Monday, December 24, 2007

Fulham's Lewington Speaks Out

Fulham FC's interim Manager Ray Lewington spoke both about Fulham's performance over the weekend and the search for permanent manager. Lewington, who has mad no secret of his desire to take the reins permanantly, understands that the owners are looking elsewhere as well.

Had the Whites won over Wigan on Saturday, Lewington might have more of a chance. But with the 1-1, come from behind draw against another drop zone denzien, I am not sure that Lewington has done enough to show that he should have the job. Lewington said that his team played well in patches of the game, which is true enough, but to succeed in this league you have to play well in more than just patches, you have to play better all the time and have as few rough patches as possible. And let's face, consistency has not been Fulham's strong point this year.

Fulham have scored first in 8 of the team's 18 matches this year and failed to protect that lead, with predictable results--losses or draws in the final minutes. Had Fulham been able to protect those leads, the team would be sitting on 38 points and sitting in the neighborhood of Chelsea and Manchester United near the top of the table rather than just above the relegation zone on goal differential. Even if they had won just have of those games, they would be sitting squarely in the middle of the table with the likes of Newcastle and Blackburn.

After reviewing some of the matches over the weekend, I have come to three conclusions.

1. During the January Transfer Window, Fulham needs to find a pure-bred, dyed in the wool goal scorer. American Clint Dempsey leads the team with five goals in 18 games. That simply is not going to cut it, despite his best efforts. Dempsey has tried to put the team on his shoulders and carry them, but his talents are better used to set people up. American striker Brian McBride will not be healthy and full match ready for a number of weeks. Fulham needs a goal scorer and needs one now.

2. Either Aaron Hughes or Carolos Bocanegra have to leave. Boca is propably my favorite player on Fulham's squad and Hughes is a solid player. But these two are not working well in the back together. They seem to be stepping on each other's toes and the confusion in the back line is leading to mistakes in the defense, leading to costly goals in the final minutes. Both Hughes and Boca lead their respective National team back lines and may be unwilling to give up that kind of leadership position, so one of them has to go, either out of the starting line-up or off the team. There needs to be one, and only one, back line leader to organize the defense, make assignments and lead. In the absence of this move, the new manager has to designate (and stick with) one or the other.

3. There needs to be a strong, on-field captain to organize this team. This team is unorganized. I believe the talent is there on the team to be a solid, mid-table team this year, but the squad is floundering without a dominant personality on the field to lead them. The defense is unorganized, the mid-field play uneven and the attack simply is not producing. While Sanchez can take some of the blame for the team's failings to this point, there is not doubt that the team has failed to find and rally behind a leader on the pitch.

While the transfer window may help bring in some goal-scoring talent or some help in the mid-field, it is unlikely that Fulham will find an on-pitch general to help them out in the leadership department.

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