Pts: 19 (3-7-10)
Preseason Prediction: 16th
Accuracy: Nearly Pinpoint
There is too much quality there to get them relegated, but not enough quality to completely overcome what should be a pretty big hangover after last season’s exploits. The lack of a manager and the continuing problems on the road are big red flags, and depth could be a big problem if they lose a player or two. It just seems to me like a team ready to take a little bit of a step back. Although the defense is still very good, I don’t expect too much out of them in the season’s first few months.
Sadly for Fulham fans, I nearly hit this one spot on. That lose a player or two would be Bobby Zamora, whose absence has left Fulham without anyone to fill his shoes. Their defense has only conceded 24 goals, but they’ve only scored 19, and 10 draws in 20 games has left them in the drop zone.
Roy Hodgson made Craven Cottage a fortress, but Mark Hughes has been unable to duplicate that form, with only 11 points in 10 home fixtures. Clint Dempsey has 5 goals, but no one else has more than 2, and most of their other scorers aren’t even strikers. Andy Johnson has looked reasonably healthy in the last couple of games, and maybe that will help the cause.
Preseason best new signing:
Phillipe Senderos – Senderos ruptured an Achilles tendon in training the week before the season, something that is often forgotten when analyzing Fulham’s struggles. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that he’s coming back anytime soon, but if he does come back in March or April, that might be a big boost if they do find themselves in a relegation fight.
Preseason Key player:
Damien Duff – Duff, limited to 13 appearances, has been a big disappointment for the Cottagers this season. He turns 32 in a couple of months, and his best days might be behind him, but he has yet to score in the league and has only 1 assist. Fulham somehow needs better out of him, at least close to what he was last season, when he scored 6 times and was fouled 61 times (he’s been fouled 20 this season).
Key player now:
Brede Hangeland – There was talk that Fulham might sell the Norwegian (and in retrospect, how did Arsenal not go after him harder?), but it’s a good thing they didn’t. He’s started every game, and has even found a way to score twice, to tie him for second on the team. He is the biggest reason why Fulham has allowed as few goals as they have, and – right now – is indispensable.
Inside the numbers:
13 – Combined number of starts from Zamora and Moussa Dembele this season. You wonder where they’d be if those two had been healthy all season.
I’m sure it’s quite scary for Fulham fans to see their team in the drop zone this late in the season, especially after the great escape they had to make just a couple of seasons ago, but I think they have too much quality to go down. They’ll find a way to score a few goals and make it comfortable toward May.