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Fulham- better than fifteenth?

After an extended start to the season, which included over half a dozen Europa League qualifying games, Fulham have finally settled down under Martin Jol. It’s fair to say that the start of their season hardly set the world alight. Fatigue showed, from the huge amount of extra games they had played before any of the other teams had begun, and defeats to Newcastle and Wolves meant that many fans already began to feel they were in for a long and disappointing season.

It is the sign of a good squad however, that the players can forget the past, move on after a bad result, and that’s exactly what Fulham did throughout the early stages of the season. A stunning draw from 2-0 down meant they were the first team to take points from Manchester City in the League, and some strong results in the Europa League proper were followed by a 6-0 thumping of QPR, and it seemed as if they had sorted out their unsteady start.

November saw Fulham continue their somewhat unsettling start, with a defeat to Tottenham and a draw with the disappointing Sunderland, but as they entered December, they continued their impressive season against the bigger clubs, sneaking a 1-0 win against Liverpool, before then falling to Swansea. This inconsistent first half of the season was summed up as they became the victim’s of a 5-0 scoreline to Manchester United, less than three months since there win against QPR. Then today, the tide has been turned once again, as they came back from a goal down to beat Arsenal 2-1. Granted Arsenal were down to 10 men, and invited Fulham’s attack, but their smooth football and consistent pressing is something that we haven’t seen for many seasons, and is something that means they will surely begin to climb the table soon.

8 draws is the main reason that Fulham currently find themselves down in 15th position in the Premier League, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Martin Jol was a little disappointed with the league position they find themselves in as they enter 2012. Compared to some of the teams above them, Aston Villa, West Brom, Everton and Sunderland to name a few, they have not only played a better standard of football, but they also seem to have got better results. It only seems that when you actually look at the league, you discover that these other teams have actually picked up more points.

Jol’s Fulham have certainly been more and more impressive when watching their performances. The consistency of Demsey upfront, has been combined with the exciting emergence of some of the new players that Jol has brought in. Both Ruiz, and more recently Frei, have shown glimpses of the sort of slick european football that is worthy of a top half team. The football going forward has been devistating, quick counter attacks and a style of play that has focused more on passing short and simple between players has been well received by the fans, who create an intimidating atmosphere at the Cottage. Despite not being the biggest ground in the world, the fans certainly know how they can make themselves into the twelfth man.

Perhaps the most exciting player to have come out of the team however, is Moussa Dembele. Despite only scoring four goals since his arrival in 2010, this season, the style of play, and focus on forward thinking has really allowed him to emerge, and cement himself as one of the key attacking players. Gone are the days of set pieces, and towering defenders, although these players do play a big part, both defensively and in an attacking sense. Instead, reminiscent of Toure at Manchester City, Dembele’s powerful driving runs have lit up Craven Cottage, and turned Fulham into a team that are exciting to watch.

In a season, and particularly a weekend, that has seen the bizarre drama of the Premier League displayed at it’s very best, it is hard to see any way that Fulham will still find themselves in the bottom half of the table in May. Having said that, it’s just as legitimate to say that they could be in the Championship next year, as results seem to be far too crazy to predict at the moment. I think however, that the emergence of the players like Ruiz, like Frei, like Dembele, combined with the experience of players like Demsey, Zamora and Murphy, will help Fulham develop into a creative and exciting Premiership team. If they can get a fresh defender in, and help to firm up their slightly shaky defence, I think they have a good chance of breaking back into the top half of the table.

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