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Fulham 1, Manchester City 4: Aftermath of the destruction

22 November 2010

This looks familiar: Fulham standing and watching while City is scoring.

Well, the early goal the game needed came, and then Fulham ate a 20-minute City tour de force that put the match out of reach before the half. The lack of sustained, dangerous attack was fairly expected given the absence of Moussa Dembele, but the amateur-hour clearances that led directly to three of City’s four goals and watching Carlos Salcido get tossed and turned more than an unsound sleeper should be of huge concern.

In the first part of the season, Mark Hughes repeatedly praised his team’s effort even when the results were semi-disappointing. Now even he is ripping the effort of a team that’s very rapidly started to look extremely old and unproductive in numerous spots. Danny Murphy’s continued mediocrity in the middle is a major issue, but equally concerning is Hughes’ continued insistence in starting Damien Duff over Zoltan Gera, especially when Fulham is without any other creative attackers. Simply put, Duff’s a replacement-level player now, his pace slowed by advancing age, and with Fulham in dire need of some actual skill on the pitch, he eats up precious minutes and space doing relatively nothing that helps Fulham’s attack.

The bottom line is that Fulham better start to take a hard look at itself, and that starts with Hughes. He spouted off frequently in the buildup to this match and then his team delivered a complete zero against his former club, with the heat of the past few weeks on his replacement, Roberto Mancini, suddenly pointed at him. Fulham still has a couple of weeks without Dembele and more than a month until the January window, when they may try again for David Bentley or whomever in an attempt to fortify the attack.

The schedule is not particularly kind until then, which makes this weekend’s home match against Birmingham especially crucial. Fulham likely will improve the second half of the season when they get home matches against some of the lower-half sides, but digging a bigger hole now will make the recovery more taxing than it needs to be. The R-word needn’t be uttered around the Cottage yet, as Wolves look destined for the drop and West Ham is in a world of trouble, too. That said, I don’t expect Fulham to rise too many spots in the table before the New Year.

This blog said it a few weeks ago and it bears repeating: Hughes needs to get more from the current group of players he has. They’re a bit limited in attack, but there’s no excuse for the sloppiness, defensive posture and outright mediocrity that’s frequented the team’s play the last few weeks. Bobby Zamora is important, but he can’t be *that* important that his absence basically condemns Fulham to relegation-style results and, more importantly, Championship-caliber performances.

Ball’s in your court, Mark.

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