. But, for now at least, we are still alive in the FA Cup! Could this be the season we emulate Wigan and lift the famous old trophy along with relegation?

How quickly the euphoria of Friday's dealings in the transfer market got punctured by another stark reminder of the gulf in class between this current side and the division's high flyers. Southampton delivered up a footballing lesson in terms of superior fitness, ability and cohesive tactics. Their play in the final 30 minutes was so fluid and intelligent it was a joy to watch, albeit my own club were having their noses rubbed in the dirt.

- Report: Fulham 0-3 Southampton

Where do Fulham go from here? With rumours circulating of a third change in approach to managing the team inside 90 days, all the signs suggest Fulham are being sucked under in a maelstrom of uncertainty and confusion. There is no more master plan, and as Bobby would have it, "no direction home".

This craft is taking on water fast and despite parading a couple of new sticking plasters Saturday, there are just way too many holes elsewhere. To the bemusement of many in the crowd, Damien Duff is still being given a start. I can grasp the logic of looking to offer some cover to the woefully inadequate man at left back, but this ploy immediately serves to make Fulham a man light. It is back to the bad old days of repeatedly picking Bryan Ruiz. Duff, as has been the case all season, gets dragged off after an hour, having made no impact on the game whatsoever.

In attack, Darren Bent is a Dimitar Berbatov manque -- only minus the withering stare. He still cannot put the ball away, does not work in defence hard enough, and has never embraced the philosophy of defending from the front.

Manager Rene Meulensteen decided to drop his wide men. Caution took hold. Although William Kvist and Lewis Holtby gave glimpses of quality, they were pitched into a lost cause with the paucity of talent surrounding our two debutantes. Scott Parker and Steve Sidwell blunder forward, before running out of steam. No man in white ahead of them is showing for the ball. Hence we go round in circles before turning over possession.

Fulham had glimpses of goal in the first half, but didn't take their chances, while managing to contain this excellent outfit from the South Coast. But once our old men begin to tire and the game gets stretched, the Whites are there for the taking.

Southampton gave the perfect example of moving the ball 70 yards from back to front at speed, while Meulensteen's men have been playing tight little triangles that lead nowhere all season. A lumbering Brede Hangeland twice gets exposed in a one-on-one situation and the ball ends up in the back of the net each time.

But it was the killer second goal from Rickie Lambert that did in the Whites. It should be re-run all week for the squad to watch. Fulham carry the ball over half way up the left. But with no forward movement, the play gets checked. The ball inevitably is laid all the way back to the keeper. Maarten Stekelenburg plays it short to Riether. He in turn pushes it straight back. Stekelenburg tries again. Now, under pressure, Riether shovels it quickly back a second time but at speed and Stekelenburg has to hurry his punt. The ball lands in a gaping hole on half-way, Nathaniel Clyne gathers, plays a one-two to take out Clint Dempsey, Kieran Richardson is suddenly faced with two marauding men in red, the cross is delivered at speed, and ace finisher Lambert sweeps home with no marker near him. That's how easy Fulham make it for sides to score against them.

On Tuesday Meulensteen can forget all his woes for 90 minutes and try to pick and mix a workable blend of youth and experience to get past Sheffield United in the Cup replay. Surely they can't mess this up, can they??? After that, it's a small matter of preparing for a trip to Manchester United.

Are Fulham going down? Increasing numbers think so. Fulham are not just losing games now, they are being embarrassed. The club's new record signing, Kostas Mitroglou, will have to score 25 goals between now and May -- and even that might not be enough. I shall hold fire for a couple more weeks until we've seen what the new recruits might deliver. But it is looking grim.

Who manages the side going forward? Meulensteen, Alan Curbishley, Ray Wilkins, Malky Mackay? Who cares. Fulham are the worst side in the league on current form and the table does not lie.



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