Sure, it was a “meaningless” FA Cup game in which Fulham were not playing their usual starting XI. Claudio Ranieri gave the 4-3-3 one more go before league play restarts and it was a chance for many of the players outside the matchday squad to be given one more chance to prove their worth. My goodness did they not prove their worth at all.
I can only think of what happened just two years ago when Fulham put Hull City out of their misery and inadvertently led them towards a relegation they haven’t recovered. While there’s no way to tie FA Cup performances to Premier League futures, Fulham’s lack of depth now just shows that there are no other answers in terms of improving this football club beyond building a brand new senior team in the January window. Yes, that proposition is nearly impossible and that is why Fulham will get relegated unless something miraculous were to happen.
In short, Aboubakar Kamara has officially leapfrogged Luciano Vietto because he constantly gets beaten up by any opposition in England. Floyd Ayite looks nothing more than a rich man’s Sone Aluko who, at 30 years old, will never show his worth beyond the Championship. Lastly, Neeskens Kebano couldn’t be a full fledged starter in the Championship. Why on Earth should we expect better from him in a game that was hoping to boost the moral of the football club?
Add in the fact that the midfield and back four weren’t that much different than when Slavisa Jokanovic was using and this level of pessimism throughout all of Craven Cottage is well deserved. Fulham might have put up 20 shots to Oldham’s seven, but eight of those 20 were blocked and only two of them went on target. Meanwhile, Oldham were dangerous when it mattered and that can’t be any short of crippling towards a defense that has been struggling for months to find it’s footing ever again.
And it all started in a first half that wasn’t anything more than a bore. I mean, you had a Tom Cairney-Jean Michael Seri midfield that should have been tearing Premier League sides to shred, let alone Oldham. Instead, it was a boring 0-0 contest that basically led to horrifying shot quality and a traveling support that was finding its voice as the minutes kept ticking away.
Denis Odoi brought some respite into the occasion by collecting a jumbled Ayite header and volleyed it home. But that was all short lived when Sam Surridge came on for the older slower Chris O’Grady. From there, it was a matter of time before Oldham put Fulham out of its misery in front of the Hammersmith End. First, Kebano should have put this game to bed after receiving a terrific ball from Tom Cairney and was left all alone between him and the goalkeeper. But instead of rounding Daniel Iverson, Kebano smashed it well wide.
Next, Ryan Sessegnon was marking a center back for some unbeknown reason and resulted in giving up a penalty by taking him down in the penalty area. From there Surridge converted and it was game on. Next, Fulham had their chance to make to reclaim the lead when Cairney may or may not have done the greatest acting job of all time to get a VAR reviewed penalty just in time for the Golden Globes. But Aleksander Mitrovic was assigned to take it in his first kick of anger. The result was a comfortable save by Iverson that riled up the Oldham supporters at the Putney End and demanded victory. That is what they got thanks to a weakly marked Calum Lang heading home an accurate cross to send them home with a historic victory.
Both sides got completely everything that they deserved: especially Fulham. This was much greater than a reserve side Ranieri put out and they lost to a middling League Two side. If that doesn’t seal relegation, I genuinely don’t know what does. Fulham have been so horrifyingly overrated in attack, the midfield has not gelled well at all since the arrivals of Seri and Andre Frank Zambo Anguissa and the defense has been historically bad. Tony Kahn has nobody to blame but themselves and it just feels like absolutely nothing has been learned by the ownership group and board since 2014. Unless Fulham prove me wrong against Burnley next week, that is what we’re confined too. Because I don’t know where else I can find the optimism with this year’s team.