Five Reasons Why Fulham Will Stay Up
1 – The run-in
Fulham’s primary objective is to overhaul Norwich City, the side they defeated 1-0 last weekend. There is more to it than that, of course – Cardiff are also battling to get out of the relegation zone, and others might become dragged in. But if Fulham get ahead of Norwich, they’ll probably survive.
We all know the difficulty of Norwich’s run-in, but Fulham’s looks perfect. They have a game against an increasingly apathetic Spurs side, before matches against Stoke, Crystal Palace and Hull – currently 10th, 12th and 13th in the table.
At this stage of the campaign, you don’t want to face fellow relegation battlers. You’re better off against midtable sides already thinking about their summer holidays, and in that respect it seems to be working out nicely for Fulham.
2 – Hugo Rodallega
It’s easy to forget the Colombian was linked with clubs significantly bigger than Fulham during his spell at Wigan, and while the forward hasn’t featured much over the course of the season, two goals in his last two appearances – both winners – show what he’s capable of.
Fulham have lacked a reliable goalscorer all season, with central midfielder Steve Sidwell currently the club’s top goalscorer with six goals. A good all-round forward, Rodallega is capable of running the channels, providing pace in behind, and being a poacher too.
Fulham have used no fewer than 38 players this season, which made it somewhat difficult to predict who would be their saviour. Rodallega wouldn’t have been at the top of the list, but with a World Cup spot to earn, he has the motivation to perform.
3 – Fitness levels
Felix Magath is known as a fitness-obsessed disciplinarian, and while it took a few weeks before the results became obvious, this should prove crucial towards the end of the campaign – especially as opponents switch off anticipating the end of the campaign.
The side which defeated Norwich City felt particularly mobile and energetic, with Rodallega upfront alone supported ably by Lewis Holtby, who has shown more passion for the club than most others – despite only being on loan from Tottenham. Kieran Richardson and Pajtim Kasami provided the forward running from wide, while Steve Sidwell and Mahamadou Diarra got around the pitch in central midfield.
In the final month of the campaign, simply being more energetic than the opposition can count for a great deal.
4 – David Stockdale
A fairly unremarkable goalkeeper who has been loaned out continually during his six-year spell at Fulham, now is Stockdale’s time to shine. Although he had a difficult afternoon recently in the 5-0 defeat at Manchester City, he’s performed excellently in the victories over Aston Villa and Norwich in the last two weekends, making a string of fine saves.
Stockdale excels at reaction saves, but is more vulnerable to powerful long-range shots creeping past him – perhaps comparable to ex-England goalkeeper Paul Robinson.
Fulham’s defending still isn’t particularly good – they concede far too much pressure they’re not able to withstand, and the need to gain victories rather than settling for a point means they often leave the back four exposed, and are prone to counter-attacks. Therefore, it’s crucial that Stockdale bails them out with some important saves.
5 – Craven Cottage
While not generally viewed as one of football’s more intimidating venues, Craven Cottage can serve up a tremendous atmosphere on its day – and following a period of negativity and restlessness earlier in the campaign, Fulham fans have understood they need to be as loud as possible as their team attempts to survive in the Premier League.
Contrast this with the feeling at other relegation-threatened clubs, and it feels extremely positive. Sunderland fans seem resigned to their team’s fate, Cardiff’s supporters have objected to Vincent Tan’s actions throughout the season, while the atmosphere around Norwich became poisonous towards the end of Chris Hughton’s reign – his departure might have come too late to change things significantly.
Fulham’s home record this season is dreadful, but they’ve collected two wins from their last three matches at Craven Cottage – the other game was a decent showing against Champions League challengers Everton. Traditionally, Fulham were poor on their travels, but good home form kept them out of danger – they need to make Craven Cottage a fortress again, for the final two games of the campaign.
April 16th, 2014 by Michael Cox
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