Saturday seemingly spelt the end of any chance of Fulham cracking the Championship’s automatic promotion spots.
An embarrassing 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Leeds United on the back of last week’s 2-0 loss to Brentford has left the London club seven points adrift of West Bromwich Albion, and with just 21 points left to play for, it will take a minor miracle for the Whites to make up the gap, especially when you consider that both Nottingham Forest and Brentford are now above them in the table.
The sad thing for Fulham fans is that they’ve gotten so much right this season.
Tony Khan may divide opinion amongst the fanbase, but there’s no denying that he did a grand job of making sure his team were amongst the strongest sides in the Championship after their relegation from the Premier League.
Not only did he manage to keep hold of £18m-rated Aleksandar Mitrovic and former Championship Player of the Year nominee Tom Cairney, but he also added an abundance of talent to an already stacked squad as former Championship POTY Anthony Knockaert joined on loan, while Ivan Cavaleiro and Bobby Decordova-Reid scored 28 goals between them last time they played in the second tier.
Fulham were set up to be promoted, and while they still might be via the playoffs, on paper, they should have run away with it.
Unfortunately, Khan made one grave error, and that was gifting this talented side to a rookie manager.
Scott Parker had no managerial experience at all before he was handed the job at Craven Cottage, and he’s not been able to get the best out of his squad.
Look at the aforementioned players’ records compared to the last time they played in the Championship, Cavaleiro has eight fewer goal contributions than he did in 2017/18, Decordova-Reid has scored 14 fewer than he did in his last Championship season, while Knockaert has 16 fewer goal contributions than he did during Brighton’s promotion season.
Given the right coaching, these players should terrorise defences at this level, but it just hasn’t happened this season, and perhaps that’s down to Parker not being able to get the best out of them.
Look at the man who was opposite Parker on Saturday, and you’ll see where having a top manager can get you.
Six of the players Marcelo Bielsa used on Saturday were a part of the squad that finished 13th the year before the Argentine arrived at Elland Road, but he’s moulded them into the best team in the division in just two years.
Rather than spending big on players, perhaps the higher-ups at Fulham should have splashed out on a top manager to get their side back to the promised land of the Premier League.