Is Sacking Rene a Viable Option?

Discussion in 'Fulham FC News and Notes' started by nevzter, Feb 5, 2014.

  1. nevzter

    nevzter Well-Known Member

    Mar 5, 2007
    A City by a Bay
    So, in the wings wait Curbishly and/or Wilkens. As the article states, Curbs kept the Hammers up (cough, cough) a few years ago and Wilkens also has experience. However, does a 3rd manager in this season really make a difference? Well, in my opinion, it might. Things aren't looking good and a swift kick in the ass may help. However, the next month of fixtures are rough and this may make any managerial change for naught. But, this squad's fight and attitude need to change - maybe it's Rene to do the job, but maybe it's another face as well. I'm at a loss at this point because the squad fought hard during the great escape, even during defeats, but this team seems relegated already by my observation. Still believe.
    COYW ... en-manager
    The question for Alistair Mackintosh, Fulham's overworked chief executive, involves whether to roll the dice again; whether to recommend what would be a remarkable re-run of the recent past.

    Last November, Mackintosh oversaw the recruitment of René Meulensteen as the club's assistant manager or, perhaps, the manager-in-waiting if results continued to be poor. There was, of course, plenty of protesting about the conspiratorial notion. Meulensteen, according to everybody at Fulham, was there only to assist the manager, Martin Jol, who himself had pushed for the appointment of his friend and fellow Dutchman.

    Results continued to be poor and, on 1 December, the day after the 3-0 Premier League defeat at fellow strugglers, West Ham United, Jol was dismissed and replaced by Meulensteen.

    Over Christmas, Mackintosh, who effectively runs the club on behalf of the owner, Shahid Khan, oversaw another structural re-tweak. In came Alan Curbishley as the first-team technical director and he would be followed by Ray Wilkins as the assistant head coach. Meulensteen said he was "delighted" and in no way, according to everybody, was Curbishley, the former Charlton Athletic and West Ham manager, an insurance policy in the event of results continuing to be poor.

    "Not at all," Meulensteen said on Monday, in the wake of the demoralising 3-0 home defeat to Southampton, when he was asked whether Curbishley's presence was unnerving. "I brought Alan into this club as part of my squad, to give me the best possible backbone."

    But these are anxious times and Mackintosh has a decision to make. Meulensteen's team were abject on Tuesday night, in the 1-0 FA Cup replay defeat at home to Sheffield United. He did make changes to his normal XI, featuring a few of the young players that Khan has wanted to see integrated but there ought still to have been enough on the field to see off the second-bottom team in League One.

    Hugo Rodallega, the striker, was booed when he was substituted on 59 minutes and he looked to be on the verge of tears. He was not the only one. The Craven Cottage crowd appears to have lost faith in this team.

    It has been a fiendishly tough seven months or so for Mackintosh, which began with Mohamed Al Fayed's £150m sale of Fulham to Khan last July and has also taken in two transfer windows, with the stressful dealings with agents, and one managerial change. Fulham have only one other director – Sean O'Loughlin – plus the non-executive director, Mark Lamping, who is Khan's right-hand man. Mackintosh has an awful lot on his shoulders.

    He is highly regarded within the game; a calm and stable operator, who stuck with Jol until the bitter end, partly because of an awareness that, Meulensteen apart, there was the lack of readily available alternatives. That remains the case, as Meulensteen finds his methods and results under scrutiny but, once again, there is an in-house option.

    Curbishley, famously, led West Ham to Premier League survival in 2006-07, having taken over with the club in the relegation places. He began with a 1-0 home victory over Manchester United and, after a further slump, he won seven of the season's final nine games, culminating in the 1-0 triumph at Old Trafford that hauled them out of trouble. Fulham visit United on Sunday.

    It should be remembered that Curbishley has not managed since his dismissal from West Ham in September 2008, although he has involved himself in first-team training at Fulham. The players have been surprised to see Curbishley in a tracksuit and taking a part of certain sessions. When Meulensteen's assistants, John Hill and Mick Priest, are factored in, there are plenty of cooks.

    Meulensteen had never managed in the Premier League until his promotion at Fulham and his previous experience ran no deeper than an ill-starred 16-day reign at Anzhi Makhachkala last year. The 49-year-old has a reputation as an excellent coach, which he forged during his years under Sir Alex Ferguson at United. But there is clearly a leap from coaching technically brilliant players, and with Ferguson ensuring discipline, to having to find a way to win matches at the foot of the table.

    Meulensteen is not battle-hardened in the Premier League like, say, Tony Pulis is at Crystal Palace. Pulis is hard and uncompromising, and he knows how to get results, often scruffy 1-0s but the points all count the same. Since he was appointed at Selhurst Park before the trip to Hull City on 23 November, when the club sat bottom of the table with four points from 11 matches, he has taken 19 from 13 games to lift them to 17th place. Fulham have technically gifted players but do they have the mentality to grind out victories?

    The FA Cup exit was, in itself, not disastrous. Khan does not want to emulate last season's Wigan Athletic by enjoying cup glory and going down. But the performance against Sheffield United betrayed the fragility of the collective confidence levels. Fulham are bottom of the table for a reason and their defending, in particular, has been consistently bad. Meulensteen's record in the league reads: P11 W3 L8.

    In one sense, Meulensteen has been left to hold the baby. Under Jol, as Al Fayed's interest dwindled, there was little investment in the squad. Across five transfer windows, Jol's net spend on permanent signings was roughly £4m. The group came to lack balance. Khan reacted on the final day of the January window, funding the £12.5m signing of the striker Kostas Mitroglou. The defender Johnny Heitinga and the midfielder Lewis Holtby also arrived, together with the young midfielders Ryan Tunnicliffe and Larnell Cole from United, as they supplemented the earlier loans of Clint Dempsey and William Kvist. Dempsey, who will return to Seattle Sounders at the end of the month, has been a disappointment so far.

    The impression given was of an owner, fearful of relegation and the associated hit to his investment, moving to back his manager. It was a slightly belated statement of intent. "Hopefully, the new players coming in can help us fix it," Meulensteen said, after the Sheffield United defeat.

    Fulham's upcoming fixtures are daunting. After United, they face Liverpool while they have Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton before the end of next month. Meulensteen is on the edge.
  2. timmyg

    timmyg Well-Known Member

    Nov 20, 2006
    Don't want to nuance the point away, but the Great Escape only happened in the final 3 games of the season. There were many, many games up until that point where it seemed like we were doomed and Roy wasn't the answer.

    I'll admit that I'm rapidly forming the opinion that Rene isn't the answer, but in his defense there's only so much you can do with this terrible, downtrodden team. Outside of this unproven Greek fella, we're starting Darren Bent, Hugo Rodallega and a startlingly washed up Clint Dempsey for our offense. That's Championship level stuff.

    Sack the manager? Sure. Keep the manager? Sure. I don't think it'll matter. Unless the club makes some Faustian bargain like Crystal Palace did, we're doomed. Even Roberto Martinez, a manager everyone seems to love and is currently doing quite well at Everton (granted with Moyes' squad), couldn't keep Wigan up.
  3. tim

    tim Active Member

    Nov 13, 2007
    Los Angeles
    This is the heart of the issue, it would seem. It's one thing to get the best out of some of the top players in the world. It's another thing entirely to scrape out 1-0 wins in desperate situations with a struggling squad. As forward-looking as Meulensteen's appointment was, it would have been better a few years ago, immediately post-Hodgson. Regardless of what happens between now and May, I can't imagine he'll still be with the club come next season.
  4. jumpkutz

    jumpkutz Well-Known Member

    Sep 24, 2011
    Louisville, KY
    Plenty of cooks seems the most viable explanation to me. If you're a player, how do you determine who's really in charge? I mean, what else are the definitions of "first team technical director" and "assistant head coach" besides head coach in waiting? I don't know what Messers Hill and Priest bring to the proceedings, but with Curbishley and Wilkins head coaching experience, albeit it average at best, the answer to the question is yes. Else, why would they be there? It would take a wholly unlikely, 180 degree reversal in form for the current hierarchical setup to work. I don't see that happening. Again, the answer to the question is yes, especially after the embarrassing abominations agains Southampton AND Sheffield United AT HOME!
  5. dcheather

    dcheather Administrator

    Jul 29, 2005
    I'll contend it was a mistake making him the manager in the first place. He doesn't have much in the way of previous experience and then he was put in charge of a struggling club? That was part of the reason I didn't want Bradley to be put in charge of Fulham when those rumors started. Not that I doubt Bradley's ability, but he might not of been able to do anything to turn Fulham around in time and catch too much of the blame. Rene might be a good manager in time, but then again maybe he will only be good at a supporting role.

    And it seems Danny Murphy agrees with AggieMatt on Rene ... 4020678816?

    Rene and Jol are too similar.
  6. jumpkutz

    jumpkutz Well-Known Member

    Sep 24, 2011
    Louisville, KY
    The problem in a nutshell, methinks, as evidenced by the malaise on the pitch.
  7. AggieMatt

    AggieMatt Well-Known Member

    Jan 20, 2008
    Alamo City, Texas
    My apologies in advance, this is going to be a long one.

    Here's the problem as I see it. There are so many holes in this squad that we're struggling on both ends of the pitch. Rumor had it Jol ran a bit of a country club as well, bore out by our fading late in games and propensity for quitting on matches after falling behind. As a result, I feel we need(ed) a defense-first approach and a disciplinarian. Defense is the easiest thing to fix. It doesn't take talent, just organization and discipline. Minnows don't upset the giants in the cup b/c they have more talent or play better football. They do it by playing their usual starting XI, usually against a more hodge-podge side littered with squad players, and taking a defensive approach. The more talented, but less organized and cohesive side gets frustrated, makes mistakes and that's when you have the makings of a cupset.

    Let's look at two teams that made the type of change that we should have, in Palace and Sunderland. Does anyone truly believe that Vito Mannone, Phil Bardsley, John O'Shea, Wes Brown & Marcos Alonso are better (or significantly different) than Stekelenburg, Riether, Hangeland, Burn & Richardson? Yet since December, they've conceded 11 goals in 11 matches. They've scored 18, thanks in large part to Adam Johnson catching fire of late (and hanging a 4 spot on us). In that time, they are 4-4-3 for 16 pts. How about Julian Speroni, Jonathan Parr, Daniel Gabbidon, Adrian Mariappa & Damien Delaney? World beaters, huh? They too have only shipped 11 in 11 matches since December. Palace are more challenged offensively and have only mustered 8 goals for in that span. Yet, they are 5-1-5 for a total of 16 pts. Fulham on the other hand, have scored 11 and conceded 29 and gone 3-0-8 over that same period for a total of 9 pts.

    So if they aren't superior talent-wise, how are they doing it? For one, both managers have settled on their back four and stuck with them. They've had to adjust here and there for injuries and suspensions, but otherwise it's the same unit, every match. In those 11 matches, we've played 9 different players in the back four in 6 different combinations. Riether has been the constant, with 10 starts. But we've gone back and forth at lb, with Riise playing 7 and Richardson playing 4. In the middle, we've had some extenuating circumstances. Hangeland was injured and has only been back for 3 matches and Burn was brought in from loan and has only had 3 matches as well. Prior, we used some combo of Hughes/Senderos/Amorebieta at cb. Now obviously, adjusting for Hangeland's injury was a bigger obstacle than Palace and Sunderland faced at the back. But there was still a lot of indecision in squad selection during his absence and it's led to a defense that has failed to come together. Had Rene been more decisive, perhaps our unit would have gelled and Hangeland would have found it harder to break back into the side. The good news is that Rene has used the same unit 3 matches in a row, so maybe we can now start to develop some consistency.

    The other clear difference is in the approach. Palace and Sunderland play with a focus on defense and maintaining shape at the back. When a fb goes forward, the holding mid covers for him. The box-to-box mid then restrains from pushing as far forward so he can get back and cover the passing lanes that the holding mid would have. And when the ball comes back the other way, they hustle back. They also don't appear to play as high a line as we often do. In the case of Sunderland, perhaps that's b/c their 2 cb's combined age is 66. We don't do these things. I don't know if it's a lack of communication, if we're not instructing our guys to do this, if they're willfully ignoring instructions or what. But Riether has been caught out repeatedly this season and our holding mid rarely covers for him and when he does, there is no one covering for him in the middle. When teams hit us on the break, especially in the 2nd half, the opposition easily get into our end faster and in greater numbers as we jog back with little urgency. We tend to clog passing lanes fairly well in the first half, but once teams make an adjustment to what we're doing, we're easily unlocked (usually conceding within 10 minutes of the change) and never readjust our approach to put a stop to it. Despite playing 5 in midfield, we rarely defend in the midfield and pressure the ball. We sag back further and further until we're letting teams camp out just outside of our 18 yrd box. The whole approach is just glaringly wrong. And that's just on the defensive end.

    Offensively, we are just as flawed on so many basic fundamental levels I won't even go into them all. When Rene first took over, we attacked with greater pace and created more chances. We utilized the wings and were quick to hit on the counter. However, despite increasing our shots/match and decreasing the opposition's, we weren't affecting the ratio of goals scored/conceded. Rene said as much after the first four matches or so and his response to improving our defense has been the same as Jol's. Increase possession with slow, safe, sideways passing. The problem is, it's very hard to score or defend at that tempo. So when you lose possession, you're asking your guys to go from 1st gear to 5th and too often, it doesn't happen. Same thing on offense. People have been quick to attribute these changes to Wilkins and Curbishley, and maybe they're right, but I doubt it. When Rene first came in, he said he and Jol agreed philosophically on how football should be played. Perhaps those were just platitudes. But watching the adjustments he has made in his time here, he seems to have the same answers to the same questions as Martin did and as a result, this team has looked more and more similar to Jol's.

    Maybe that's down to the players. It seems popular to say we can't evaluate him until he has his guys in, and maybe there's truth in that. But if that's the case, then he was the wrong guy to bring in to survive relegation as there's (most likely) not enough time for that luxury. Also, isn't it his job as manager to get the most out of his players? Or to put together a strategy that minimizes their weaknesses and enhances their strengths? Other teams have done that and if you go down their lineups, player by player, you'll be hard pressed to say that the Norwiches, Hulls, WBAs & Cardiffs of the world are any more talented. You won't be hard pressed to watch them and see how they make better use of what they've got, though, even if only marginally.

    I agree with Timmy about dumping him probably being irrelevant. On the one hand, he's failed to build any cohesion with his indecisive approach to tactics and squad selection. He's failed to adjust to even the simplest in-game changes by the opposition. The team don't appear to be in any better shape physically and are just as prone to falling apart after the 1 hour mark. I just don't see any evidence to suggest he can turn this around and question if he's even cut out for being in charge. Plus, even with the new signings, we still don't have the proper personnel to play his defense-lite version of the continental approach, particularly at fullback. While naming Curbishley would be a sea change stylistically, he's been here for a little while, conducted some training sessions (by some accounts) and has had a chance to put some influence on proceedings. So I question whether that would be enough of a change to work. The next question would be, is there the right guy out there we can bring in and is there enough time to save the season? Given the cost of relegation, perhaps we could bring in Mackay? I doubt there's enough time for that to work either though. Unless there's someone out there that you'd want to go forward with next season, regardless of whether we stay up or go down, then it's probably just as well to stay the course, hope for the best and re-evalutate the situation in the summer.

    Addressing two of the previous posts. First, re: Hodgson. The Great Escape may have taken place in the last 3 matches, but the foundation for it was being laid from the day Roy stepped off the plane. I remember thinking we'd made a mistake with him as well. There were a number of matches, we'd go down 1-0 and you'd see a guy get the ball with acres of space ahead and he wouldn't push forward. I remember yelling "go" at the screen a number of times. What I didn't see at the time was the method to Roy's madness. He was instilling defensive discipline and shape integrity into the team. He was literally beating it into them, both in matches and with his notoriously repetitious drilling sessions on the training pitch. He almost left it too late to loosen the reins a bit and chase wins, but in hindsight, I can see why he did that. From that point forward, every man knew his job, did his job, and as a result we were always hard to break down. It wasn't the most exciting football at times, especially on the road, but there was no shortage of fight or drama over results. I'd take that over the listless, pathetic shit on display today. At least there was something to take pride in.

    I listened to the Murphy segment Heather linked. The most interesting take away for me was that he said he almost made the move to MLS and the US several times. I was surprised to hear that and wonder when those occasions may have been. To Heather's other point about Bradley. I'm not saying I disagree with you about wanting Bob at Fulham. But strictly from a managerial experience standpoint, Rene couldn't tie Bradley's shoes.
  8. nevzter

    nevzter Well-Known Member

    Mar 5, 2007
    A City by a Bay
    Great post, sir. Thank you. And not to discredit or ignore many concise and erudite points, however, the quoted portion lends me to believe a Hodgson-esque squad was eschewed for Jol-lite. Defense and formation don't seem to be the flavor for Rene, however, they would have been for Bradley. Then again, as Ag and others state, there are so many holes in this squad that even a modicum of cohesion and discipline might not plug 'em.

    It's not too late to change, but I was wrong and do not think the current manager is the best option.

    Now run off 9 points in a row and let me eat crow, Fulham.

  9. dcheather

    dcheather Administrator

    Jul 29, 2005
    Agreed. But you know that wouldn't stop the moaning about from other Fulham supporters out there about how Bob couldn't save Fulham because he doesn't know the European or English leagues well enough or was out of managing a club team for too long, blah, blah, blah. Let's face it Fulham were put in big hole by Mr. Jol and very ugly looking kitchen tile still laying about, this is a hard job that Fulham gave to a rookie contractor.
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