A year ago to the day, Fulham supporters arose in the morning with the sour taste of defeat. Yes, a sensation we became far too accustomed to last season, but this specific instance was somewhat more foul. The day before, Fulham, in last place at the time, had traveled to South Wales for a classic six-pointer against 19th placed Cardiff City. Record signing Kostas Mitroglou was finally given his first start since joining the club, after enduring over a month of Felix bingo, and things looked promising for Fulham to grab an important away win that would most likely bring them within a point of safety.
In "Fulhamish" style, Cardiff broke the deadlock in first half stoppage time thanks to Steven Caulker running unmarked through the six-yard box. Lewis Holtby then gave us hope by drawing us level with a half hour remaining. With this new found momentum we managed to fittingly concede two more goals within the following 12 minutes, one involving a shocking attempt at defending a header by Maarten Stekelenburg, and another via an own goal that deserves to be listed below the term "cluster___" in a dictionary. It was the beginning of the end. Although none of us wanted to believe it, we could feel it.
Fast forward a year and Fulham are again flirting with this pesky little thing we call relegation, albeit one division lower. Our current state is not as bleak as it was then, but we're still looking over our shoulder hoping it won't catch us. There are only ten games that remain in this laborious Championship season, but there is still work to be done. Hopes that were once linked with the idea of promotion seem foreign, now turned to just keeping ourselves in the league.
Recent form, aside from a fluke performance (apologies, but true) against Derby, has been dreadful to say the very least. Fulham have only managed to gain 5 points from the last 27 possible (9 matches). The defense is in shambles, conceding five goals on Friday, a circumstance we've allowed five times during this campaign. Kit Symons is losing support faster than Felix Magath could respond with "yeah, sure" to a question in a post-match interview.
Ironically so, what many regarded as the biggest downfall of Magath is what has also become Symon's biggest flaw: team selection. Felix was a manager with too quick of a trigger finger, shuffling the lineup weekly and destroying any consistency or possibility of team chemistry. On the other hand, Kit has been criticized for doing the exact opposite, not making changes and in-game adjustments when they are glaringly necessary. For instance, every supporter is aware of Fulham's incredible fragility when defending set pieces. Yet, our towering center back Dan Burn, a guy who made more aerial clearances in one game (Man United away last year) than some will make in an entire season, still continues to not even make the eighteen. Hugo Rodallega, who has been futile in front of goal as of late still starts over both Cauley Woodrow and Matt "14 goals in 18 appearances" Smith. Even worse, Symons admitted Amorebieta and Hoogland looked a bit "rusty" against Bournemouth, which would lead me to the question of why they were even started in the first place?! But I digress; that is an entirely different story.
Over the past 10 seasons, on average it has taken a total of 49.7 points to avoid relegation. This would mean Fulham still needs to gain roughly 11 points in their final 10 matches, a feat that seems attainable. Additionally, Fulham still have an eight point gap between them and the drop zone, but these things can close rapidly and sometimes within only a few weeks.
Looking at point totals and table position of the Whites' remaining opponents, the average is 47.2 points, which is equivalent to 13th place. To compare, Wigan, who sit one spot below us and in the relegation zone, has an average opponent of 50.9 points and equivalent to 10th place. Although a place below the Latics but tied on points, Millwall's remaining opponents average out at 50.5 points, also equivalent to 10th place. From strictly the numbers listed here, you can see Fulham have the slight advantage when it comes to their remaining list of fixtures.
It should be noted that there are several pivotal games still to come that could carry big implications in this race. For Fulham, the biggest could be their home match against Wigan on April 10th. The next week they play Rotherham and Blackpool, both games that they will have a very good chance at winning. These are extra important due to the fact our final two matches involve the likes of Middlesbrough and Norwich, both of whom are currently either tied or within a single point of the top of the table.
In the case of Wigan, they play Rotherham this Saturday, a fixture that Fulham fans will surely be keeping track of. They also have a massive month of April. They first face top sides Middlesbrough and Derby, but along with their match against Fulham, they will see Brighton and Millwall where all three teams are similarly trying to avoid the drop. They round out the month against a tough Wolverhampton team and then close the season with an away day at Brentford.
Lastly, Millwall will see their fair share of quality opponents when facing the likes of Watford, Derby, Brentford, and Wolves. As mentioned previously, they will travel to Wigan for a huge match on April 14th. The Lions haven't won in their last six matches, so in order to make things interesting (hopefully not for our sake) they will have to make some adjustments.
Overall, even though I thought Fulham would find a way to avoid relegation last season, this year seems much more plausible. As of now, the teams below us haven't shown any major kind of life, and if we are able to take advantage of our easier match ups, we should be fine. That being said, look at what Sunderland did at the end of last season. You never know how a team will respond once they're backed up into a corner, and sometimes that's all that's necessary in order to spark a big run out of the bottom three.
Moving forward, even if Kit continues to make questionable choices in regards to tactics, as supporters we must maintain the faith as the squad will surely need it down the stretch run. Here's to hoping we can turn things around this Saturday at Hillsborough. As always, Come on you Whites.