Why Fulham should give Scott Parker the permanent job

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 08 April 2019, 14:19

Everything about Fulham’s 2018-19 Premier League relegation campaign has been chaotic.

The post-October consistency they found in the preceding promotion season had been down to tactical stability, albeit with the arrivals of Aleksandar Mitrovic and Matt Targett helping.

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Surely, therefore, they had a clear, trustworthy template from which to attack the Premier League.

Instead, the club’s response to promotion was to sign 12 new senior players for a combined total of approximately £100m on transfer fees alone.

Shahid Khan clearly has business acumen – he has had a lot of success in the manufacturing business in America.

However, he has perhaps been too keen to apply a business mind-set to football, assuming X investment will deliver X results, whilst neglecting other factors that determine how successful a team can be.

Panicked business translated into disjointed performances; in possession, the team looked slow and incohesive while without the ball, they were even worse, due to frequent changes to the XI, a series of errors and a distinct lack of organisation.

There has, however, been a slight improvement in performance levels in terms of effort and commitment since Scott Parker assumed interim charge, even if the individual mistakes remain.

Here’s why we reckon Parker should be given the job full-time...

He will not demand more spending

If Fulham were to appoint a more established manager, they would naturally want to recruit players they either have worked with, have knowledge of, or suit their style of play.

Changes to the squad though could not only cause more instability like that we have seen this season; it would also be very expensive.

According to the excellent Kieran Maguire, all bar four of the 14 Premier League clubs who have filed their financial accounts for the 2017-18 campaign published a financial loss.

Any notion, therefore, that if Fulham throw money at promotion this season, all their problems would be resolved in the top flight would be grossly inaccurate.

If anything, another spending spree could have yet more ramifications even further down the line.

The key is to look after their finances regardless of what division they are in and Parker would help the club scale back in that regard.

He knows the current squad

Though they might want to, Fulham cannot undo the decisions they made last summer.

André-Frank Zambo Anguissa is still contracted to the club for the next four years, fellow midfielder Jean Michaël Seri is tied for three, as are defenders Joe Bryan and Alfie Mawson plus goalkeeper Fabri, despite the latter not having played since mid-August.

Very few clubs would be interested in taking any of those players for anything close to their initial transfer fee – although thankfully their wages will not be too much of a problem with relegation clauses agreed.

For that reason, it is important that the next manager has knowledge of the current squad, as well as an idea of how to mould a team and maximize everyone’s potential.

Plus, there are a lot of players who should be competent at Championship level.

Anguissa has started to show his technical value in recent games, Bryan brings boundless energy from left-back and Mawson would be among the best centre-backs in the Championship if he can stay fit.

 

He’d add a ball-winner

When Fulham have played with Anguissa, Seri and Tom Cairney in the same midfield, the equilibrium has not been quite right.

All three of those players are capable in possession – and could potentially boss the Championship in a setup geared to their strengths, as we saw with Cairney last term.

The trio playing together though means there is not enough runners off the ball to utilise their passing ability, and there is a lack of defensive awareness that makes individual defenders look worse than they are.

Last season, Stefan Johansen’s box-to-box dynamism completed the equilibrium of a midfield also containing midfield metronome Kevin McDonald and creative Cottager Tom Cairney.

Johansen has had fitness issues this season and was loaned out to West Brom on deadline day – a decision made before Parker took the helm – Fulham either need to take up the Norwegian’s one-year option or bring in a similarly vivacious midfielder who can contribute something when they do not have the ball.

He’d make Fulham nastier

This is related to the ball-winner issue but also feeds into how the team has been managed.

When Fulham impressed the neutrals so much over their last two Championship seasons, it was largely because of the work they did with the ball.

Without it, they were often vulnerable, but opposing teams found it hard to get the ball off them in the first place.

This season, however, Leeds, Norwich and Sheffield United have all mastered allying possession play with aggressive pressing and thus Fulham will need to return to the Championship as a better-rounded team.

During Parker’s playing heydays, he was as fierce a competitor as they come; constantly charging around, snapping into challenges and inspiring his teammates.

He will therefore have a clear grasp of that fundamental cultural issue and giving him the permanent job early would give him a lot of time to put it right before August.

Keeping hold of aggressive centre-forward Aleksandar Mitrovic – and maybe powerful wide forward Aboubakar Kamara when he returns from a loan spell at Yeni Malatyaspor – would be a positive start.

He’d be open to a technical director

No Fulham manager is going to be given a free reign to impact all areas of the club: figures at the top like Shahid Khan have too much power and authority.

Although Slavisa Jokanovic’s stubbornness was at times a strength, it could also be a weakness.

The Serb had a clear idea of the players he wanted last summer and he was not happy when one or two players like Alfie Mawson were brought to the club without his approval.

If Fulham were to appoint a high-profile manager, they would be likely to arrive with a bullet-pointed list of requirements.

Because Parker is a novice in managerial terms, he would be more willing to co-operate in the decision-making process and that would lead to more streamlined transfer business.

An experienced figure like Alan Pardew, who has a wealth of contacts within the game and would act as somebody for Parker to lean on now and again, could help the Whites going into the Championship as Tony Khan’s work as director of football has not been particularly successful.

 

He treats players with respect

Marcus Bettinelli has been on Fulham’s books since 2010: he worked his way up tirelessly through loan spells at Dartford and Accrington Stanley to break his way into the first team.

Having got in, he played a major part in the club’s promotion in 2017-18, taking David Button’s place between the sticks to play most weeks in the second half of the season and keeping a clean sheet in that Wembley victory over Aston Villa.

Having done so much to get an opportunity in the Premier League, he was then demoted to third-choice, as Fulham brought in Fabri on a four-year contract, then loaned in Sergio Rico later in the window – this all happened before the goalkeeper got injured.

One might understand it if the club felt one of those experienced Spaniards might be needed – Bettinelli was not flawless in the Championship – but to then take him out of the match-day squad altogether seems slightly disloyal and almost inconsiderate.

Jokanovic deserves great credit for the work he did at Fulham, but he rarely appeared to attempt to connect with his players on a personal level.

Parker has, perhaps, a slightly firmer grasp of the romantic and emotional aspects of football and that is potentially another strong-point.

At a time when Fulham fans are beginning to feel disillusioned with the running of their club, now is the time for them to strip things back and revert to basics; Parker can be key to that process.

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