Opposition view: Fulham

By Ric Turner, Thu 27 September 2012 19:36

Opposition view: Fulham

Ahead of Saturday's game at Craven Cottage Bluemoon caught up with Kyle from Fulham's Finest blog to get the lowdown on the opposition...

What are your expectations for this season?

It's a bit of a funny question.  With the roller coaster that's been the beginning to this season, expectations have kind of gone up and down with the peaks and valleys of the emotions.  I would say at the moment, the preseason expectation of top-10 finish is attainable.  It's going to be a struggle with a real lack of a midfield, but as long as the club can limp its way to January, we should be fine. I'll discuss more on this in a bit.

Are you happy with the manager?

Yes. Martin Jol has done a phenomenal job.  The transfer window didn't exactly go as planned for him or for us (more on that later) but a lot of it wasn't his fault.  He's quite possibly one of the most adaptable managers I've ever seen, so to have him on our side during this time where the midfield is in question is a real strength.  We've already seen it in our last two wins.  He not only adapts to the players he has available and what their strengths are, but also adapts to the opponent.  Against Wigan last week, despite having a lack of midfield players, Jol knows it's practically impossible to get anything up the wings at Wigan, so all our attacks were made centrally and on the counter.  The week before against West Brom, almost everything came up the wings, and he used the full backs to his advantage on the attack.  It's been really fun to watch.

Who are your key players?

Well at the moment anyone with the letters "CM" next to their name is a key player! In all seriousness, our key player at the moment without a doubt is Dimitar Berbatov.  The entire attack now revolves around him, and rightly so.  He's one of the biggest signings in this club's history, and he's been nothing but a positive addition so far. It's been a while since we've been able to say we have a true, consistent goal hawk at the front.

Were you happy with the business conducted during the transfer window?

Yes and no. A lot of this wasn't Martin Jol's fault, but the Clint Dempsey saga was definitely a distraction and losing Moussa Dembele hurt a ton. He was the most important player on the squad at the opening of the transfer window, so to subtract a creative mind like his was killer.  It's a big reason why my biggest fear right now for this club is getting the ball to Dimitar.  I'll talk more about this in a moment, but it's left the club with a real hole in the middle of the pitch.  Jol had lined up replacements, but with everything happening so late, and a few things not falling into place, nothing materialized. However, the Berbatov signing obviously quelled many fears, and we have yet to see a promising young winger from Wolfsburg Ashkan Dejagah. The kid can flat out cross the ball like you've never seen.  It's his strength, and something this club lacks is a good crosser (outside maybe Damien Duff). Dejagah is currently injured, and was at the time of his transfer, but he's a great player.

Are there any rising stars in the squad that we might not have heard of?

A few weeks ago I would have pointed out Alex Kacaniklic as someone you probably haven't heard of but will in a little.  Well it's been a little while and now he's performed consistently on the biggest stage and locked down the left wing position for the time being.  He came over to Fulham in the hilarious-in-hindsight deal sending Paul Konchesky to Liverpool.  He's one of the bigger creative threats on the club with Dembele gone, and has developed somewhat of a partnership linking with Berbatov in their short time playing together.  Keep an eye out for Kacaniklic making runs from the left wing into the box and then looking to set up the ex-Manchester United star.

Your Achilles heel?

Midfield, no question.  Jol has planted Chris Baird into the central midfield and he's performed admirably the last two matches, along with Steve Sidwell. However, I can't imagine that lasting long term, and sometime soon one or both will come back down to Earth and there will be serious issues.  Giorgos Karagounis is an option as well, but a 35-year old option at that.  Otherwise, it's thin. We learned recently that Mahamadou Diarra, who had defied his age and shown he has a lot left in the tank, will be having knee surgery and could be out the rest of the season, and that's a massive blow. Kieran Richardson is versatile but has been poor in his short time at Craven Cottage. That's literally it. Sidwell, Baird, Karagounis, and Richardson. It's going to be a struggle long-term to make it to January unscathed, but they're off to a good start.

If you could have any City player in your team who would you choose?

If you asked me this question in person, you'd realize how sure of my answer I am because I'd cut you off before you finished the question. It's Sergio Aguero. He has a sixth sense for where the goal is, can set his teammates up, and has such a positive attitude, he flat out makes everyone around him better.  You can't ask for much more than what he brings to City.

What is your perception of City as a club?

I like City.  They're confident, but it's more of a "we know we can perform at a high level and expect to do so on a regular basis" confident, rather than a "we deserve to win the league because we're Manchester United" confident. Oops, did I say that out loud? Sorry United fans...

Likely starting XI for the game, and score prediction?

Don't expect too many changes from the last two weeks, it's been working. Starting XI: Schwarzer; Riise, Hangeland, Hughes, Riether; Sidwell, Baird, Duff, Kacaniklic; Ruiz, Berbatov.  Expect Berba to play up front, and Ruiz to sit just behind him.  Bryan hasn't played in a while due to injury, so hopefully he's not too rusty.  As for a prediction, I expect it to be a close, hard-fought game since Fulham always do well at home.  City have struggled recently, but I don't see that as an advantage to Fulham, because with a club like Man City, they don't stay down for extended periods of time, so they should bounce back soon (hopefully not this weekend!).  I think it will be 2-1 to City, but I wouldn't be overly shocked with a draw. That may be wishful thinking though.