Thoughts From the Doctor: Adapt or Hold Firm

Greg Margolis 13th December 2018

Fulham are working through a coaching change and fighting for their lives at the bottom of the table. Dr. Greg Margolis addresses why change is difficult and why Fulham need to be open to a change in style, grit, and organization to have a chance at survival in the Premier League.

We are three games into the new Claudio Ranieri regime, and there has been a lot of bright spots, yet a lot of the same challenges still linger. Fulham has found their offensive capabilities once again, generating an outstanding 25 shots against Leicester, 22 of which created decent chances for the Whites.

What has been interesting, is their change away from solely possession based football and how that has changed the dynamic of what has been so present at the Cottage for the past few years under Jokanovich. All that being said, Fulham still can’t keep a clean sheet, and Maddison’s goal showed the complete lack of defensive grit around the box when it matters.

Fulham must continue to adapt and let go of the trend that made them successful in the Championship, because if they hold firm to the fact that they can out-possess a team and win games with the team we currently have, they are going to end up right back in the Championship after one season.

Success Breeds Complacency

When individuals or groups are successful, they believe the fundamental aspects of their success will continue across varying environments. That is why you typically see teams play the same style or use the same player’s no matter the circumstance. This idea makes sense at the most basic human level, we like comfort, despise challenges, and it’s far easier to do the same things that have made you successful in the past.

Humans are also a fickle bunch, and we bind to our beliefs tightly. In Fulham’s case, we have become so accustom to the beautiful, possession based football that has made us so well-known and successful, yet it hasn’t brought results at the highest levels.

But look at the player’s we have, the environment we are in, and the teams we are going up against. The Premier League standard team is faster, more technical, more aggressive, and vastly more organized compared to what we have faced in the Championship.

Thus, holding firm to the style and mentality is only going to lead us right back to where we have been. In order to be successful, change needs to occur.

Claudio’s Past, Fulham’s Future

Ranieri led a Leicester team to the Premier League pinnacle, by playing a very organized defensive 4-4-2, and countered offensively with pace and aggression. They had a bunch of hardworking players, a few difference makers in the likes of Vardy, Mahrez, and Kante, and worked as a unit to win the crown.

What is interesting though is what happened the following season. Ranieri actually tried to adapt from the defensive and direct style that won Leicester the title the year prior. They looked to possess more, build from the back, and create chances through possess instead of constantly looking to get in on the counter.

This adaptation led to Leicester being unable to repeat the magic of the prior season, and Ranieri was let go. But in a sense, Ranieri got ahead of himself, and adapted too far away from what his team was capable of, mainly due to the fact of the departure of Kante to Chelsea. Why this is important, is because Fulham have the players to play that adapted style Ranieri was looking to implement with Leicester.

We have seen Fulham become far more organized in the first three games under Ranieri, along with a decrease in the percentage of possession. We have also seen the goal scoring opportunities sky rocket and the intensity with which they have played. Also, the possession isn’t just for possession’s sake.

Fulham are looking to be more purposeful with their possession and find those incisive passes. The trend is going in the right direction, the style makes sense for the players we have, the final piece is how those players will continue to adapt.

Buy-In or Ride the Pine

In the end, the players are the one’s out on the field, getting the results. You can have the best coach and game plan in the world, but if the players aren’t bought in and doing their jobs, the results won’t come. Ranieri needs to continue to bring a clear vision and communicate that vision to the Fulham players for this fight our of relegation to be successful.

Players like Cairney, Mitrovic, Sessegnon, and even Mawson, who has been in a relegation fight before, need to step up and bring this team together in the direction we need to go. Fulham splashed an absurd amount of money this summer, and I’ll be the first to say, this was not the situation I thought we would be in, but it’s time to earn all that money that was spent.

Players who don’t work back defensively, aren’t throwing their bodies in front of shots, and aren’t fighting for every 50/50 ball, need to end up sitting right next to Ranieri on the bench. Whatever style footballer you are, you have to be a scrappy, aggressive, fighter now for Fulham to have any chance of turning this season around.

With that type of mentality, and the pure skill we have across the board, Fulham have the opportunity to adapt and improve. If we continue to trend in the direction we have over the past two weeks, I believe there is a lot of promise still left in this season.

Buy-in is going to be huge, and being comfortable with change is going to be a factor as well. We need to support that change as fans and help this team we love push through a difficult time, which I believe they will only make us better in the long run!

COYWs!

Greg Margolis

Fulhamish's United States contributor. Bringing some American flair, tactical analysis, Sport Psychology perspectives, and contributing content on the all things Fulham. All Hail Clint Dempsey.