It's been a while since we've done one, but here we are, back with the runaway smash hit feature Three Questions, in which we ask our fellow SBN blogger some questions (not sure how many) about their team, and they ask us about Arsenal. So, here to talk about Fulham is Andrew Beck, of Cottagers Confidential:
TSF: A quick look at the table shows that Fulham have conceded 46 goals, which is last in the Premier League by no small margin - 11 more goals conceded than the next-worst defense. Last season at this time, Fulham had only conceded 36. What has changed - are there injuries, or is it a more deep-rooted structural problem?
CC: Some of it was structural, but a lot of it is injuries. In the eight league games Brede Hangeland has started Fulham have conceded 11 goals and had 2 clean sheets. In the 13 he hasn't started Fulham have conceded 35 goals and just one clean sheet. Is that proof that Hangeland's absence was the cause? No, but it certainly gives some credence to it. To make matters worse Maarten Stekelenburg has only started 11 matches so far this year. He's not the greatest keeper in the world, but he did start in goal in the last World Cup final. David Stockdale is a fine back up keeper, but expecting him to be great and play in 10+ matches was no one's ideal. Both of those players were in the lineup for the FA Cup replay on Tuesday, and Fulham kept a clean sheet. Coincidence?
That being said, some of the problems are structural. When Fulham play a 4-2-3-1 both of the fullbacks press forward quite a bit. This causes problems when the wide attacking players are cutting in. Dempsey and Duff do this the most. When they cut in and Berbatov and the CAM don't make an inside out run, the middle gets clogged and the full back is on an island out wide. Especially on the left where Riise doesn't have the pace to get back fast and Kieran Richardson doesn't have the skill to defend one on one.
Keep an eye on the wide players. If Fulham start two inverted wingers, expect to have easy attacks down the flanks. But if they play two pacey players on on their strong foot sides, it becomes much harder to break them down.
TSF: Is there any possibility of a good ending for the Dimitar Berbatov Experience at Fulham?
CC: I still think Berbatov likely finishes the year at Fulham. Unless some team is willing to overpay, I don't think you can replace his production for the price you'll get for him. So if a team overpays, he might go. Also there is a chance he really wants to move. He came here only for Jol. If he's going to be a problem, you might have to sell him. Though I don't think him causing a stink and forcing a move is going to help him in his desire to get one last contract.
TSF: Is the Clint Dempsey loan providing dividends? If not, do you think it will by the time it's done?
CC: So far it's been neutral. The basic logic of the Dempsey move is that the club just sold Bryan Ruiz. I think they are either going to replace Ruiz in the transfer market or promote a player from the youth squad to take that position. Dempsey allows them to have a player around that gives you a lot of the same things so that the other player can be transitioned in slowly rather than just thrown to the wolves.
Thanks to Andrew and Cottagers Confidential for taking the time to do this! The return leg of this feature is over at CC so check it out.