There must have been times, as he watched Manchester United tear Fulham to shreds on Saturday, when Martin Jol wondered if he perhaps should have taken the opportunity to be Alex Ferguson’s assistant; then he, rather than David Moyes, might have been purring at the performances of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie.
Jol was at least grateful for a second-half rally which prevented United visiting upon him the humiliation Manchester City heaped on Norwich’s Chris Hughton, and probably kept Jol in a job, for the moment at least.
When the big Dutchman arrived at Fulham in 2011 it was seen as something of a coup. After all, his previous two jobs had been at European Cup winners Hamburg and Ajax, and he had done well at Tottenham.
The sense of optimism engendered at Craven Cottage then is long gone. Jol had a promising first season with a top 10 finish despite Europa League involvement, but such is the decline he has overseen since that Fulham have more defeats than wins in the league, have made no impact in the cups, and their performances appear to be regressing, especially at home. Fulham are sliding down the table, sitting just two points off the relegation zone, the fans are in a mutinous mood, and a stiff run of pre-Christmas fixtures awaits. The club is also under new ownership, and new owners like to redecorate, usually beginning with the fixtures and furnishings in the dugout.
If Jol fears for his job after a 3-1 defeat he does not show it, but he does admit to being mystified by the inconsistencies in his team: “It is hot and cold with us. You have strengths and weaknesses and sometimes we show a few weaknesses, and sometimes we show a few strengths, because we have got good players.”
Philippe Senderos, he said, was typical of this inconsistency: “He played against Everton second half and we didn’t concede. He played against Stoke second half and we didn’t concede so I feel, ‘Maybe we can play without [Brede] Hangeland’. Then the next week it is different, so we have to be more consistent.”
The reality is not that mysterious. Fulham lack balance. They have a clutch of mercurial talents, such as Dimitar Berbatov, Bryan Ruiz and Adel Taarabt, who have ability but are less valuable when the opposition have the ball. Then they have the honest toilers who can win possession but are relatively uninspired users of it. What they do not have is enough players who can do both, which United have in abundance, notably Rooney. Fulham also have a porous back four. Which means Jol’s rallying cry is reduced to “there are six or seven teams worse than us”.
Next up for Jol is a trip to Anfield. “Liverpool is a very important game now,” said Pajtim Kasami, one of Fulham’s better players on the day, “but it is going to be very difficult. We need to step up and play as a team.”
By contrast, Moyes can look forward to Manchester United’s Champions League tie with Real Sociedad in the knowledge that he, and his team, are settling down and the “crisis” headlines have moved on.Reuse content