Looking at the table and seeing Fulham currently in 18th position halfway through the season it makes sense to be concerned as a Fulham supporter. The next thing many fans are going to look at are the reasons why Fulham are in the relegation zone. I plan on sharing my points on why I believe Fulham are where they are, and where I think they will end up. However, I feel strongly that a change of manager would be a mistake. Mark Hughes should not be sacked.
First, I feel Hughes should stay is he has not had the proper time to really make a fair judgement on him. Hughes came to Fulham only a few weeks before the season began. It takes time to implement a new system. Half a season to me does not seem like a long time for his style of play to completely show itself as a failure or a success.
Second, another reason for Hughes to stay is he should have the chance to build his squad. The January transfer window is about to open soon. Hughes will have the opportunity to find players to fit into the system he has brought to Fulham. He has already brought in 3 players this summer in Mousa Dembele, Rafik Halliche, and Carlos Salcido. However, I think he needs more reinforcements to play the style he wants Fulham to have.
Third, Hughes should stay because is not playing with a full squad now. Injuries I believe are a big part of the reason Fulham are currently in 18th. Losing Bobby Zamora to an injury early in the season has become a much bigger issue than I thought. He has been out since September 11th, and won’t be returning until February. Fulham really do not have anyone to hold the ball, and really control the defender outside of the box like Zamora. He is a huge physical presence that really helps open up scoring opportunities for the other players.
Also, losing Dembele twice to injuries has hurt the progress of the club as well. In a very short period of time Fulham fans have seen glimpses of a player that I think has the potential to be a star. He got hurt originally on September 21st against Stoke City in a League Cup match. He came back several weeks later but it looked like he was not 100%. He then got hurt during the last international break.
For a team of the size of Fulham, losing those players is a big deal and has to considered a reason for the slow start of the season. Teams like Chelsea can overcome injuries to star players, but it is not as easy for a club like Fulham.
Fourth, another reason Hughes should stay is because of the style of play he has brought to the club. It is a much more adventurous and offensive approach to football from the more defensive style Fulham were playing under Roy Hodgson. We have seen glimpses of what this style can bring very early on in a draw with Manchester United. Hughes’ approach also has shown Fulham to be more aggressive on the road. Fulham under Hughes are not playing for a draw, they are going for the win.
It is easy to point the finger at the manager when the club is losing. I don’t blame fans for wanting him to be replaced. They are voicing their displeasure on the situation with Fulham. In many situations I think it is vital to switch the manager. However, with Fulham I just don’t think sacking Hughes is the correct decision now.
I believe to fully evaluate Hughes you need to wait to see where the team is after the return of the injured players, and when new players have been brought in to help the club. I feel we will know the direction of Fulham in March.
I got a glimpse of what Fulham’s style of play was with a complete squad in September and it really impressed me. I look forward to seeing what Fulham can do when Zamora and Dembele again play together.
So I think Fulham are where they are partially because of the injuries, and the lack of scoring up front. If you want to put some of the blame on Hughes for the lack of scoring I guess it could be warranted, but some of that blame should be placed on the players as well.
To put this all in perspective think about this fact from the table. Fulham have only one more loss this season than Arsenal and Chelsea who are currently third and fourth in the league. That is not bad for a team that is currently sitting in the relegation zone. It also tells me they are not far off from turning it around.
Where will Fulham be by the end of the season? This is a bold prediction, but I am still thinking top 10 or possibly as low as seventh. I have a feeling when Fulham are at full strength, games that would have been draws will become victories.
Manager Mark Hughes I believe still could be a huge asset to the future of Fulham. I just think he needs more time to prove himself.