LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 21: Clint Dempsey of Fulham celebrates a goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Newcastle United at Craven Cottage on January 21, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Ahead of our FA Cup Fourth Round encounter with Fulham at Goodison on Friday evening RBM caught up with Kristian from SBNation's Fulham blog Cottagers Confidential and asked him some probing questions about the Londoners, the match on Friday and their hopes for the rest of the season.
Answers after the jump.
1. Fulham seems to be having more success against top clubs in the EPL. What are they doing to get all 3 points?
I think, and I only think, that Martin Jol has struggled to motivate the core players in our squad somewhat and, as such, the games that we are expected to win, we rarely do. Bobby Zamora, Andy Johnson and co all seem a bit discontented right now and there's little doubt that something or other has gone on behind closed doors. Jol is a sound tactical manager and is good in the transfer market, but I don't think he's quite as famous for being a master of the spoken word and his team talks are probably far from inspirational. What we do have though, and I think it's been prevalent since the Hodgson era, is a strong mentality for the bigger games. Under Roy, we beat Manchester United twice as well as beating Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs and Manchester City along the way, and that's disregarding our wonderful Europa League run. He installed a sense of belief that perhaps dissipated under Mark Hughes but now seems to have returned. I guess, at the moment, we fair better against the big teams as there's that extra motivation.
2. Clint Dempsey is having a career year for himself. Is he doing anything different than past years, and how long do you really expect him to stay at Fulham?
Since Hughes came in he's been pushed forward more and more, up to a point where for parts of last season he was playing as an out-and-out striker. His talents have always been there, but it took that forward role to exploit them - and we now see his fantastic aerial ability as well as his sound finishing. Usually, he's deployed on the wings where, while being effectual, he rarely gets goalscoring chances. At the moment, it seems as though Jol is starting him on the wing, but he's been given freedom to roam and he normally ends up just behind the main strikers. It gives him ample opportunity to get some shots on goal and it's why he seems to be flourishing right now. As for whether he will stay, I doubt it. He made it clear a couple of years ago that he aspires to play Champions League football and I think he will move on sooner or later. I doubt he'll go in January - although you can never really predict what will happen - and I doubt Liverpool will float his boat. They seem to be one of the only sides interested right now, and Dempsey has always expressed a degree of loyalty to Fulham so it will take a pretty decent club to make a bid for him in order to see him go. QPR have expressed an interest, supposedly, but that will just never happen.
3. With Fulham having a mid-week match next week, do you believe Martin Jol will rest any of his top players?
No. Even against Charlton, Jol didn't take any risks because he wants to treat this cup with the respect. I'd expect to see a full strength line-up, especially as we are away from home where we are infamously weak. The midweek game is a home tie against West Brom which Jol will see as winnable. I feel as though if any resting will happen, it will be done then, and it will only be the odd change here or there.
4. How has Fulham liked to lineup and attack defenses this season?
Jol came in and tried to change things from the offset. In one of his first press conferences he made reference to 'total football', and while we've never quite seen that level of attacking football at Craven Cottage just yet, it's palpable that the Dutchman has set a stamp on the way we play. Our win over Newcastle at the weekend showed as such, but it puts doubts into whether Jol's idea is really the best idea. He set us out the way he wanted, but once the game was running away from us, he let the team play to its strengths and 5 goals appeared out of nowhere. I've mentioned Hodgson already, but Hughes found, and now I think Jol is finding, that Roy had us set up perfectly and as the season progresses we're going back to his kind of layout. Jol's tactics have cost us defensively this year, as normally we are so tight at the back, but we seem to be making progress. We have creative players in the form of Dempsey, Ruiz and Dembele, but the three are rarely mixed together and I doubt they'll all be played away from home. Tomorrow, I'd expect quite a passive performance from Fulham, with sporadic attacks here and there.
5. What are the things Fulham is going to need to do if they want to advance to the next round of the FA Cup?
First and foremost, we need to get our form away from home up to scratch. It all seemed so good when we beat Wigan at the DW in October, but our normal troubles have resumed. Usually, we have to wait until around March to truly witness some decent away football from Fulham, as our managers appear to like getting men behind the ball at away games unless we've reached the 40 point mark. At that time, we're a bit more inventive. However, gladly, Jol's football has been more encouraging away from home and we're overdue an away win. We also need to get over consistency issues, as it's something that has marred our whole season. We've yet to win 2 Premier League games on the trot this term and some of our best performances have been followed up with embarrassing defeats. Our 6-0 hammering of QPR, for example, was followed by a poor defeat to Stoke, while our recent win over Arsenal came before an embarrassing performance at Ewood Park.
6. When you look at Everton, what part of the squad worries you the most?
Your midfield is very strong, so I see Everton as a particularly creative side. The likes of Tim Cahill and Fallaini chip in with goals now and then - although I hear Cahill just ended something of a drought - while on the wing, Drenthe and Donovan can cause defences lots of problems. Your new signing Darron Gibson is a good player too, someone who we supposedly coveted for a little while. What we're hoping, though, is that while your midfield can create, our former lad Louis Saha won't be doing anything deadly in the box at our end.
7. What does Everton need to do if they want to beat Fulham tomorrow?
If, as I'm guessing he will, Jol pairs Senderos with Hangeland, I'd look at keeping the ball on the ground. They're both quality in the air and rebound almost anything that enters the area. Aaron Hughes used to partner Hangeland but things have, for some reason, changed now, and I feel we're weaker for it. Senderos can be clumsy at times but at other times he can be our saviour. If you pressure him enough he'll probably break, but Schwarzer is a hard goalkeeper to beat. You'll need your shooting boots for tomorrow, but unless there's an upturn in our away fortunes, you'll be the happier set of fans come Friday night. Hopefully, and I truly believe we can, we'll manage a draw and bring you down to west London, where the affair would be entirely different.