Fulham lost a desultory 3-0 match to West Ham yesterday. The loss was the Cottagers' fifth in a row in Barclays Premier League play, and dropped them to 18th in the league table. Owner Shahid Khan (of the Jacksonville Khans) sacked skipper Martin Jol in a move that the internet cognoscenti (led by Sports Illustrated's terrific Andy Glockner - @andyglockner, if you're not already following him) have long advocated.
18th place is fairly dismal just on its own, but in European soccer's particular brand of Darwinian survivalism, the teams finishing in the Premiership's last three spots each season are demoted, replaced with three squads from the Championship. So roughly midway through the season, Fulham, a generally reliably mid-table squad, finds itself squarely in danger of relegation.
Since 2001, the Cottagers have competed at the top level of English soccer, earning a Europa League berth in 2010. Now, though, after selling star forward Clint Dempsey to Tottenham and watching Belgian international Moussa Dembele join Spurs, as well, Fulham has become a dreadfully boring, offensively challenged side. Glockner's plot of the squad's rolling average shots on goal in comparison with their opponents' is telling:
After a 12th place finish in 2012-13, Fulham have started this season 3-9-1, scoring 11 goals and allowing 24. In their last six matches (five losses and a win), they've managed a total of four shots on goal.
In short, they suck.
But this isn't a post about Fulham, per se. It's the beginning of a series on relegation. We don't have such a thing in U.S. sports, so it's a foreign concept to most of us. Fulham's my chosen Premiership side, on the strength of the club's history with American players (and unwillingness to pick one of the obvious choices). And while I confess to not having immersed myself deeply in the club's fortunes, I do follow them.
With 25 matches left, Fulham have lots of opportunity to reverse course and get out of danger. Interim skipper Rene Meulensteen gets a shot at Tottenham on Wednesday, and Khan certainly has the money to pursue new players in the January transfer window - it's in his interest to spend, because the economic impact of a demotion is estimated at 25 million pounds per year.
Since I won't have to worry about a national championship football game this season, I'll turn my attention to Fulham's fight to stay in the Premiership. Stay tuned.