Are Fulham favourites for relegation?

Listen to Episode 5 (published 29th November) of The Hit Row Z Podcast – now on iTunes – subscribe and share!

Find out more about the Hit Row Z ‘Shots in the Box’ Metric, and what it means for team performance.

Fulham manager Martin Jol’s fate was sealed with his side’s abject display at the Boleyn Ground on Saturday. In what was an early season six-pointer, Sam Allardyce’s West Ham team swept away the Cottagers to record a comfortable 3-0 win and begin their move away from the danger zone.

For Fulham Chairman Shahid Khan, enough was enough. With just three wins from their thirteen games so far this season – and just 10 points from a possible 39 – Jol paid the price for a poor start. In his place comes recent hire and former Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen in what increasingly looks like a premeditated manoeuvre by Khan.

No doubt there are a number of reasons that might explain Fulham’s predicament this season – perhaps the rot had already set in towards the end of last season, when Fulham won just one of their final eight games? Or perhaps the fact that they’ve fielded a starting eleven that has been consistently older than any other Premier League team is counting against them?

However, the purpose of this article is to argue that – based on their inability to create chances in their opponent’s box, and limit those that the opposition create in their own – Fulham’s poor performance this season should not come as a surprise. Such is the extent of this under-performance relative to others the task facing Meulensteen should not be underestimated.

shotsbox13

Too impotent

Last season Fulham were the ninth-highest scorers in the league, with talisman Dimitar Berbatov netting 15 times and finishing as the league’s sixth most prolific frontman, outscoring the likes of Sergio Aguero, Fernando Torres and Wayne Rooney along the way.

This season, however, only the two teams below them, Crystal Palace (7) and Sunderland (8), have scored fewer goals than Fulham (11). Furthermore, Berbatov has looked out-of-sorts, netting just once this season in the 4-1 drubbing of Crystal Palace.

The overriding reason for Fulham (and Berbatov’s) inability to ‘get amongst the goals’ is their inability to create chances in the opposition’s penalty area.

As can be seen in the diagram below, Fulham have created just 46 chances in the opposition area this season (equivalent to fewer than four per game) – the lowest in the league, and less than half the league average (93).

Given that over 80% of goals in the Premier League this season have come from shots inside the box, it is little wonder that Fulham are struggling for goals.

Too leaky

For all of their impotence upfront, Fulham also have the worst defensive record (along with Sunderland) in the league this season (conceding 24).

The main reason for this poor record is Fulham’s inability to prevent the opposition from creating chances in their own box – as can be seen in the chart above, Fulham have the worst record in the league by some way.

On average, Fulham concede over ten shots in their own area each game (143 chances conceded in their own box so far this season).  Given that the league average suggests that it takes approximately seven shots in the box to score a goal, Fulham are effectively giving the opposition a goal head-start in each game.

Verdict

The task facing Rene Meulensteen should not be underestimated. Not only does he have to reverse a run of five straight defeats and start to pick-up wins quickly, but to do this he will need to revitalise a side that has struggled to create meaningful chances with any degree of consistency and at the same time has been unable to prevent opponents creating good opportunities against them.

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Comments

  1. Do you think Meulensteen can turn it around?

    • Hi Nick, good question! I really have no idea – Meulensteen is so inexperienced in this capacity.

      A worry for me would be what happens if Fulham go down. With such an ageing squad a thorough rebuilding programme will be required. Again, given his lack of credentials, it’s tough to say whether or not Meulensteen is the right man over the long term.

      What do you think? Is he a good appointment?

      • I think he is a good appointment on what I’ve heard of him – on that basis maybe I’m not a good enough person to ask. But, I could definitely use my vast knowledge on British football.

        He was tipped as one of the best coaches in the world at man United. But obviously there is a big difference between coach and manager. He was manager for 12 days at Anzhi after Hiddink was sacked. He could definitely use the struggles in Russia to his advantage with the transfer market and his contacts at Man United.

        But, he needs the ability to keep the team up. If you look at their players they’re ageing as you said. Duff as Parker will only last so long. But it could work as we’ve seen before with Boton with Big Sam who bought experienced players over the more talented ones and it worked with Europa league a formality for 2 seasons.

        But, they’ll need replacing and does he know the players to bring in. The team needs a whole new overhaul as it is vastly different to the one that Hodgson and Hughes inherited, it’ll be difficult for him but I reckon he has the credentials to do it. Whether he will is another question!

Trackbacks

  1. […] See why Hit Row Z’s ‘Shots in the Box’ analysis indicates Fulham are the team most… […]

  2. […] represents the biggest gamble. As I’ve argued elsewhere, Fulham are among the favourites for the drop this season, largely because of their inability to stop teams creating chances inside their own penalty area. […]

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