In unusual fashion we kicked our campaign off brilliantly, outclassing Chris Hughton's Norwich side at the Cottage. Mladen Petric looked the real deal, youngster Alex Kacaniklic got himself on the score sheet, and there was a sense of pleasure in the fact we did it all without want-away striker, Clint Dempsey.
As reconciliation was not an option, Dempsey secured a move to Tottenham, linking up with our recently departed playmaker, Mousa Dembele. The loss of these two players in quick succession would have a massive effect on our season, a fact that was probably underestimated at the time by fans enthralled at the signing of Dimitar Berbatov.
And the moments of sheer unexpected elation, notably the win away at Spurs, and the well-earned point at Arsenal, after Mark Schwarzer pulled off a fantastic penalty save.
As the season drew to its conclusion, our form took a drastic turn for the worse. After drawing away at Aston Villa and securing 40 points, the players appeared to mentally vacate their duties.
We were dismantled at home by our West-London rivals Chelsea, who, to be fair to Fulham, put us on the back foot with a wonder goal. Despite this however, we didn’t take the initiative to them. We were happy to let them pick us off with their pace, while we waited for the full time whistle to blow.
Arsenal and Everton were handed routine wins, and Reading were allowed to put four past us at home. By this point the season couldn’t end quickly enough, and we were suddenly in a vulnerable position, with 40 points not looking all that secure.
With Wigan relegated our Premier league status was renewed for another year. But where did we go wrong this season? And why did it have to conclude in such tense circumstances?
Well, as previously mentioned, losing our midfield didn’t help. Dempsey broke Louis Saha’s league-goals-per-season record from midfield, and Dembele was our creative brain that could make exciting things happen.
Having said this however, scoring goals hasn’t really been our problem this season. Berbatov knows where the back of the net is and as for a creative brain, well that’s what Bryan Ruiz is for, right?
Our major problem is we lack depth. Too much emphasis was placed on the likes of Giorgos Karagounis, a player who was undoubtedly brought in to sure up the midfield with a touch of experience, in the odd moment of crisis, like Olivier Dacourt did a few years ago.
Loan players also found themselves as integral to our campaign, notably Sascha Riether who was, albeit rightfully, voted Player’s Player of the Year.
For me Ruiz hasn’t filled the void left behind by the departing pair of Dempsey and Dembele. It would be harsh to put the entire blame on his shoulders as I think he is screaming out for a creative partner; the reason I believe Berbatov has started to come so deep.
A few signings in midfield are crucial for next years campaign. Someone to pull the strings from midfield and some pace out wide, would provide support for the lone front man, and allow us to attack in numbers.
Although things haven’t always gone to plan this season, I think it is important to remember the quality of Martin Jol as a manager. Sacking him, as I know some fans have suggested we do, would lead to greater problems.
This summer should give us a better idea as to where our club is heading, and I strongly believe that Jol has the ability to bring quality to Fulham. His reputation and experience within the game speaks volumes, and I am hoping he can be a success for us in the coming season.
High points of the season:
The 1-0 win away at Tottenham
Schwarzer’s penalty-save at Arsenal
Berbatov’s volleyed goal against Stoke City, at the Cottage
Beating Norwich 5-0 at home
Getting revenge on Queens Park Rangers
Finishing on a high away at Swansea
Low Points of the season:
Being the first team to lose to Queens Park Rangers
Being comfortably beaten at home to Reading
Showing a lack of fight at home to Chelsea
Getting knocked out of the League Cup to Sheffield Wednesday
Going 7 games without a win and losing 5 consecutively.