Fulham have seen a remarkable uptick in form since the man of the moment, Kit Symons, became caretaker. With four wins (one in the cup), a tie and only two losses since he began, the Whites are riding high. We have yet to hear anything about an appointment other than the reported shortlist, but it is safe to assume he will become full-time manager in due time. However, not all Fulham fans are convinced of Kit's credentials.
Now I could argue (as has been done by many before) that Kit is a "Fulham man," that he knows the club, and has more experience with the youngsters than anyone in football. I could assert that he's the best we've had since the early days of Jol, and is by far the most fitting candidate on the shortlist. I could even go as far as to say that results are all that matter in football, and being outplayed means nothing as long as the club is winning matches and moving up the table. This is a less powerful argument, but applicable nonetheless. If you follow the club closely, you have most likely seen these played out over the past month or so.
I would like to make one more point that will hopefully convince some of the vocal dissenters.
One of the more difficult aspects of football, especially in the lower tiers, is analyzing newly assembled depth and ability. We all know the obvious highlights: McCormack is the star, Roberts is the prospect, and a couple of Magath's signings (that shall remain nameless) have no place being on a Championship roster. What Kit has done with a squad of this caliber is nothing short of fantastic. Fulham were languishing in the relegation zone when he took over, and were playing uninspired and insipid football. Now they are only in on goal differential and playing solid football, and I expect them to move out in the next couple of weeks.
Kit has not only brought an upbeat and honest positivity back to the Cottage, he has returned what has been missing for over a year: the ability to assess a squad as a whole and use the strengths to mask the weaknesses.
We all know that Fulham has an abundance of depth up top, and that the defense really should have been one of the strengths of the team. Dan Burn was tied for the highest rated player in the Championship last season (7.7), according to WhoScored. Also, Bodurav has been Mr. Dependable (when played in his natural position) and Hoogland and Stafylidis have been revelations on their respective wings. I have no doubt that with solid organization, the team can score goals and stay tidy at the back.
Unfortunately, Fulham are severely lacking in quality in holding midfield and depth in left midfield. Kit Symons has done a fantastic job overcoming these weaknesses through seven games. Let's take a closer look.
Scott Parker has played much better than many will argue thus far. He is fantastic at keeping possession, remaining organized, and providing leadership and experience, but he is simply unable to operate as a ball-winning midfielder anymore. Emerson Hyndman sports one of the highest passing ratings on the team, but he is young and too frail to take on more defensive duties. For those that have been upset at his recent decline in minutes, it is not due to his quality of play. He simply needs the proper system and partner, which he does not currently have. This leaves Tim Hoogland, who is much better suited for right defense.
With the physicality of the Championship, a physically dominant force is needed in central or defensive midfield. Fulham do not have any player that fits that description. Remember, the team chose to offer Steve Sidwell a one-year deal rather than the two he requested, and he walked.
On the left side of the midfield, we've seen two defenders and a winger since Kit took charge: Sean Kavanagh, Kostas Stafylidis, and George Williams. I know many fans do not like Staf in midfield, and I also believe he is better suited in defense. He is mature defender and fantastic at getting forward, but can sometimes get caught upfield when he's in defense. He is employed in the midfield for two very important reasons. The first is the lack of depth. The second is that Amorebieta (who isn't fit right now) needs to be playing. He is a much better player than most fans think, but just hasn't been particularly well liked. He fouls hard, and can look clumsy at times, but he has a wicked left foot and really should be one of the best players in the side. The only way to get both Stafylidis and Amorebieta in the lineup is to play one in midfield. Kit has opted to focus on his teams strengths there, and it has worked well thus far.
In terms of depth, Kavanagh's strike against Norwich was a wonderful surprise and very well taken, but he is a defender and a rotation option right now. George Williams really is an exciting prospect, but is better used for squad rotation and sub appearances as well. He is also more attack minded, and I believe Kit favors organization at the back.
We can see that Kit enjoys clean and organized attacking football, but he picks his spots (like the Bolton game). The team played a more direct approach away at Rotherham and against Norwich and relied on some luck and determination. They do not have the defensive cover in midfield or depth on the left to consistently attack top sides or teams away from home.
I have been very impressed with Kit Symons and believe that he is the man to take the club forward. However, I do realize that the team was very fortunate to beat Norwich, and a little lucky to tie Rotherham. If those results had gone differently, this would be a much more difficult argument to make. All in all, Fulham have depth and quality issues in key parts of the team. A couple of smart loans or transfers in the January transfer window can clear that problem up quickly. In the meantime, we've seen that Kit can inspire a young team and build on their strengths. Get the ball to Ross, keep it tidy in the back, and we could very well see the squad in high mid table before the New Year. In the meantime, give the job to Kit already!
*All statistics used courtesy of whoscored.com