The Christmas season is in some ways a turning point in a footballing year. A good couple of weeks (crammed with games) can certainly be the difference between relegation and a relatively comfortably end of the season, and my five strugglers went in distinctly different directions over the holidays.
Fulham are looking more realistic survivors, for example, while Metz go from strength to strength compared to expectations. Elche and Arminia Bielefeld, though, have slipped into trouble. It’s back to normality this week instead of the big round ups. Here’s how it went down…
Fulham 18th, 1-1 away to Tottenham
Fulham drew their fifth game on the trot away to Tottenham, and it’s kind of working for them, as they slowly but surely close the gap in Burnley and Brighton ahead of them with games in hand, too.
In truth, Tottenham should really have been out of sight in this one, with Kane putting them ahead after numerous decent chances. Spurs have that very Mourinho habit of trying to sit on leads, though, and they did it again here. By the time Fulham got level with 15 to go, they deserved it. A 2-0 away win to QPR in the cup won’t do confidence any harm, either.
Week 9 of the season, and my oddball selection of sides have hit a relegation market, a collective 40 points, Sure, that’s not going to keep any one of them up individually, but it’s all going surprisingly well so far, with no sides at all in the drop zone.
That said, on some fronts the strain is starting to show. Here’s the latest ahead of the international break…
Bundesliga: Arminia Bielefeld (5/6 on to be relegated) 0-5 away to Union Berlin
A confession: Union Berlin are a side I have a real soft spot for, having seen them live before they were anywhere near the Bundesliga, and taken a liking to the political activism of their fans. I’ve committed myself to Arminia for the season, though, and this particular loss is a terrible sign.
Arminia had been on a bad run, but against good sides, which makes it somewhat excusable before now, but this was a real thrashing. Union were two up in a little over a quarter of an hour, and Bielefeld didn’t create anything in the whole game even worthy of the highlights reel.
They’re still outside the drop zone. Just, thanks to the three sides in the Bundesliga yet to grab even one win.
This is starting, just a little, to liven up. With the final European seasons on the horizon, I now have four confirmed teams to follows, though as of yet only two have actually kicked a competitive league ball. Here’s who the odds have chosen as my sides for the season (see here), and how Fulham and FC Metz did last weekend…
Premier League: Fulham (evens to go down) 0-3 v Arsenal at home (league game one)
Day one, and Fulham, who the fairly ungenerous bookies had at evens to go down on the opening day of the season, get hammered at home by Arsenal. To be fair, the way the Premier League is at this stage, getting any points at all from the top few clubs when you’re hanging at the bottom is a bonus (hell, Villa got nothing worth mentioning out of the top half until the final few games last year, and still stayed up).
Fulham will clearly be better up-front with the return of Mitrovic, who made a brief late appearance here. He’s a bit of a battering ram but a damn effective one who I expect to finish the season with a good 15 goals. Worryingly, it’s the defence that looks shaky at the moment; the first two goals were scrambly type efforts that Arsenal got the better and suggest this Fulham team might not be quite scrappy enough – Arsenal aren’t exactly known for their fight (the third from Aubangayang was quality). It’s early days, but it could be a long, long season for Fulham, and there’s little to inspire here.