Bad News, Bad News: Why Fulham Are Relegation Candidates and Why There's Nothing You Can Do About It

Julian Finney

Being a Fulham supporter this season has thus far been an exercise in joy and despair. The false dawns have been followed by insipid surrenders and a sober accounting of the club's myriad issues reveals that "Jol out" is hardly a universal remedy to the malaise. Fulham are relegation candidates and likely will be until there's a sea change on the banks of the Thames.

From Crystal Palace to Southampton.

From Jol out to Jol in and back again.

From Berba King to Berba bum.

From born again to bullocks.

All it took was one week. The delirium of the message boards following Pajtim Kasami's opening salvo against Crystal Palace and the deluge that followed to give Fulham an emphatic 4-1 victory over the south London side is well and truly forgotten.

Perhaps that's the supporter's curse - a sort of binary emotional schizophrenia predicated on short-term amnesia that must be either/or, mania/depression, hope/despair. Calls for the end of the Jol-Berbatov marriage dominated social media even before the final whistle had blown in Saturday's match.

Against Crystal Palace, Berbatov was an encouraging and industrious genius, getting on the ball and dictating the flow of play. Against Southampton, Berbatov completed only 59% of his passes (going a criminal 9/16 in the middle third of the field), created 0 chances, had 0 shots (on goal or otherwise), went 0/4 in take ons, and put in 0 tackles. The incident in which cameras caught Scott Parker literally dragging Berbatov to Rickie Lambert just before the Bulgarian lost his mark and allowed Lambert to head home unchallenged for Southampton's first perfectly encapsulates the sort of day it was, both for Berbatov and Fulham.

Fulham's captain wore the tux but refused to conduct the orchestra.

So we're clear, no one in a Fulham shirt came even remotely close to covering himself in glory Saturday. There were some competent displays, but on the whole, the side looked disjointed, poorly organized, and listless.

Particularly galling were Martin Jol's comments after the match in which he seemingly pardoned Berbatov of assuming any responsibility for the club's insipid performance. Speaking to talkSPORT, Jol stated, "It had nothing to do with the front four. It was to do with the defending...It is nothing to do with Berbatov or Bent, it has to do with the application and organization because if you communicate with each other you come away with results."

When asked about the incident that led to Southampton's first goal and Berbatov's poor marking of Rickie Lambert, Jol continued, " Berbatov is our spare man, normally he isn't marking. He's the spare man so maybe before the game we should have told Berbatov to go on Rickie Lambert."

If you're like me, you feel like you're living in Bizarro World or an Orwellian dystopia or with a pathological liar. Fulham mustered 2 scoring attempts (neither of which were on goal) to Southampton's 20; completed only 27 passes in the attacking third; and were out possessed 66.6% to 33.4%.

Nothing to do with the front four, you say? Cool.

Fulham have had a horrid time defending set pieces this season and Southampton have arguably the most dangerous aerial threat in the Premier League in the form of Rickie Lambert.

Maybe before the match you should have told Berbatov or anyone to mark Lambert on set pieces? Never mind that Scott Parker told Berbatov before the corner to mark Lambert. If it's not before the match, it apparently doesn't count.

Watching Mauricio Pochettino's 4-3-3 harass, hurry, and harangue Fulham into a meek surrender Saturday was instructive. The one or two names on the Southampton roster who could justifiably make waves when left on the bench, or even out of the match day squad altogether, don't. The balanced mix of experienced and young players has, Daniel Osvaldo and Victor Wanyama aside, been modestly assembled. Each player in the system knows exactly what is required of him and sets about his task with verve, purpose, and support.

Southampton is a club with the audacity to believe that the above amalgam of characteristics is enough to see them challenge for a Champions League spot. The season is young, but who thus far can tell them no?

In contrast, Fulham's stated goal is lower mid-table. The side is a mix of older, experienced players and Pajtim Kasami. Jol himself characterized Fulham's most recent performance as "like a team of strangers." Verve, purpose, and support, rather than being hallmarks of the side, are whispers that become audible only in matches against inferior competition.

"Jol out", rather than a panacea, is likely an ice bag on a gunshot wound. It's time to face the uncomfortable reality that Fulham are simply not very good, and the malignancies are systemic. The side is too old; lacks pace and balance; is lorded over by a tremendously talented but self-indulgent talisman; is owned by men extremely reluctant to invest substantively in the transfer market; and is managed by a man seemingly impotent to suspend these traits against any but the lowliest of challengers.

Supporting Fulham cannot mean wild vacillations between the insecure joy of the flat track bully and the enraged despair of the unjustly wronged victim. The season is too long for that and the outlook too narrow. Now is the time for a sober accounting of what the side is and what the side is not. There are no easy fixes at present - no player to buy, no player to sell, no manager waiting in the wings.

Bluntly put, Fulham are relegation candidates and there's likely nothing that can be done this season to remedy that.

Here's to survival.

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