The season may only be three games old, but there is already significant discontent brewing over Fulham’s start to the season – with good reason too, this team is not currently adding-up to the sum of its parts.
Martin Jol is a good manager, and for a team of a certain size in a specific situation, he’s ideal – but as he demonstrated at Tottenham, he does have his frailties and he does have a shelf-life. That sounds terribly patronising, but it’s just the truth: Jol is not a tactician, and instead he relies on cultivating relationships with individual players and galvanising a side to play above itself – that’s a great virtue to have, but there is an expiration date attached to it, and there will always be a point at which players stop responding to that kind of approach.
Jol may not be in actual trouble yet at Craven Cottage, but he is vulnerable – and even more so if his side fail to beat 20th-placed West Brom at the weekend. Shahid Khan has inherited the Dutchman as his manager, he did not appoint him, and how often does that situation end badly? Khan will have his own ideas about how Fulham should run, and that will extend beyond the commercial arena and onto the pitch: basically, Jol doesn’t want to give his new boss any excuse to start thinking about ‘new directions’ or ‘changes in approach’ – and that’s what losing to West Brom would, in effect, encourage.
The current situation at Craven Cottage isn’t solely the manager’s responsibility, because he’s being let down quite badly by some of his more senior players – but it will be far easier for Khan to hold Jol accountable than it would for him to turn his guns on Dimitar Berbatov, Bryan Ruiz, or Steve Sidwell.
Let’s not be melodramatic, Jol isn’t in ‘one game to save his job’ territory yet, but if his side give the same calibre of performance on Saturday as they did away to Newcastle ten days ago, then he will be heading in that direction.
Big weekend for Fulham.