Fulham’s Half-Term Report

26th December 2017
(Photo: Rex Features)

Fulham’s 2-1 home win against Barnsley marked a generally underwhelming first half of our 2017/18 Championship campaign with the Whites sat in 11th position but only 6 points adrift of a Play-Off place – Here’s my half-term Fulham FC report.

Squad Performance – C

After last season’s comfortable 6th place finish, managing to keep hold of key players in Tom Cairney & Ryan Sessegnon and spending £14million on strikers you’d surely expect us to build on last season and challenge for an automatic promotion spot? Wrong.

Our poll asking you to grade Fulham’s overall squad performance this season from ‘A’ to ‘D’ saw ‘C’ receive 77% of the vote and quite rightly so. The squad’s performances so far have been underwhelming to say the least, as we struggle to put winnable games to bed, and fail to conjure up any real defensive ability to keep the opposition at bay.

Rui Fonte & AK47 have scored 3 goals between them, which puts the price of each goal at around £4.6million, not the greatest investment so far. However, both players are showing more promise each week and it may just be a case of adapting to the change in football style and environment in England.

Defensively we have been abysmal; Kalas looks nothing like he did last season and laughable errors are rife among the Fulham back line. Sessegnon is NOT a left-back but we struggle to find a tangible replacement. Our very own ‘stat head’ Nick MacNee calculated that Sess loses the ball on average 1.6 times a game, putting him in the bottom 10% across the world for giving away possession. Rafa Soares isn’t getting any game time to fill that left-back position and on the other side, Ryan Fredricks’ defensive ability leaves a lot to be desired.

Slavisa Jokanovic – C

Fan opinion on Slavisa is generally still more positive than negative (Photo: Rex Features)

After last year’s league performance, playing football the Slavisa way had made “Fulham great again” and life under Slav couldn’t be any sweeter, especially when you consider how dreadful our managerial appointments have been since Roy Hodgsons departure. Fast forward 7 months and a lot of attitudes towards Slavisa have turned sour.

We asked you to grade Slavisa’s performance this season from ‘A’ to ‘D’ and 64% of you voted for a grade ‘C’, which again is definitely justified and not unreasonable.

Oppositions often praised Fulham as the “best side we have faced this season” but it seems so far we have been found out and a tactically stubborn Slavisa has yet to produce a ‘Plan B’ for when it all goes tits-up. Slav has continued to promote and play his signature possession based football but his side have been unable to put this possession to good use. Other teams capitalise on his stubborn nature and will either press us high and flood the midfield or sit back and exploit our inevitable defensive errors.

Slavisa’s response to our failings this season has also frustrated fans somewhat. Often, Slav will state the obvious in interviews and then talk about making squad alterations for the next match. The following game day will arrive and none of these promised changes will have been delivered, bar sticking Stefan Johansen at centre-forward of course.

Does his underperformance this season warrant his sacking right now? Personally, no, however he is really trying his best to get the sack. Post the upcoming January transfer window, minus Craig Kline; if results do not improve then we may have no option but to think about lining up a replacement Head Coach.

Summer Signings – C

Sheyi Ojo has been one of the summer’s most impressive transfers (Photo: Rex Features)

Perhaps the most underwhelming part of this season so far is the performance of our summer recruits. Transfer-wise we made some decent profit in the summer thanks to the cashing in of Aluko, Malone and Jozabed but so far what we have failed to properly utilise the profit made.

Our poll asked you to grade our summer signings performances (except players who renewed contracts) this season from ‘A’ to ‘D’ and 62% of you voted for ‘C’ but also over a quarter of you voted for ‘D’, displaying just how little effect our summer recruitment has had on our squad.

On a positive note, since returning from injury Fulham loanee Sheyi Ojo has been very effective down the right hand side, scoring twice in his last 3 matches. Another loanee Oliver Norwood has also played fairly well this season, filling in for Tom Cairney through his injury, netting 4 times and often having to compensate for Stefan Johansen’s absence during games but even this is scraping the barrel a bit.

Rui Fonte and Aboubakar Kamara are definitely guilty of underperformance but Fonte is often played out of position and/or not given a full 90 minutes on the pitch. Jordan Graham, Yohan Mollo and Rafa Soares haven’t featured much this season, with Graham being out of favour, Mollo seemingly cast adrift from the side and Soares struggling with fitness for the majority of the season. Tomas Kalas isn’t the player of last season, Marcelo Djalo’s signing always rose questions and Ibrahima Cisse has only made 6 appearances so far this season, mostly from the bench.

Shahid Khan – C

Shahid Khan is often the subject of criticism, which personally baffles me but I partly believe it may be due to the inability to fill the unfillable shoes of Al-Fayad. Khan is definitely in it for the long run, shown with his substantial investment in the club through £40million of players in the last 2 seasons alone, plans for expansion of the stadium and the upgrading of Motspur Park facilities.

Our poll asked you to grade Shahid Khans performance as Chairman this season from ‘A’ to ‘D’ and 40% of you voted for ‘C’ with 35% voting for ‘B’.

This season Shahid Khan undoubtedly wanted to improve on our last campaign, therefore making £16million of funds available to spend but thus far, those signings have been ineffective. The decision to sign these players was not made by him, and on all accounts Khan is doing a decent job as Chairman. However, until we get back to the Premier League I do not believe his approval ratings will improve, although I believe we should feel fairly fortunate having him at the club when you compare other owner situations some clubs have across The Football League.

Play-Off Chances – C

Currently we sit 6 points adrift of a play-off place; however achieving a 6th place finish last season was reliant on two things, Leeds bottling the league and Fulham finding exceptional form in the second half of the season. There are a couple of teams up there that could easily come crashing out but can I see us getting 16 wins from 23 games like we did last season? No.

We asked you to grade our chances of reaching a minimum of the play-offs this season from ‘A’ meaning “definitely” to ‘D’ meaning “no chance” and 53% of you voted for ‘C’ with just under a third voting for ‘B’.

Much weirder and wonderful things have happened in football than a team closing a 6 point gap and Slavisa’s teams predominantly perform better in the latter part of the season, however there are far more consistent teams than us in this league and I just cannot envisage this current side suddenly turning things around and becoming not only clinical but hard to beat.

Although the January window opens soon, January signings have never been the most effective for us and in an already inflated market; we will struggle to sign players for the right price. Our priorities should lie with signing a Striker, Centre-Back and a Goalkeeper; however we can definitely get by with Betts or Button in-between the sticks.

I hope I’m proven wrong and that we can accomplish something remarkable this season but for Fulham’s half-term report I will be grading them a C+, must try harder.

Merry Christmas – Up the Fulham.

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