Goals, goals, goals...

Friday 8 February 2002

From Fulham Today's Ian McCulloch...

Naturally enough, the main topic of conversation and the focus of attention at the Club this week has been the thorny problem of scoring goals. It's a measure of the ambition of everyone at Fulham that a season of consolidation and a mid-table finish in the Premiership is considered unsatisfactory. The lack of goals at crucial times has meant that the current league position is not a fair reflection of the team's performance, and it is something that has both angered and frustrated everyone involved.

Speaking at the Motspur Park training ground this week, midfielder Sylvain Legwinski and defender Alain Goma talked about how much emphasis is currently being placed on sorting out the problem. The one thing they both stressed however, is that this is a team issue and not just a concern for the strikers.

"We've spent a lot of time discussing this together as a team and with the manager," said Legwinski, "It's our biggest problem and we know that we have to work very hard to sort it out. It's something that concerns the whole team of course, so we've been working on what we do across the whole of our play.

"When a team doesn't score enough goals it doesn't mean that there is something wrong with the attack, it means that the whole team is not performing properly.

"One of the things we have focussed on is that we haven't been scoring from set-pieces as much as we should have done. I don't know why this is, but again, it's something that we've been working very hard on.

"We are very disappointed not to have scored the goals that we should have, and there is no doubt that does have an effect on confidence. If you haven't scored for a while then you get into the frame of mind where you think you will never score again.

"When you are out on the pitch you have a collective responsibility. There are eleven of you out there, some are more attacking and some more defensive obviously, but it is up to you all to make sure that the team scores. The first stage of an attack comes from the defence, so if we don't score it is not right to say we have a problem only with the attack.

"We are all disappointed, all of us, and we're all angry when we don't score. The thing is, we've lost a lot of points. For our first season in the Premiership, our position isn't too bad, but when you look at the potential of the team it's very disappointing just to be mid table.

"I think that if we had won the games that we have dominated without winning, then we could have had another ten points, and that would have meant we could have been challenging for a Champions League place, even if we are not yet a Champions League team."

Speaking later, French international defender Alain Goma reiterated what his teammate had said: that any failings within the team were a collective responsibility.

"We have had a couple of games where we have let in a lot of goals, Tottenham and Manchester United for example," he said, "But for a promoted team I think we have done quite well defensively.

"We don't really look at statistics. Whether we have the best defensive record is not important, we just concentrate on the football and focus on making sure that we play to our best ability.

"We have had a problem of not scoring goals, but this is not just a problem for the strikers, it's a team problem. We are eleven on the pitch, and if we have done well defensively it's because the whole team has defended well. Our situation is that the team has done well defensively but the team has not scored enough goals.

"We have been lucky that we have played most of the games with the same defence, and I think that creates a good understanding between us. It is important that there is a good relationship between the players and I think that at Fulham we are all on the same wavelength.

"Because of injuries and suspensions it is not possible for a team to go through the whole season with the same players, and I think we've been a bit unlucky that we have had to make a lot of changes in the rest of the team. The strength of the biggest teams is the size of their squad - you need substitutes who when they come in are at the same level as the starters.

"But we are working hard. We've come a long way in a short time and I would say that there is a lot of determination here to make sure that we get things right."

It's an important game on Saturday. After Blackburn, there is a spine-chilling run of league games to come against Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea. If the team can find their scoring boots against the Rovers and give the fans the victory they so desperately want, it will set everyone up nicely for a bit of Cup glory against Walsall, and then give them the opportunity to flex their collective muscle against the best the Premiership have to offer. It's a mouth-watering prospect.