This weekend Aston Villa host a Fulham side desperate for points if they hope to stay in the Premier League for another season. In preparation, here's a Q+A with Andrew Beck of SB Nation's Fulham blog Cottagers Confidential. Be sure to check out my answers to Andrew's questions over at CC, as well as giving Andrew a follow on Twitter.
7,500 to Holte: Let's get the obvious one out of the way; Fulham are currently in the Premier League basement, and while the hole they're in isn't quite as extreme as some teams have faced in the past, it's still going to be tough for them to find their way out. Do you think Fulham have it in them to pull off a great escape? If not, how well equipped do you think they are to deal with relegation, especially after such a long spell in the top flight?
Cottagers Confdential: I think it's possible. Getting a win at Villa and then wins against Hull, Palace, and Norwich at home wouldn't be unheard of. That puts them at 36 points with a chance to stay up. If they added in a result either at Stoke or at Spurs, I think they'd be safe. Not impossible, just not likely either.
75K: Last season wasn't necessarily a great one for Fulham, but in the end they finished 12th and were pretty comfortable come the end of the season. That's clearly not been the case this season, and moreover this just hasn't at all looked like the same team. What went wrong? Perhaps more importantly, how do you think they can fix it?
CC: Martin Jol went wrong. After Ashkan Dejagah got hurt on April 1st last year and Fulham got to 39 points, Jol basically stopped coaching. The team was awful for the rest of the season. And this was after a three month spell where they only lost to clubs from Manchester. Jol didn't turn it around this year. Under him the team was a disaster. The predictive stats said that they were actually worse than they were. Meulensteen was able to turn it around a bit. All of the predictive stats moved back into what you would expect from a mid table team. Unfortunately, he also got a little unlucky. To fix things Fulham are going to need smart investment, a consistent manager, and to hold onto their young players.
75K: Felix Magath has quite the reputation of being-to put it in the most polite terms possible-somewhat difficult to work for. Now that we're closing in on two months of his time in charge, do you think bringing him in was the right decision? There's certainly a case to be made for his methods, but attempting to make such a drastic change so late in the season always seemed like a very risky move to me.
CC: I'm still not a fan of the way Meulensteen was let go. He had appeared to turn the corner with the team. He might not have been able to keep them up, but I also think he would have been a great manager in the Championship. But Shahid Khan realized that his quarter billion dollar investment might be in trouble and he gambled. I can't argue that with Magath the chance of survival was probably slightly higher. However, I think the variance in Magath was much greater and I wouldn't have taken the risk. Thankfully Magath has stuck with the youth players and put Fulham in a position to handle the drop well.