Don't panic!

Tuesday 18 December 2001

From Fulham Today's Ian McCulloch

Jean Tigana was reported in the papers as saying that his first response to the result against Tottenham was to put his head in the fridge. He may well have been mis-quoted here, but I know what he means.

However, Liverpool's result on Sunday perhaps puts ours into a little more perspective. Everybody has their off days, and let's face it we had a better week than the League leaders did.

In what is turning out to be a remarkably open Premiership, it's becoming clear that on their day anybody can beat anybody else. Every team in the Division has potential match winners and if they decide that they're going to turn it on then they can all be unstoppable. Look at the evidence - Bolton beating Manchester United at Old Trafford, Blackburn Rovers hitting seven past West Ham and struggling ever since, the Hammers themselves after conceding the seven win the next three, Arsenal and Leeds regularly drop points to teams they should be destroying.

The thing is though, teams aren't going to do it every week. Chelsea looked like World-beaters on Sunday - two weeks ago they lost at home to Charlton and were booed off the pitch. Spurs the all-conquering also lost to Charlton and looked inept. I know Charlton are undergoing something of a resurgence, but they could only draw against Bolton on Saturday.

Consider the stats for Spurs - at the moment every time someone kicks the ball it goes in. Their goals to shots ratio over the last month must be something like 95% and that's not going to last. Their fans had better enjoy while it does because in a month's time they're all going to be moaning about how their players are over the hill, how they need new strikers and what rubbish it all is.

On Saturday, Fulham had 52% of the possession against home-team Tottenham's 48%, fifteen shots against Tottenham's ten and six corners against Tottenham's three. That doesn't suggest a nil-four result, does it? But the telling statistic is that none of Fulham's fifteen shot's were on target and Tottenham, of course, managed to score four times from their seven that were. The fact that Spurs managed to get the ball in the net so many times is exceptional, and is certainly not sustainable. They knocked Fulham out of the Worthington by netting from two of their three chances, hit six past the hapless Bolton reserve side and kept up their incredible scoring streak against Fulham. How much longer will that last? One more game? Two, perhaps? It's unlikely to be many more.

All teams have these runs, even ordinary teams. I remember a few years back in the late eighties when Third Division Fulham, coming off the back of a spell where they had won only once in six games, suddenly went berserk and could hardly stop scoring. Bristol City and Aldershot were both hit for five, and Fulham went to Swansea with confidence oozing out of every pore. The Swans had obviously watched the highlights of the previous two games and were petrified. For the first half an hour they sat back and let Fulham walk all over them. Strikers Sayer and Gordon both missed sitters, and Swansea, realising they were up against an ordinary team after all, upped a gear and ran out comfortable two nil winners. Fulham were back to normal and scored only eleven goals in their next ten games.

All teams have their purple patches in front of goal, as all teams have their periods where they're not going to score even if the goals were made fifty foot wide or the keepers were nailed to the floor. Well we're going through that patch at the moment. It won't last forever - the important thing is that chances are still being made, regularly and superbly.

A lot of people have been saying that the Whites are going to take someone apart one day. Perhaps some of Spurs' good fortune will have rubbed off on us and it will happen in the not too distant future . Middlesbrough would be soon enough.