A trip to Craven Cottage normally wins the prize for the most family friendly encounter of the league season, the place is thick with young Tristrams and Olivers being dragged through Bishop’s Park by dads keeping an eye on their offspring whilst pondering whether they bought the right type of houmous to go with their half time ciabatta. Today’s evening kick-off means that the atmosphere will be less shrill than normal – the kids will be at home tucked up with their Xboxes or out coshing old ladies or whatever it is that the little charmers get up to of an evening these days.
I imagine some of the language on offer at Fulham of late hasn’t been of the family friendly variety. Six losses on the spin, culminating in a 3-0 gubbing at Upton Park is enough to make anyone swear. ‘Time was called’ on Martin Jol’s period in charge at the weekend. It’s a phrase I’ve always found a bit odd as you get twenty minutes grace when time is actually called in a pub whereas BMJ would’ve been ushered off the premises fairly sharpish I imagine and not given a bit more time to finish what he started whilst under the influence.
So we face a case of New Manager Syndrome. “The body’s dead doctor, if we replace the head though, it may suddenly revive!”. Rene Meulensteen was brought in a couple of weeks ago to help Jol in the fight against relegation; help him towards the door is more likely. Meulensteen will have had an opportunity to assess what he thinks is going wrong but won’t have had much time to do anything about it. He’ll know enough about us though to know that a nil nil at least is achievable given that there’s not much to worry about in terms of goal threat. Or is there? AVB’s masterstroke in moving Paulinho in to a position pretty much alongside Soldado at the weekend seemed to loosen the shackles somewhat and we didn’t look quite so much like a crab in a tightly fitting shoebox as we normally do. We can expect a similar line-up I’m sure, though if I were AVB I’d be thinking of perhaps giving Daws a ‘rest’ either by moving Vertonghen back into the middle and bringing in Naughton or by giving Kaboul the chance to lower his goals against average for league starts. Dembele and Sandro are a formidable combination when both on song so should remain. Lamela for Chadli is a possibility if the Argentine is fit.
Three points might not be there for the taking but a good early start will gets heads lowered on the pitch and on the terraces and help us start catching the likes of Newcastle and Southampton – the Gooners, Chelski and Citeh will have to wait for now. A defeat will give the AVB lynch mob a lift and our hopes of achieving a Europa League qualifying spot a dent.
Oh bugger. Mark Twattenburg’s the referee. Never mind. COYS.
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