When the Chips are Down: Fulham Football Club’s Fight for Survival

Fulham

Fulham manager Felix Magath is in the unenviable position of guiding Fulham out of relegation.

By, Kyle Gibson

It’s not pretty, it’s not flashy, it’s not even that dignified.

Then again, when you’re in a fight for your life, you could care less about how things look.

That’s where Fulham Football Club finds itself as the English Premier League fades to a close. The Cottagers are very much hoping not to fade to the Football League Championship.

The team has been in the cellar for much of the season, which strangely didn’t surprise anyone, considering that the team has become a mainstay in recent years, not going down since it came up in 2001.

However, things have changed recently. Key players (Dempsey, Ruiz) have left or gone out on loan, Players that were key are still there, but now a lot older and less ready for a 38 game league season.

The club has also gone through three managers this season. I predicted Martin Jol would be gone, but did not expect his replacement, Rene Meulensteen, to be sacked after only a handful of weeks in charge, Felix Magath, the new manager, was given only 2 months to right the ship.

In its last 10 league games, Fulham is 2-6-2, which means just 8 out of a possible 30 points. However, those two wins have both come in the last two weeks of gameplay, with a 2-1 win at Villa Park last week and a 1-0 win against Norwich City Saturday. Suddenly, a lifeline for Fulham, which is now just 2 points away from surpassing Norwhich City, which recently fired manager Chris Hughton.

The bottom of the league is so close that Fulham has a very real chance to stay in top flight soccer. Unlike most years, when a bottom three can be decided even before now, the middle of the table can still be considered in danger.

Out of the the teams in the bottom, Fulham has been around the longest. Fulham has also been in these fights before. I would like to think that, with the passionate fans at Craven Cottage behind them and the recent surge, that Fulham might just be able to stay in the league.

Felix Magath looks like a mad scientist. If he can engineer a team that appeared dead back to life, he might just be as good as Dr. Frankenstein.

New Post: Dog Bites Man, Manchester City Beats Manchester United Again

By, Kyle Gibson

There’s a saying in journalism that helps students understand what is newsworthy and what is not.

If a dog bites a man, it is not newsworthy, because it happens all the time.

However, if a man bites a dog, that is certainly newsworthy.

For Manchester City, it used to be a “man bites dog” story if it would beat Manchester United. As proved by its run of dominance, including yesterday’s 3-0 win at Old Trafford, the story is now a dog bites man.

The domination and tenacity that City shows in these games is incredible. The first goal was scored within 42 seconds yesterday. The Blues owned every phase of the game and made United look like a junior league side.

I wrote about the game as the first post on my new WordPress blog, which is called “Beyond the Scoreline.” This blog focuses on the stats I want to talk about from games I have watched. These are the stats that don’t get the most mentions during a broadcast. I love this blog and will keep posting on here, but I want Beyond the Scoreline to go hand in hand with this one.

I would be honored if you would check out the post. Here is the link www.beyondthescoreline.wordpress.com

-Follow me @kyleisgibson If ya know what’s good for ya.

New Post: Introspection Tuesday, feat. Tottenham, Manchester United, El Clasico, and the Columbus Crew

By, Kyle Gibson

So….hey guys! Sorry this blog has been on extended hiatus. It’s been a whirlwind trying to graduate from college, a whirlwind that will continue until May. I will try to post as often as I can, but schoolwork has a priority!

I was able to watch a few games this past weekend, even though I had two consecutive “travel days,” to borrow a reference from the NBA. Here’s what has me thinking this Tuesday.

  • Tottenham Hotspur’s Hothead Manager Showed Life Sunday- Tim Sherwood’s rage issues and recent poor form at Spurs has fans calling for Dutch manager Louis Van Gaal. Here’s the thing, Spurs won in a thriller against Southampton at White Hart Lane Sunday. The win came at a huge time against a very solid team. Even though the team came from two goals down, the backline is a HUGE concern going forward. Can Sherwood get it organized? His career depends on it.
  • What the hell got into Manchester United?- As a Manchester United fan, this season has been the longest in recent memory. David Moyes has been hapless as a manager for large parts of the season and the players are not exactly playing like the team that won the EPL just 10 months ago. However, this past week, the team went 2-0 with a huge Champions League win over Olympiakos and a league win over West Ham. Wayne Rooney played out of his mind in both games, feeding a Robin Van Persie hat trick in the first and scoring both goals in the game against the Hammers. The first was a classic. Van Persie is out now for 4-6 weeks, which puts a damper on things for United, but Danny Welbeck should use the time to step up and prove his England worth.
  • I Would NEVER Want to be the Ref for the Clasico- Barcelona vs Real Madrid is the last game I would want to call if I were a referee. The stakes for both teams are too high and the rivalry is so great that the game will always inevitably turn nasty. Who wants to be in the position of giving the world’s best players red cards for incidents that may or may not have happened? Do you really want Danny Alves and Xabi Alonso constantly yelling at you? This series is a mess and I want to be nowhere near it.
  • The Columbus Crew are the Darlings of the young MLS season- I see your Toronto FC and your Seattle Sounders, but how about the Columbus Crew this season? Gregg Berhalter has the team firing on all cylinders with a 2-0 record. After losing Chad Marshall and Andy Gruenebaum, I expected the team to start slow, but the Crew are tied at the top of the Eastern Conference with Houston and Toronto. Here’s to the hot start continuing and fans filling Crew stadium, perhaps tempting the ownership into a few summer signings,

Follow me  @kyleisgibson. Just do it.

New Post: Arsene Wenger, Who’ll Stop the Rain?

 

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Chelsea Football Club was transformed on Saturday. Stamford Bridge became a sacred temple. The man of the hour, Arsene Wenger, was led up the stairs and showered with praise. Like any proper Aztec ritual, the ceremony ended with the subject’s heart ripped out in front of the screaming masses.

To say that Arsenal was thrashed, humiliated, bamboozled, steamrolled or deep-fried in Saturday’s 6-0 loss would still be an understatement. Arsene Wenger entered the game, his 1,000th in charge, full of praise from the entire soccer world. He left it bloodstained and battered by a Chelsea side that dominated every phase of the game.

Look, not all of this is Wenger’s fault, After all, a red card was accidentally given to Kieron Gibbs instead of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain by referee Andre Mariner. Arsenal could have used a defender more than The Ox by that point, but the team was already 2 goals down when this happened.

Is Arsenal battle ready? It seems like every game against the top clubs produce heartache for the Arsenal. We all know that Wenger hasn’t beat Jose Mourinho, a man that seems ready made for top matches, almost like he was born for it, but how about the other top squads? Besides a 2-0 win against Liverpool at the Emirates, the team has not been able to beat any of its fellow competitors for the league crown. That includes the 6-0 stain to Chelsea, a 6-3 loss to Manchester City and, for good measure, a 1-0 loss to a Sir Alex Ferguson free Manchester United. Losing to United, that’s bleak right there.

I will give them this, the two wins against Spurs are actually impressive, but the club needs to be able to consistently find results against the top teams, without getting shellacked.

I’m not sure that Wenger can still inspire that result from his squad. Just one look at the players on Saturday seemed to show a level of apathy. Where was the “win one for the gaffer” spirit? None of the players seemed to care that their boss was having the biggest day of his considerable Arsenal career. Under their watch, his day slowly became a nightmare of epic proportions. If relationships were cool before that game, I don’t think Wenger will be able to keep the dressing room sharp.

Is it time for a change at Arsenal? I’m a huge fan of all that Arsene has brought to the game, but he is starting to show he may be a relic. His midfield is cluttered and highly stylized, with players that can’t stop the counter. His striker selection is barren, as is his trophy case. His big signing of the summer is inconsistent.

He may have just celebrated 1,000 games at Arsenal, but it’s unclear how many more games Arsene Wenger will have with the club he has been at for so long.

 

New Post: EPL and MLS Weekend Predictions Sure to be Wrong!

The predictions are back! The demands of student life have really impacted this blog. I will try to be here as much as I can from here on out, because these seasons are on historic paces right now. I normally do just EPL predictions, but with the MLS now back, I wanted to get in the spirit and do those too.

Winners in Bold.

EPL

West Brom vs Manchester United 2-0

Cardiff City vs Fulham 1-1

Crystal Palace vs Southampton 0-0

Norwich vs Stoke City 1-0

Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur 2-1

Note on Chelsea-Spurs, I’m really hoping that result happens, just to throw another wrench into the title chase.

MLS

Seattle vs Kansas City (Huge Game) 2-2

D.C. United vs Columbus 2-1

Vancouver vs New York Red Bulls 1-0

FC Dallas vs Montreal 3-0

Houston vs New England 2-0

LA Galaxy vs Real Salt Lake (Another Huge Game!) 2-1

Portland vs Philadelphia 1-0

Chivas USA vs Chicago 3-1

Happy watching, everyone! The Premier League and the American Premier League all in the same day…and to be honest, the MLS games look a lot more exciting. Here’s to a year with healthy stars and big attendances, as well as some rising stars in the MLS as well.
Post your predictions in the comments!

Follow @kyleisgibson and @kickingit10 on Twitter.

New Post: Alan Pardew Should Lose His Job For Headbutting a Player, Not Just $100,00

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By, Kyle Gibson

He’s a wild man that speaks his mind. He takes nothing from nobody. He curses people and headbutts the opposition. All of these things would be great for a biker or a guy from a Discovery Channel show, but not an English Premier League manager.

Loose cannon Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew had yet another touchline bust-up today, this time with a player for the opposing team, Hull City player David Meyler. In the 71st minute of action, Hull City received a throw in near Pardew’s position. The two then became embroiled in a bit of pushing as Meyler went for the ball. Pardew could have stopped, but instead he became the aggressor and went after Meyler. As they got closer, Pardew gave Meyler a headbutt.

This is reminiscent of Woody Hayes over here in the U.S. However, if a coaching legend like Woody Hayes could lose his job for being violent towards a player, someone like Pardew, nowhere near a legend, could as well.

If Pardew had a squeaky clean past I would be a bit more lenient in my opinion. This ain’t the first rodeo for Mr. Pardew though. This season he also cursed at Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini in a very vulgar way. In 2012, Pardew pushed an official, which earned him a two match ban.

Those were all at Newcastle. In 2006, with West Ham, Pardew became heated on the touchline with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. While every manager seems to get into it with Wenger, this is an alarming trend for the public face of an EPL team.

What kind of message does this send to Pardew’s players? Newcastle has 4 straight red cards at this point of the season, along with 41 yellow cards. The number is middle of the pack, but many of the cautions and ejections have come at really bad moments this season.The team also lacks discipline at key moments. I think that has a lot to do with the team’s hothead manager.

Newcastle has fined Pardew $100,000, which is a very large number, but that is for a third serious offense at the club.

In my opinion, it’s three strikes and you’re out for Mr. Pardew.

New Post: So…how about those games this weekend?

By, Kyle Gibson

Wow! I hope everyone is excited for all of these awesome games this weekend out there in the world of soccer!

The EPL is off due to the games at the midweek, so we are left to rely on the other leagues of Europe to bring us all joy.

Well, that’s not happening this week. A survey around the world shows some pretty nasty affairs to choose from.

Let’s start with Italy and Serie Ehhhh.

The most exciting game I can find is Fiorentina vs Inter….wow, what a rivalry, what a real treat!

How about a trip over to France for Ligue Umm. The only halfway decent match-up is 4 vs 5 St. Etienne vs Marseille. That doesn’t exactly scream “instant classic.”

La Liga is equally barren, because the only enticing game is Getafe hosting Real Madrid. Real, Barcelona and Athletico Madrid are tied at the top of the table on points, with Madrid being the only team at the top on the road.

The true game of the weekend is probably Bayer Leverkusen vs Shalke 04. That is number 2 vs number 4, but still not a classic.

So in a weekend with no good soccer, I recommend watching the Olympics or catching up with family.