I must start by saying that I have a lot of admiration for Roy Hodgson and Fulham. My first permanent flat in London was opposite Craven Cottage and my local pub was the brilliant Golden Lion (http://www.allinlondon.co.uk/clubs_bars/venue-248.php) – entry on match days is only for local and those with a Fulham member’s card. Finally, after Fulham had avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth, I met Roy Hodgson at Heathrow and congratulated him on his achievement that season (a story he still dines out on I’m sure).
With all that in mind I think that they are in real trouble this season. Hodgsons team is built on two attributes: organisation and hard work. People might think that I am doing them a disservice by underestimating their quality but what do they really have? Danny Murphy controls the midfield wonderfully well but their creative spark doesn’t come from the hardworking Johnson and Zamora. Fulham look towards their wide players for the creative impetus – Duff, Dempsey, Gera and Davies – but none of these have, in my opinion, sufficient quality to get into most Premier League sides.
So, why will Fulham be in trouble, probably come November? The Europa league will be the undoing of Fulham. Organisation will win games if everyone is, err, well, organised. The team that played for Fulham on a weekly basis was almost always the same and therefore they were sufficiently organised. Changing personal disrupts the organisational aspect of the team and causes problems for the concept of team defence.
But do Fulham need to change their team? Yes if they are not to suffer from burn out by the time the season ends. The way in which Roy Hodgson plays demands that his players work hard. The question will be whether the working demanded can be sustained through the Europa League groups.
I do not think that the tactics Hodgson employs can survive a European campaign. He has form when this situation is played out, think Blackburn. The only way in which Fulham can avoid a challenging relegation fight is to inject some attacking quality in the side – something which needs to be done by tomorrow afternoon.