LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 17: Martin Jol the Fulham manager directs his players during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Bolton Wanderers at Craven Cottage on December 17, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Fulham manhandled Bolton yesterday, defeating the Wanderers 2-0 at the Craven Cottage. Clint Dempsey and Bryan Ruiz scored for the Cottagers, though it would not have been out of the realm of possibility for a third or fourth to have gone in. The victory gives Fulham 18 points from 16 matches, and leaves them in a comfortable midtable position.
Rewind three days...
Fulham tragically drew against Odense BK 2-2 on Wednesday, Dec. 14. The Whites carried a two-goal lead to the half, only to offer a lackluster performance in the second, and concede a tying goal just before the final whistle. And it was all at the Cottage. Troubling times, indeed. The passion, where's the passion?
Rewind four more days....
Swansea City handed Fulham a humiliating 2-0 defeat at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea, Wales on Saturday, Dec. 10. Fulham's woeful attack offered few ideas. Possession was poor and the defense porous. The Swans showed Fulham how real possession soccer is played. And to think, things had looked like they were heading in a promising direction only a short time ago. Back to the relegation fight.
Rewind another three days...
Fulham proved once again that the Craven Cottage is their fortress, defeating 10-man Liverpool 1-0 on Monday, Dec. 5. Clint Dempsey's 84th minute goal provided the difference. Fulham's attack continued to make strides, while the defense competently held the nefarious Luis Suarez in check.
Stop. Forward to the present. Freeze frame.
Wins, losses, and ill-conceived draws... these are all mere samplings of data relative to the greater whole of a season. Where do things currently stand?
Fulham's Europa League campaign, which began all the way back in early July, ended by the slimmest of margins. A patchwork Fulham side couldn't do enough to keep their Danish opposition in check in the final moments of the final day of the group stage. Now, both clubs are out of the competition.
A shame, but not a tragedy.
In the Premiership, Fulham sits comfortably in 11th, five points above the relegation zone. They have gone 2-2-2 in their last six matches. Not near Europe, but a nice cushion away from the Championship with consistent results and strong showings against "big" clubs. They've defeated Liverpool and earned draws against Manchester City and away at Arsenal.
In all competitions, Fulham has played 31 matches. A large sum for mid-December.
The matches haven't all been wonderful, they haven't all been poor. Some have, on both accounts. In the end, the club is right about where it should be, and typically has been in recent years.
And this is even with all of the tactical issues found as the club moves ever closer toward Martin Jol's particular brand of soccer. With all of the disharmony found in his youth movement. With a heavy fixture load on a humbly-sized squad. With influential players such as Bobby Zamora, Danny Murphy, Mark Schwarzer, Dickson Etuhu, Damien Duff, Aaron Hughes, John Arne Riise and Simon Davies all missing time due to injury.
That Odense game was maddening. So was the trip to Swansea. Frustrating to no end.
But sometimes it helps to just sit back and take a look at the big picture. To realize that, three short seasons ago, this position in the table at this time of the year would've been considered a pleasant surprise.
Then again, I'm a statesider, a late-blooming supporter. Perhaps that offers me enough of a detachment to only find gaffers of the rarest breeding, those of an elite level of inability, unbearable.
Speaking of which, I hope Lawrie Sanchez is enjoying his time at Barnet. He looks far better in Orange than White.