Fulham haven't had the greatest of seasons so far, has it been as disappointing as everyone makes out?
Andrew Beck: Well if you told me at the beginning of the season Fulham would be 4 points out of 10th place at this point, I wouldn't have been shocked. If you told me they would be in 16th place I wouldn't have been shocked (though I would have been a little perturbed). The fact that only 5 points separates 10th and 17th is quite shocking though and proves that just about anyone in the bottom half of the table could go down.
The biggest problem with Fulham's season so far has been the demoralizing nature of some of the losses. We've been absolutely blown out a few times and didn't even look there was an offensive plan at others. If you take a step back though and just treat a loss like a loss and a win like a win, the season hasn't been that bad. If you just take out the last minute loss to Cardiff and the last minute draw to West Brom, all of a sudden Fulham are in 10th place and no one is fretting at all.
Was it the right decision to get rid of Martin Jol?
AB: Yes. I'm usually not one to blame the manager, but he simply didn't look like he had a plan any more. He was continuously using players out of position, afraid to start any of the youth, and basically conceding games against bigger clubs before the match even started. He was managing like he wanted to leave.
I think if the true story ever comes out, he was hoping to skate through the year, bring in Meulensteen as the Head Coach and then move up to be the Technical Director. However, he mucked things up so bad that it wasn't possible. Instead the club went and hired Alan Curbishley to be the TD.
Now of course you have Rene Meulensteen. Someone I actually wanted to be the boss here when Paolo Di Canio left. What's he been like so far?
AB: So far he's been great. The team has only looked awful once since he took over and that was an away fixture over the holiday period after an away win and before two winnable home fixtures. I think he may have punted that match as soon as the team got down.
He's done all the things you wish Jol had done. He's been tactically flexible. He's played a 4-3-3, a 4-2-3-1, a 4-5-1, and even what might be called a 4-6-0. That last formation was used to great effect to frustrate Man City on our smaller than average pitch.
He's also using players in the right positions and isn't afraid to use the youth. Four of our academy graduates got a debut in the FA Cup match last week. If he can keep the team up, I think the future is bright.
What do you make of bringing in Ray Wilkins and Alan Curbishley?
AB: I'm pretty happy with the Curbishley hire. I've been a proponent of having a Technical Director and a Head Coach working together and both reporting to the CEO for some time. I think the days of one manager being in charge of everything are long gone.
I'm a bit more agnostic about the Wilkins hire. I think he'll make a fine assistant, but I wonder if it was more of a hedge in case the club goes down and Meulensteen doesn't want to manage a Championship club.
On the pitch, who has been Fulham's stand out man this season?
AB: For me, the standout has been Pajtim Kasami.
He's a player that has always been hyped, but never really got a chance. Then last year he was loaned out to the Swiss league where he didn't set the world on fire. He only started the first match of the season this year due to injuries to others, but you probably remember how that worked. Since then he's been a great passer, a hard worker, a willing tackler, and someone who's not afraid to shoot. I don't know if he's been the best Fulham player, but he's been the one who made the greatest leap.
Who has been the most disappointing?
AB: Is it fair to say a player who's barely plaid at all? Fulham's defense has been atrocious this year. And much of that can be laid at the feet of Brede Hangeland. He's barely played and when he did he was slowed by injury. I'm hoping that taking the time off to get surgery and heel will do wonders for him and the Fulham defense when he returns.
Who will Fulham be looking at in the January transfer window to try and pull you out of the mire?
AB: Fulham have seemingly been linked to every player Meulensteen had a relationship with at Manchester United.
I think the team needs a creative box to box central midfielder or deep lying playmaker to take some of the offensive pressure off of Scott Parker. Giorgos Karagounis has done well there, but I don't think he can stand up for a full season. I'd also like to bring in another defender. The club has been linked to a few, and I was hoping for Michael Bradley until today's surprise announcement.
I'd also like to bring in a central defender or left back. If the team is confident Hangeland will return strong and recently recalled Dan Burn can solidify the center, I'd go with a left back. The team has been linked to Ryan Bertrand and Alex Buttner.
Everyone is clamoring for a striker, but I don't necessarily see the need. The team hasn't been that bad at scoring goals, and since Meulensteen took over they've been creating chances at a more than adequate rate. However, if they do sell Berbatov, I reserve the right to change my answer.
Where on the pitch do you think this weekend's game will be won and lost?
AB: Fulham's defense will decide the game. If they play ok, I think Fulham win. If they implode (which has happened a few times), I think things could get ugly.
What's your prediction for the game?
AB: I'd guess a 2-1 win for Fulham.
Thanks once again to Andrew for filling us in. Check out Cottagers Confidential for all your Fulham needs.