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The Curious Case of Felix Magath

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The beginning to Fulham's Championship campaign has been eerily similar to the relegation season of last year, and much of the blame deservedly falls on manager Felix Magath.

Jamie McDonald

To say Magath came into our club with a reputation is an understatement. Once named the "last dictator of Europe" by a former player, Felix is known for his harsh training standards and demanding fitness regimen. That being said, he also comes with a pedigree that any person involved in the game can admire. As a player, Magath was a three time champion of the Bundesliga, one time European Cup winner, and two time member of a West German side that was twice runner up in the World Cup. As a manager he added three more Bundesliga titles to his resume, twice with Bayern Munich and once with Wolfsburg, only six years ago. With these accomplishments to his name, one would imagine he would be able to help a team stave off relegation, or even hold their own in the Championship...but my, would you be wrong.

Now, I will preface this saying that I'm well aware of being only four matches into a very long season, one that could take a complete reverse of form in a matter of a match or two. Additionally, it should be noted that I am also one to maintain patience and positivity much longer than most. Disagree with me all you want, but I was not ready to let go of Martin Jol when the axe did come down, and I was very much so still a Meulensteen believer when Khan decided that his time with Fulham was up. But this case is different. I've exhausted my patience with Magath. He's been given more time than the past two men at the helm, and is actually doing worse from a results standpoint. As much as I'd hate to move onto a fourth manager in nine months, I believe it is a necessary step to right what currently looks like a sinking ship.

--- League Match Results --- Games W D L Pts Pts/Gm
Martin Jol 13 3 1 9 10 0.77
Rene Meulensteen 13 3 1 9 10 0.77
Felix Magath 16 3 3 10 12 0.75

Before I lambast the gaffer for his shortcomings at Fulham, I will give credit where credit's due. He has led a complete overhaul of the club, a change that was desperately needed after several years of minimal effort towards replacing losses of key players and a staggeringly old squad. Magath has also given our youth players the chance in the first team, many of which are well deserved. But the weekly routine of what seems to be him pulling names from a hat in order to choose his starting eleven has gotten out of hand.

It comes to no surprise that our team struggles to put anything together on the field as their is a complete lack of consistency as to who is chosen to play each week. There is no continuity, making it extremely difficult for players to gel as a unit and form confidence and a knowledge of each person's playing tendencies. Compounding these issues is the fact that Felix seems to find it necessary to play people out of position. Who in their right mind thinks Dan Burn can play effectively at right back and keep pace with the likes of any winger thrown at him? Lastly, and we've seen this far too often this season, is when he completely locks a player out of the team, for reasons we haven't the slightest clue. This is one of the most frustrating parts of this season thus far.

To many, other than top signing Ross McCormack, Chris David came into this season as the most anticipated player for Fulham. He put in an impressive performance in the final match of last season against Palace, scoring a gem of a goal, and he looked nothing short of impressive in preseason. The first match of the season vs. Ipswich came and for 45 minutes he looked like one of the best players on the pitch for the Whites. At the break, according to Squwaka's performance ratings, he was the second highest rated player for Fulham behind Nikolay Bodurov. Coming out for the second half, Felix decided to replace him with new signing Thomas Eisfeld. It was mentioned that David had potentially picked up a knock which was the reason for his removal, and if so I can deal with that. But he certainly can't still be suffering from that injury today, can he? We've heard no news from the club, and he even made a short cameo at the end of the Millwall match. As for the last two games, he's been omitted from the squad entirely.

This strange player management by Felix has also been visible in the usage of Emerson Hyndman, who has shown to be a very competent central midfielder for Fulham early on this season. Initially, I had my doubts when I saw he was starting in the first match of the season. I liked what I'd seen of him in the preseason, but I thought he was still a year away from featuring in the first team. But nonetheless, the young American was in the eleven come matchday and performed above everyone's expectations. He possessed a calm and composed demeanor, something an 18 year old debutant rarely has. He also was pinpoint accurate on his passing and knew where and when to feed the ball to the attackers. Again, according to Squwaka's ratings he has been the third best player for Fulham so far this season, only behind Scott Parker and the previously mentioned Bodurov. Yet, Hyndman was left out of the squad midweek vs Wolves and unused against Derby. Yes, the championship schedule is demanding and fitness needs to be taken into account, but he is a necessary cog in midfield to help distribute the ball to our bevy of attackers, and his absence has certainly been felt. With that being said, both players should surprisingly feel rather fortunate in comparison to others.

Magath has decided to essentially banish the likes of Ryan Tunnicliffe, Dan Burn, and until a late appearance vs Derby, Alex Kacanilklic. Before the season, I would have envisioned all three being consistent starters for our side, but for whatever reason, they have been cast aside for much less experienced and potentially less talented replacements. This is possibly the most bothersome issue I have with Felix. It's one thing if we're putting out our best squad each week and simply losing to better opponents, but I am convinced that we are not playing the best players we have available. Millwall and Wolverhampton are teams that we should always put away, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the inclusion of players like those listed above would have been enough. Let's be honest. Dan Burn held his own, for the most part, in the top flight last season. When did things change? Ryan Tunnicliffe started and played several times for us last season as well. He even appeared 27 times for Ipswich, a team in the Championship that we just lost to! And as underwhelming as Kaca has been over the past few years, he's still talented enough to be effective when given consistent playing time in the Championship, don't you think?

As you can tell, many things have, and still are, rubbing me the wrong way when it comes to Magath (and we didn't even get into what the deal is with Mitroglou or Ruiz). I think it is safe to say that even for a person like myself who is an optimist and tries my hardest to give people as much of a chance as possible, that chance is no longer for the taking. It's time that Fulham gets back to winning ways, and as of now, the only way I can see that happening is with the removal of Felix Magath.