Fear and laziness has breached the Craven Cottage walls

Clive Rose

Why mental instability and a lack of hard graft is costing Fulham dearly this season

There was a time when Craven Cottage was known for being a fortress – a place that even top four teams would have to be at their best if they were to come away with a result.

Last Saturday’s game against Sunderland, above all else proved this is no longer the case, and it highlighted two major areas of concern.

Fear

Right from kick-off against Sunderland, Fulham’s tentative nature was apparent. Moving the ball from side-to-side The Whites seemed intent on creating attacking chances for the opposition, with David Stockdale and Philippe Senderos nervously passing the ball and responsibility to each other at every opportunity.

Adel Tarrabt, who perhaps should not have been substituted in the second half, was the only Fulham player with some attacking intent, but with no one else on the same page, his one-man-on-a-mission style of play was both ineffective and easy to defend against.

A problem that has continued to develop since the Tottenham game, where The Whites went one nil up before becoming reclusive, inviting pressure and handing over control, is the inability to command a game.

Evident against Manchester City, Norwich, West Ham and Sunderland, where The Whites had to goal at least one goal behind before starting to play is Fulham’s lack of mental ability – to assertively go out and win a football match.

Chasing a game is difficult, and while it seems to be the only thing that motivates the players at the moment, it leaves the team dangerously vulnerable to counter attacking football – as Fulham found out the hard way against Sunderland last Saturday.

The fear of commanding a game has also resulted in Fulham forgetting how to draw.

While this is something you’d over look if you were winning each week, it’s a hugely important part of the game for teams who aren’t.

Fulham appear to have only been able to win this year on momentum – getting back into a game after conceding to steal a late winner, before holding on for dear life.

The games they’ve lost have been down to not reacting quickly enough to going a goal behind, with the other team capitalising on Fulham’s lackadaisical nature.

Grinding out a draw against a good side, instead of capitulating and accepting defeat by leaking a ridiculous amount of goals, may well be the difference between staying up and going down.

Knees up

Another worrying trait that still floats about the ground on match days, like Berbatov’s shadow, is the overall lack of graft.

Some players like Scott Parker, Steve Sidwell, Pajtim Kasami and Giorgos Karagounis fight their corner well, but a lack of fluidity amongst the whole eleven is causing the team serious problems.

Right from the off on Saturday Sunderland were more motivated than Fulham. The Whites had better possession, but used it negatively, passing sideways and backwards at every opportunity.

While Sunderland didn’t close us down like the more tenacious West Ham side did the week before, they were extremely organised, and once they had introduced themselves to the game by attaining some level of possession, their unmatched work rate was the decisive factor.

More problems on the horizon?

One major cause for concern at the moment is Fulham’s goal difference – as let’s not forget that is what kept them up in the 2007/2008 ‘Great Escape’ season.

Even if they can manufacture a couple of wins in the up-and-coming months, this inability to keep anything close to a clean sheet will be the difference between staying up or going down.

Overall the whole set up at Craven Cottage appears to be a bit of a circus at the moment, with three men in varying levels of control.

And with a tough row of fixtures coming their way, the next few weeks may look a whole lot worse if sufficient and vital transfers are not made quickly.

At this point Fulham’s future remains in their hands, but time is most definitely not on their side.

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