Back ‘rock bottom’ Fulham for the drop now
Rene Meulensteen admitted Fulham have hit “rock bottom” as they occupy the Premier League basement and were dumped out of the FA Cup by Sheffield United on Tuesday night.
West London outfit Fulham are now odds-on at 1/2 to be relegated and end a top-flight stay that began in 2001. Meulensteen’s men are also a more appealing 15/8 to finish the Premier League season bottom.
Both these prices show no signs of lengthening either as the Craven Cottage club have a gruesome fixture list in February and March. Six of Fulham’s next eight matches are against top-eight opposition.
Meulensteen has trips to the Manchester clubs coming up as well as home games with Liverpool, Chelsea, Newcastle and Everton. Fulham are thus understandably 6/4 outsiders to stay up this season and it would be bold to take that price.
Unable to field new signings – including £12m Greece striker Kostas Mitroglou, who watched from the stands – because they were not at the club when the original tie was played, Meulensteen was humbled by the FA Cup replay exit.
Nigel Clough’s Blades nicked a dire contest in the last minute of extra time when substitute striker Shaun Miller stooped to head home a knocked down corner. Sheffield United had practiced penalties too, but no shoot-out was needed.
Following Michael Laudrup’s sacking by Swansea, Meulensteen is now the favourite in the next Premier League manager to leave his post market. Fulham owner Shahid Khan may want to judge the Dutchman after seeing how the five players brought to the club on transfer deadline day work out, however.
Craven Cottage resembled a revolving door on January 31st as Manchester United youngsters Larnell Cole and Ryan Tunnicliffe, Tottenham midfielder Lewis Holtby and Everton defender Johnny Heitinga joined Mitroglou as new faces. Dimitar Berbatov, Aaron Hughes, Philippe Senderos and Adel Taarabt meanwhile all left the club.
Danish defensive midfielder William Kvist also arrived at Fulham on loan as Meulensteen needed younger legs in the middle of the park. Steve Sidwell, Scott Parker and Giorgos Karagounis have all been regulars there, but are aged 31 and over.
Meulensteen must settle on a central defensive pairing if Fulham are to have any hope of avoiding the drop. Giant duo Dan Burn and Brede Hangeland played against the Blades, but still conceded from a set piece. Left-footed Venezuela international Fernando Amorebieta meanwhile has been in and out with injury and Heitinga has hardly played this season.
No Premier League team has conceded more goals than Fulham (53). Couple that with the fact they have also failed to score in the most matches of any top-flight team, and it’s easy to see why they are favourites to go down.
It seems all of Fulham’s eggs are in one basket with Holtby and their wide players trying to give Mitroglou service. If the new names don’t gel, that 15/8 price on finishing bottom really is attractive right now.