With Fulham dropping last night into the relegation zone, the curse of Mark Hughes’ Manchester City career has now followed him to Craven Cottage.
Despite the early lead, a 3-1 defeat means Fulham have now lost more points from leading positions than any other Premier League team this season. Meanwhile Hughes’ record of 14 goals conceded in 10 home games is appalling for a club unable to buy a win away from home; Roy Hodgson’s team conceding just 15 goals in all 19 of their home league games last season. While Mark Schwarzer’s dip in form accounts partly for this, Hodgson’s departure has also taken some of the focus away from defensive positioning, leaving Fulham less compact and impregnable.
If Hughes’ team attacked more fluently and dangerously that might be a fair trade off; the problem is that they’re not, with just 5 goals in 8 games and three of them coming from headers. Even worse, with Zamora still sidelined, none of Fulham’s strikers are even that good at heading a football, leaving a worrying over-reliance on Clint Dempsey getting forward and the occasional corner kick allowing Hangeland and Hughes to challenge for headers.
They say managers are often sacked because of owners responding to fan reaction; well if that’s the case, Hughes may be struggling to make the new year, after the "you don’t know what you’re doing" chants from parts of the crowd after his baffling decision to replace Clint Dempsey, the club’s only consistent goal threat this season. A switch to a 4-4-2 formation would normally be hailed as a positive move, but for the knowledge that neither Andy or Eddie Johnson have scored in ages. 12 league games without a goal for Eddie Johnson and 23 for Andy, who last netted on 14th March 2009.
With his five league goals, I was staggered last month to hear fans announcing how happily they’d let Dempsey go for 6 to 10 million pounds. Forget the money, Fulham now need Demspey to help avoid relegation, as they find themselves right back where they were when Roy Hodgson took over.