While musing over my thoughts about Martin Jol’s grade for the year I found myself needing to reference my opinion of how player x or y performed on the season so I decided to get my thoughts on how the players performed down on paper before trying to completely unravel my thoughts on Jol. After all, if a certain player performed well above or below my expectations for the season it is something that I want to take into account when grading Jol. Without further lingering I welcome you to my player pontification on the 2012-2013 Premier League season. Please keep in mind that the grades for me reflect a player’s importance to Fulham on the season and in no way reflect how a player compared to any other player outside of Fulham.
B minus – In goal Mark Schwarzer proved to be one of the constants for Fulham during 2012-2013.Whether fans liked him or not we knew when match day arrived Schwarzer would be between the sticks and his play this season was just as constant as his presence. His distribution was as poor as it has ever been and he did flounder at times on aerial balls but his shot stopping abilities, especially on penalties, served Fulham well once again. His average goals conceded this season rose from 1.2 goals per match in 2011-2012 to 1.6 goals per match last season; however, his average saves per match increased as well over the prior season from 3.4 saves per match to 3.8 saves per match this season. In a year in which Fulham’s goal mouth was exposed far more often than in the recent past Schwarzer seemed to save the squad more points than he cost them.
Incompletes – David Stockdale receives an incomplete grade for having limited starts.
Fulham’s defense was more brittle this past season than prior years with very little remaining constant in terms of performance throughout the season.
A – Sascha Riether is the single exception to inconsistency in the defenders performance. Of the field players only Sascha and Brede logged thirty-five starts and Sascha’s running of the right wing was a real bright spot for Fulham. Regardless of whom Sascha was paired with at the right wing he seemed to get the best out of his running mate while still performing well on the defensive end of the pitch. The Dejagah/Riether combination was a joy to watch before Dejagah’s untimely injury at QPR. Statistically speaking Sascha was Fulham’s third leading assist man with four on the season and his single goal for the year was the result of his willingness to burst forward and involve himself in the offense. Sascha was Fulham’s player of the year in my opinion.
B minus – We have all grown used to Brede Hangeland being the foundation that Fulham’s defense is built around and while that remained true we saw a few cracks in the foundation this season. Brede was once again the master of the aerial ball with 126 headers won and logged more minutes, blocks and interceptions than any other Fulham defender but he was caught out of position more than usual and failed to form a truly cohesive relationship with either Hughes or Senderos during the year. The fact that Brede led the defensive unit in headers, blocks and interceptions per ninety minutes shows he remains the fulcrum of Fulham’s defense but errors in positioning due to what often seemed like a lack of communication significantly lowered Brede’s mark for me. As captain it is imperative that Brede be able to communicate and offer on field leadership which was sorely lacking for much of this season.
Is there a grade between C minus and D plus? If there is that is the combined grade I would give to Aaron Hughes and Phillippe Senderos. Since there really is no in between grade I have to list both center backs at a D plus. Both showed consistent weaknesses in their play during the season and neither provided Brede with the partner that would cover his defensive errors on a regular basis. Hughes during the first half of the season was too easily knocked off the ball by bigger forwards and midfielders conceding goals where he would not have in prior seasons and Senderos regularly committed mistakes that cost Fulham goals or field position. Both had their unique strengths but neither grabbed hold of the position due to too many inconsistencies that cannot occur with the regularity that each displayed.
C minus - John Arne Riise proved to be the most difficult player for me to evaluate. Statistically speaking Riise was the only defender to participate in all eight of Fulham’s clean sheets, he provided more headers, blocks, tackles and interceptions per ninety minutes played than his counterpart Sascha Riether and he did manage two assists on the season yet he all too often seemed to be the weak link in the back four and it seemed true that teams attacked more effectively, if not more often, down Riise’s side than down Riether’s. I do wonder if Riise received the same type of support on his wing as Riether did on the right but my gut tells me that Riise was a below average defender for Fulham this season who was caught sleeping more than he was unlucky. If pressed to whether it was more important to find Brede a new CB partner or replace Riise I would opt for the new CB so I am bumping Riise’s performance on the year just above that of the Hughes/Senderos combination.
F – Kieran Richardson gets a failing grade for his inability to remain fit and to regularly feature. It doesn’t matter to me how you play when you appear, even if in limited appearances, if you can’t take the pitch for nearly two-thirds of the season for recurring fitness problems. In my opinion, Richardson’s sporadic ability to take the field did cause Jol headaches when trying to pick a starting eleven and contributed to some of the inconsistency in Fulham’s play this season.
Incompletes – Stanislav Manolev, Matty Briggs, Alex Smith and Stephan Kelly all receive incomplete grades for having limited starts. I will say that Manolev looked useful in his five appearances but four starts is too limited a body of work to judge from.
From an overall perspective I found Fulham’s central midfield to be disjointed, ineffective and the major weakness in the team’s performance during the recently expired season. My opinion of the individuals manning those positions reflects that viewpoint.
B minus - Steve Sidwell was easily the bright spot of Fulham’s midfield this season in terms of results. Without the ginger ninja patrolling the center of the pitch Fulham’s midfield suffered and poor results were the norm. Sidwell started 24 of Fulham’s 38 Premier League matches and contributed to 33 of Fulham’s 43 points won. He was the only consistent offensive threat Fulham had to offer from the center of the pitch contributing 4 goals and 2 assists while averaging 1 shot per match played. Had he not rashly cost himself a chance for seven additional starts Fulham may not have finished the season with such a whimper. What would have been an A minus performance is marked down for rash on field judgment.
F – Sadly, even in his limited starts, Mahamadou Diarra was Fulham’s most productive midfield point earner when not paired with Steve Sidwell. Diarra managed only seven starts this season which netted Fulham 6 points and to his credit 5 of those points were earned without Sidwell’s assistance. His lack of appearances due to a non-Fulham related injury was a major factor for Fulham’s turmoil in the midfield as I am sure Jol and company were relying on a much larger contribution from Diarra this season. His inability to take the field due to his choice of participating in the ACN leaves him with a failing mark for Fulham on the season.
C minus – Chris Baird fell out of favor with Martin Jol during the second half of the season and was essentially not seen or heard from after being pressed into out of position service as a starting central midfielder for most of the first half of the season. On the whole Baird’s tenure as a CM was a bit of a rollercoaster ride with some very good matches and some matches in which he looked like a defender pressed into midfield service. Baird gets an average grade for what on the whole was fairly average service. He could pick the occasional pass to get the squad moving forward and his defensive presence was pretty steady if not overwhelming but he did not over achieve during his starts or force Martin Jol’s hand to keep him in the starting eleven. I bumped Baird’s mark up a bit for playing out of his normal position.
D – Girogios Karagounis stepped into Chris Baird’s shoes as Sidwell’s midfield partner and for me there was not a more disappointing performance this season from a Fulham player than from our ancient Greek. His play was frenetic but ineffective in terms of productivity. He had a bad habit of making accurate passes that played teammates into trouble and provided very little in terms of off the ball movement. A lot of Fulham fans loved him for his passionate play but passionate play in no way should offset a lack of productivity on the pitch and Girogios excelled in being ineffective. He was given six more starts than Chris Baird yet produced only one additional point, one less goal, only put one shot in four on goal compared to one in two for Baird and when not paired with Sidwell only produced two points in nine starts. Some would argue that Karagounis was Fulham’s most effective passer in the squad this season yet he produced no assists and for my taste spent as much time time clogging the center of the pitch offensively as he did defensively. Karagounis did help stem the tide in the number of goals Fulham were conceding prior to him joining the starting eleven but he was also a major factor in stemming the number of goals Fulham scored as well.
Incompletes – Moussa Dembele, Emmanuel Frimpong and Pajtim Kasami all receive incomplete grades for having two or less starts and/or being traded. I would like to have graded Eyong Enoh but restrained myself due to the fact that for majority of his playing time he was paired with Karagounis who I found wholly ineffective. I did find it promising that in his lone match in which the majority of the minutes were not shared with Karagounis Fulham did manage a 3-0 win over Swansea.
Fulham’s wingers provided a mixed bag of results on the season and for me none of the group had what I would categorize as an outstanding full season and there was nobody that performed poorly for the entire season either.
B – Perhaps a bit surprisingly my top performer on the wing for Fulham this season goes to Alex Kacaniklic and not Ashkan Dejagah. Both players featured in a similar number of matches but the step forward that Kacaniklic took this season is to be lauded. What Fulham lacked as a group overall both Dejagah and Kacaniklic provided in spades with a willingness to attack at pace and with flair. For me though Kacaniklic proved to be the more refined player when it came to the final pass and shot. Special K broke thorough with four goals and two assists while managing to put forty percent of his shots on goal and scoring on 16 percent of shots taken. Even with his appearances limited to 20 with 16 starts Kacaniklic finished tied for fourth in goals scored and only Berbatov, Rodallega, Ruiz, Sidwell, Petric and Riise managed to deliver more total shots on the season than Kacaniklic. In addition, Kacaniklic was one of three players who took more the eleven shots and put forty percent or better of their shots on goal. Kaca’s influence on the season is somewhat marked down for only a little over a half a season in appearances and his tendency to go missing from time to time in a match.
C plus – Ashkan Dejagah’s season was cut short by an unfortunate injury at QPR but in his twenty-one appearances he showed the type of pace and attacking flair that Fulham badly needs from him going forward. On the downside, he only provided one assist on the season with no goals while putting only two of his thirteen shots on goal. His ability to frighten the opposition defense will only increase if he can improve his end ball. Dejagah’s mark for influence on the season is marked down for only a little over a half a season in appearances and a lack of refinement on the final ball. Had he been able to push on and play out the remaining season his grade quite likely would have been much higher.
C plus - Damien Duff provided consistent veteran leadership but his ability to impact a match deviated with whether he was played on the right or on the left. From the right side of the pitch, where he could cut inside and use his left foot, he was a menace and most if not all of his three goals and seven assists seemed to come from this side of the pitch. From the left side it seems he is no longer able to beat Premiership defenders to the end line to get in a cross and he is not the same menace when cutting inside to his right foot as he is on the other side of the pitch. He almost deserves a grade for his play from each side of the field where on the right he was a B player and on the left he was a C minus player.
Incompletes – Karim Frei receives an incomplete grade for having limited starts and Urby Emmanuelson receives an incomplete grade for having limited appearances which ranged across multiple positions.
That brings me to Fulham’s oft maligned attacking unit. When taken as a whole there were frequent complaints that we played too slowly, that we didn’t produce enough shots, that some players held the ball too long or were knocked off the ball too easily and that at least one player was too temperamental. All of which may be true but I do wonder how much of our lack of attacking style was due to the play of the attacking unit and how much of the problem stemmed from those behind the attacking unit. Fulham came out with all guns blazing to start the year but as it became evident that Fulham was going to be easy for opposing squads to break down the Fulham defense it appeared to me as if Jol reined in the offense to help stem the goals conceded issue. It is interesting to note that in the first half of the season which was essentially without Karagounis Fulham scored 29 and conceded 34 while in the second half of the season with Karagounis Fulham’s only scored 21 while giving up only 26. When grading the attacking unit I am factoring in the assumption that the slower style of play in the second half of the season was instilled by Jol and carried out by the players to keep matches close.
A minus – Dimitar Berbatov did what strikers are supposed to do by scoring. Whatever you think of his work ethic or attitude there is no denying that Berbatov’s fifteen goals were crucial to Fulham this season. I can only imagine what an offense that created more space and chances might do for Dimitar’s goal scoring rate as his efficiency was top notch even in the current system. For the season Berbatov put just over 43% of his 81 shots on goal and scored on nearly 2 out of every 10 shots taken.
B – Bryan Ruiz was Fulham’s joint leading assist man and joint second on goals scored while his efficiency in scoring was not bad either where he managed to put in one of every ten shots taken. Yet it is easily argued that Ruiz should be doing more and I do believe if he had a full season with wingers like Dejagah and Kacaniklic making runs into the box and more support from the center midfield positions that Ruiz would shine a bit brighter. All in all I think he had a solid season and is often over criticized due to the transfer fee paid for him.
D – I really had to revise my expectations for Mladen Petric after Berbatov was signed. Petric to me looked like a striker in need of starter’s minutes and often looked rusty when he came on in a substitutes roll or spot starts. He did finish the season with 5 goals and put 37% of his shots on goal. Had he started all season I think we would have seen far better production. I doubt we will see him again next season as the subs bench does not seem to suit his need to allow the match to come to him during the course of a game and it is unlikely that Berbatov will be going anywhere.
C minus – Hugo Rodallega did pretty much what I expected of him when he took the pitch by stretching defenses and getting into good scoring positions but not scoring many goals. He did seem a bit unlucky this season and with a different bounce or two might have had a few more goals but the fact remains that a striker really should convert more than 5 percent of the shots they take and Hugo only managed 3 goals in 60 attempts while putting just 15% of his shots on goal. I really can’t complain about his effort but I cannot get past the fact that quality form was not often on display with Hugo.
There you go, those are my thoughts on the 2012-2013 Fulham roster and their overall contribution to the seasons results. As I look back on the grades I handed out I don’t think they turned out to badly in that if I were a teacher grading on a curve the bell looks pretty even with 2 A’s, 5 B’s, 5 C’s, 4 D’s and 2 F’s. Take them for what you will of course because they are only my opinion on the season past but since they were meant to be a discussion point please pitch in your two cents worth when you have the time.
Call it a retrospective, a benediction or even self-flagellation if you like but since I couldn’t find the will to look forward to the Swansea match I thought I would go through the exercise of looking back and evaluating the season that for all intents and purposes has been put to rest.
My expectations coming into the season were not overly high to begin with given the departures of Dempsey, Dembele and Murphy and no obvious like for like replacements incoming. So when I say that the club has underperformed to the level that I expected it is a bit of a damning statement because the bar was not set terribly high to begin with. The question for me is with Fulham sitting just above relegation and in fifteenth place do I believe the club underperformed or did they meet that low bar of expectation I began the season with? Part one of that soul searching question begins with an evaluation of the Board.
For me the Board holds the purse strings and should get a majority of both the credit and blame for what happens in the transfer market. The set the policies, sign the contracts and go and get or don’t go and get the players for the positions the manager identifies as areas of weakness. I know the manager plays a part in identifying and even drawing interest from players but on the whole this responsibility seems to be a matter that is in the Board’s hands.
Complain all you like about Martin Jol and his coaching abilities or lack thereof but before to begin an honest evaluation of the seasons turmoil’s I needed to try to come to grips with what the Board did to and for both Martin Jol, the squad and the fans with their transfer market decisions. In a way when I start with what the Board has and has not done in the transfer market I almost have a sense of compassion for Jol. Especially when I hear fans vent their frustration on him for tearing apart a settled squad that had performed so admirably over the past few seasons. I believe that hard truth is that Jol was left was a severely diminished squad by the Board and expecting anything other than diminished results this season was a bit unrealistic.Specified thread not found
The View From South Texas -- Fulham FC v. Reading
Today, Fulham played the least talented side in the Premier League and lost to them 2-4. Questionable team selection, early lethargy, late disorganization, and the abject failure of fan favorite players to play well all contributed to Reading winning only its second road match of the season, and its first three points anywhere in at least three months.
Fulham began brightly with Damien Duff giving Reading LB Stephen Kelly a quick lesson in how to play out of position. Twice within the first 90 seconds, Duff mastered the Reading left side and, on the second occasion, whipped in a cross that Bryan Ruiz met with a hard volley. It was well saved by Reading’s 23 year old Irish keeper McCarthy – a continuing theme throughout the day. Immediately after, Jol had Duff swap wings with Emanuelson and Fulham’s early pressure was relieved.
For the next 10 minutes or so, Fulham did their best imitation of 11 guys strolling around on a green expanse with little or no understanding why. At that point John Arne Riise attempted a routine clearance which, instead, only cleared the ankle of Hal Robson-Kanu. Robson-Kanu – who we’ve been told repeatedly is not good enough to play for Fulham – coolly converted as Reading assumed a lead it would never relinquish. Fulham seemed content with that lead and continued to loll around in the almost summer almost sunshine.