Fulham 2 - West Bromwich Albion 0
The good news? It was only 2-0.
We were second best all over the pitch to a team likely to join us back in the Championship. Where to start? We lost the individual battles, couldn't win a tackle, were sloppy with our passes and got caught in possession throughout.
We lost two heading duels for their first goal and, despite seemingly having plenty of defensive cover, failed to challenge the shooter for their second. Sawyers was brought on to ensure that we saw the game out mostly in our own half. Grant missed our best (only?) chance when he was fed in by Gallagher and sliced wide from the edge of the box.
Bilic cut a forlorn figure; even he couldn't muster much enthusiasm. We looked hopelessly lightweight up front and can't play the long game when we need a plan B. It's starting to look like it will be a long painful season. I need a drink.
Tonight is of real concern - we’re in trouble.
Our shape was awful, we can’t tackle, we were second to everything, we lacked creativity, we were slow - all against possibly our other closest relegation rival. It really is going to be a struggle from here without drastic change.
Firstly the shape. Going forward we have nothing. We have no width and no space in the middle mainly because we’re too slow. Fulham had great shape and defended well and created space moving forward. Every time we had the ball there was nowhere to go. Hardly got into the box of the team bottom of the league.
Full backs. Furlong did not get down the wing once. He didn’t defend one cross and is skinned by his man nearly every time. Townsend was okay but no end product or link up play with Diangana. Both Furlong and Townsend are not quite good enough for this league at the moment. Gibbs is a far better full back and him and Diangana are a proven threat together. I think his time in the sin bin should be over and be reinstated. We have no other right back and I’m not sure O’Shea is the answer either. Phillips has played here before and may be our best player for that position given his legs have slowed and he doesn’t seem to have the blast of pace to get past players he did. He can overlap though and is a good crosser and why I suggest him for right back.
Midfield. The shape is positively awful. The deep midfield player has no avenues. Krov did okay but every time Sawyers gets the ball I sing Sideways Sawyers. It’s a laugh and he never lets you down - he cannot pass forwards. The shape in midfield is all a mess. This is a management issue and Slaven needs to fix it. Pereira is not a wide player - he needs to have a roaming role behind the striker. We have fast wide players and need to use our width. We also do not seem able to make a tackle. We go in and commit for the tackle and get cut apart time and time again. We almost need to not commit and make them work the ball rather than chasing down and committing for every ball. We also need to take some risks going forward - we’re just too slow and predictable.. Nick possession and have five players darting forward instead of allowing every opposition player time to get back behind the ball with our slow monotonous build up.
Attacking. There is no attack currently. Full back and wide player have no overlap and no space being created inside in the forward half. I’m at a loss as to why - I can only put it down to us being too slow or the shape is just not right.
We now have some tough games coming up and unless things change we’re going to be on 3 points at Christmas.
What to do next... the manager has a real headache. He’s a clever man but he needs to go back to the drawing board. How do we get the shape and speed into the team to be a threat. I’d play Gibbs and Phillips at full back. I’d play Krov Gallagher and Pereira in the middle with Sawyers and Livermore as subs, have Diangana and Robinson wide with subs available in Grosicki, Edwards with Grant up front and push him by having a forward sub - Austin maybe and when fit Robson-Kanu - he can play up front or wide right. I’m no expert and I’m hoping Slaven works it out.
There is always a bad night but tonight was a structural issue in the team and it’s either our team is not good enough or the manager needs to step up and get the team set up right and playing a system that suits them. It’s time for him and the team to step up else we’ll be in for a very long season of disappointment.
That was a really sad performance because, to me, it looked like the end for Bilic. I’d go as far as to say that the relationship is clearly broken, these things never recover and we need to pay him what he’s earned and move on - I’d be going for Nigel Pearson now.
In truth we’ll struggle with any coach this season but we’re too lightweight, weak, easy to play against and open. We got totally bossed by a poor team at this level.
When I saw our starting 11 my first thought was, as it has been for a few weeks, how many of these will win the majority of 50-50s today? Ivanovic, Semi and Livermore - I wouldn’t even count the keeper. It’s just not enough. Combine that with a 4-3-3 system which exposes us so much and, because we can’t get the ball, takes Diagana and Pereira out of it, and we’re on a hiding to nothing.
The goals exposed it - god knows what Gallagher was doing at the start of the move for the first but there was so much space around him that the back four had to retreat and then lost 2 headers in our box unchallenged.
The second was a great strike but there was nobody in midfield who had the instinct for danger or the legs to get there.
Going forward the 4-3-3 leaves us so narrow that when we do get it, it has to come back and we blew good openings with terrible decisions and quality or appalling careless flicks and cowardly first time passes when we need to be brave enough to hold it. For the money, Grant is terrible at this - Robinson is better.
There is no point in writing more, we didn’t lay a glove on them. To have any chance of getting results we need to go something like 4-2-3-1 and get some power into the team with Livermore one of the defensive 2, possibly with Ajayi next to him and Pereira central in the attacking 3. I think we need Phillips’s power on the right and we need to give him a run of games.
I can’t see Bilic changing course and we look lost.
The first hurdle we need to overcome looks like the record lowest points tally. Let’s set ambitions there.
Fulham 2 v Championship Squad 0
I agree with most of the comments already in the Reports but hate to say it, I'm not surprised by our performance tonight.
Have been saying on here ever since we got promoted, this is a Championship Standard Squad.
And probably the weakest since Brian Little's days.
Bilic is average as well and never thought he was the Messiah many fans have made him out to be.
But to be fair to be Bilic, the issues with the Club are more fundamental and long standing than him.
In summary, the current issues start with Peace selling to a totally unsuitable Owner who turns out just to be the highest bidder, and who has borrowed £millions to finance the purchase.
Then the catalogue of problems begin that take us to where we now have the weakest squad since 2001.
In chronological order the mistakes have been:
Bilic will probably get sacked at some point but who worth their salt will want to come to this Club currently with no money to invest?
For what it is worth, tonight's Player Ratings:
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