Though his side might be languishing at the bottom of the table, Andrew (the editor of the excellent Fulham blog Cottagers Confidential) is taking a very pragmatic viewpoint of his side's performances. He shared some of his thoughts with us ahead of Sunday's game at Craven Cottage. We also spoke to them for their Three Questions segment.
RBM - It's been quite the coaching merry-go-round this year, hasn't it? How much of that has contributed to Fulham's low position on the table?
CC - I'm not sure the coaching carousel contributed that much to Fulham's position. The biggest problem was the timing of the sale of the team. Shahid Khan bought the team so close to the transfer window that they really didn't have time to get things in order. The club really needed some strengthening and possibly a new coach at that point. Khan however didn't want to blow everything up until he knew what he had. Unfortunately, that gamble doesn't look like it's going to pay off.
RBM - What is your impression of Felix Magath so far? Will he be able to pull the Cottagers out of the fire?
CC - So far I'm ok with Magath. He seems to be pragmatic enough and has realized that bringing in young players isn't a bad thing. He also seems more than willing not to play veterans if he thinks someone else is better. I'm still not sure that replacing Meulensteen was the right move however. Though if a miracle happens, it probably was worth it. Although Fulham's position is perilous, there is still a shot. Three of the four home games are Crystal Palace, Norwich, and Hull City. Those are all winnable. Picking up four more points out of Everton at home and Stoke and Aston Villa away wouldn't be unheard of. That would give Fulham 37 points and a good shot of staying up.
RBM - Of the last seven games left, four are at home. How has the crowd been supporting the team in home games?
CC - On TV at least, the crowds have still been as good as always. Even the away support has been pretty good. However, most fans have accepted that the club is going down. How many of them are just showing up to see the Fulham in the EPL one last time? I'm curious to see what things will be like next year if they are in the Championship.
Of course, seeing things on TV isn't always the best way to judge these things. I'm going to go over to England myself to experience it in a few weeks. Hopefully I'll get to witness part of another great escape.
RBM - What are the areas of the squad that need rebuilding during the offseason? Any big players with contracts running out?
CC - If the team stays up, it's going to need almost a complete overhaul. It will need two new fullbacks, at least one centerback, and some central midfielders just to start. If they go down, not as much needs to be done. There are basically only two expensive long term deals. Konstantinos Mitroglou and Maarten Stekelenburg are the only two players on expensive long term deals, and both of them could probably be loaned out. So Fulham won't end up in a QPR situation where not coming right back up might bankrupt the team. We recently wrote a long piece looking at what a Championship Fulham side would look like.
RBM - How does Fulham's youth setup look? Are there any kids you're expecting to break into the top flight soon?
CC - Most people outside of Fulham supporters probably don't realize just how strong the youth setup is. The U18 squad has won back to back championships and is currently second in the table. The U21 squad is also currently second in the table. Graduates of the academy are just starting to find time with the first team and have successful loan spells in lower leagues. If Fulham can get remain in the EPL or get back quickly, they could have a very sustainable future by building through their academy.
You'll probably see Cauley Woodrow (19) feature this week. It also wouldn't surprise me if you saw from Patrick Roberts (17). Dan Burn (21) has been playing at center back when healthy since he was recalled from his loan. Jack Grimmer (20) was just recalled from his loan this week, so there is a shot he sees some action as well. Besides those players Chris David (20), Muamer Tankovic (22), Lasse Vigen Christensen (19), and Moussa Dembele (17) have all made their first team debut this year. One other player to watch (who might be interesting to your American readers) is Emerson Hyndman (17) who has stared for both the U18 and U21 squads. He just happens to be the grandson of former SMU and FC Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman.
RBM - Do you think Everton can steal that fourth Champions League spot from under Arsenal and Tottenham's noses?
CC - I'd almost call Everton the favorites for the fourth spot. They are only six points behind Arsenal and only three back on GD. With Arsenal playing Manchester City, they could be three points back with a game in hand and a head to head matchup to come. They also could easily erase that GD in this one game. I wouldn't worry too much about Tottenham, I don't think they've looked like a team that could challenge for the top four at any point in time. The one caveat I would give is that Arsenal has been absolutely decimated by injuries. If some of their players get healthy for the last few games, they could improve in a hurry.
RBM - Finally, how about a score prediction for Saturday? Who are you expecting to have good games on either side?
CC - My heart says it's a 1-1 draw or a 1-0 Fulham win. Arsenal is crushed by Man City on Saturday, and Everton know what they need to do. The pressure gets to them and they play a tight game. Fulham gets a scrappy goal and escapes with a result. In this case, look for Lewis Holtby to have a big game.
My head though says this will go like most other recent Fulham matches. Fulham will play hard and look good at times for a bit. The game will still be 0-0 going into the 50th minute or so. Then Ross Barkley tears through Fulham and scores. Fulham fall apart and two more goals come quick. It's suddenly 3-0 and Fulham are lucky to get a consolation goal for a 3-1 loss.