Collins Column: Stormy Waters

Jack J Collins 26th October 2018

It’s not been the easiest few weeks as Fulham fans, but there’s a couple of things we should all address, both on and off the pitch. Jack J Collins weighs in with his appeal for calm on the rough seas of the Premier League.

So it’s not been the start we wanted, evidently. The defeat to Cardiff last week, though, is the first time that things have really reached boiling point. Punch-a-wall-angry is the only way to appropriately describe a feeling like that, a performance like that, which lacked everything supporters look for – from technical effectiveness to any sort of desire.

There was plenty to dissect. Our two goals were, as positives go, the ones that stand out. They could hardly be more different. As good as Schurrle’s strike was – and it was glorious – I was far more pleased about Sessegnon’s finish. Not only did he become the first goalscorer in the Premier League to be born in the 21st Century, but the goal involved a clever piece of link up play between the boy wonder and Mitro, which was the first we’ve really seen of that connection springing into life in a number of weeks.

The positives were few and far between though, and Calum Chambers’ disastrous stint at right-back summed up the feelings of many. Caught out of position for the first goal, lucky not to be sent off before the break, and pulled at half-time – things could hardly have gone worse for the Arsenal loanee. Out of position and out of his depth, you sense that it might be a while before we see Chambers again in the Starting XI.

Playing centre-backs at full-back is never a good idea. The suggestion that it should shore up a leaky backline is a misnomer, because it refuses to acknowledge the idea that Fulham use their full-backs to stretch the play and get the ball up the pitch, where there is less danger. If players such as Chambers and MLM fill these roles – although Le Marchand did nothing particularly wrong that I can recall – we lose that ability to utilise the overlap, and also they’re notably slower at getting back if play does turnover.

The second goal is chaos. Tim Ream looked lost in South Wales, and the yard of pace that he seemed to always have last season was nowhere to be seen. Sluggish and indecisive, last year’s player of the season was a metaphor for the entire unit.

I’m not going to stick the boot in too hard on Ream because he’s been a wonderful servant to Fulham, risen above adverse occasions before, and you don’t become a terrible player overnight. I just hope that, given the comments to the media this week, he can rise to another challenge and return to the heart of proceedings for Fulham. I fear that the injury at the start of the season might have scuppered that, but Ream has earned his place here and deserves his shot at the top table.

That’s maybe the crux of things right now. There are players not performing, for numerous reasons, but there is still undoubted quality in the squad. Slavisa is making some strange calls, but he’s still the manager that turned things around last season. No matter what floats your boat as a fan, chances are that you came away from South Wales last week feeling frustrated.

We express that frustration in different ways. Some people drown their sorrows, some forget about them, some plough energy into other pursuits, and some look to the internet. For most people, it’s a mix of both. Something that’s become obvious though, is that in the midst of a whole bunch of frustration, there’s a lot of shots being fired across the boat that, like it or not, we’re all on together.

Obviously there are going to be differing opinions, that’s literally how the interpretation of this game we love works. Obviously arguments from different standpoints are going to boil over sometimes. It happens to us all, and frustration with both club and the limited spaces for debating in full available on the internet. But what seems to be happening more than ever, is that things are being made into a case of ‘if you’re not with us, you’re against us.’

This clearly doesn’t apply to everyone but let’s take a second to breathe. There are plenty of areas of grey in the interpretations people give. I criticise Slavisa’s lineups and substitutions a lot, but that doesn’t mean I want the gaffer gone – it’s just frustration. Similarly, it’s ok to be completely behind Slav and be concerned with his management of certain situations.

As I’ve said before, it’s like the goalkeeper situation. You can want Bettinelli, Rico or Fabri in, and you can give whatever reasonings you want for that, but just because I would like to see Sergio Rico get a chance between the sticks, based on watching him numerous times for Sevilla in both domestic and continental competition over the last few years, doesn’t mean I’m not absolutely delighted for Marcus that he signed a new deal with the club yesterday—and that if he’s in goal on Saturday or at any game, I’ll be right behind him and hoping he does well.

This isn’t trying to stifle debate, and it’s certainly not trying to change any opinions; it’s just trying to point out that we’re all on the same side, and although there are plenty of viewpoints on managers, formations, personnel and all the other quantities, at 3pm on Saturday, a Fulham win is the only thing on everyone’s mind.

You Whites.