Fulham play Southampton this coming Saturday. Is November too soon to be talking about a 6 pointer?
Claudio Ranieri should be assured of a warm welcome from the Craven Cottage faithful. He has replaced as manager of Fulham the first footballer he signed back in the day when he was Chelsea manager.
Fulham need a plumber. So an Italian manager may be just the right choice to stop them leaking goals. If Fulham are not to make a quick return to the Championship, then the defence needs to defend. But not just the back line. As Ranieri wisely said recently, defending includes attackers and midfielders easing the pressure on the back four by holding the ball up. Nobody doubts that Fulham can score goals, but they must stop conceding so many.
Claudio Ranieri was badly let down by certain Leicester City players. They would not have won a Premier League but for him. The season after, certain players downed tools for the likeable Italian who displays no bitterness despite how he was treated by some players who still wear the Leicester shirt (and one who is now at Manchester City). The late owner of Leicester was reluctant to sack Ranieri so soon after the club won the title and qualified for the Champions League.
Ranieri has another tough task. To keep Fulham in the top flight of English football. A first game win against fellow relegation candidates Southampton would be a fine start.
Pre-season, before a ball is kicked, I take out my crystal ball and mail out to members of VG Tips my predictions for the season. I tipped Huddersfield , Cardiff and Southampton to be relegated.
Here we are in November and it is starting to look as though it is three from seven candidates. Huddersfield, Cardiff, Fulham, Southampton, Newcastle, Crystal Palace and Burnley. Which three clubs do you think will go down?
Burnley’s season began too soon after the last one finished. They performed above themselves last season and qualified for the Europa League, so ensuring they were playing competitive matches weeks ahead of other Premier League clubs. It looks to have taken its toll on a shallow squad and the bookies now have Burnley priced at 5/4 to fall out of the Premier League. Huddersfield are 8/15 favs for the drop. Even though that is odds on, I would say it’s a price that represents value.
The best hope for the likes of Cardiff and Huddersfield is the fact that other clubs near the bottom of the table appear to be almost as bad. Before the season began, Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez told friends that “it would take a miracle” to keep the Magpies up this season. Two recent good results have eased the pressure a little and bookies have pushed Newcastle out to 4/1 for relegation.
What happens in the January transfer window may dictate which three clubs go down come May. We know that Benitez will not be allowed to buy any player in January unless he ships out team members and balances the books.
On Saturday Mark Hughes brings his Southampton squad to West London on the back of almost winning a home game. Just before the international break, Southampton drew 1-1 at home against Watford. Hughes was furious when a second Southampton goal was disallowed. His record as manager this calendar year is woeful.
Although right now the likes of Burnley and Fulham appear to be more vulnerable than Southampton, I am content to stick with my original three teams as mailed to subscribers last summer. Come the end of January, when I update my season long predictions, I may have a different opinion.
Bookies also have a “To Stay Up” market and you can get 13/8 about Fulham surviving. That’s an attractive looking price to my eyes. Unlike the very short odds on price for Southampton to remain in the top flight.
Will the powers that be at Southampton give Hughes money to spend in January? His record in the transfer market when managing other clubs is not one that instils confidence. Will he even last that long? Surely he too will be sacked should Fulham get all three points in the crunch match this weekend. What do you think the outcome will be of the match between Fulham and Southampton?
The bookies have a home win for Fulham priced at 13/8 to win. The draw is priced at 5/2. An away victory for the Saints is priced at 9/5.
I’ll be telling members of VG Tips my fancy for that game and others when, later this week, I mail to them my weekend football tips. As I do each and every week throughout the football season.