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Mar 23, 2014

Miserable show at City

It's yet another confidence-shaking drubbing in this dreadful season for Fulham. Manchester City did not even need to be at their best to ruthlessly dispose of Felix Magath's men. Once again, when the Londoners are supposed to be straining every muscle and sinew to stay alive, the Whites served up another embarrassing performance for their followers. City won 5-0, and it could have been more. Fulham failed to register one shot on target.

For Game 5 of his tenure, Magath is still struggling to establish his best 11. This, to my mind, is the major difference from Roy Hodgson's philosophy in 2008 as he engineered the Great Escape part one. The sequel in 2014, I fear, is building to a different conclusion.

- Mooney: Toure stars, Negredo struggles continue

The optimists are quick to point out post-match that with all six teams above the Whites in the table also losing, Fulham are no worse off, and have the toughest game of the run-in now behind them. That is true, and nobody ever expected anything from this awayday.

However, all the underlying signs tell me this team remains in total disarray, and Magath's methods to date have made no difference to Fulham's inexorable decline. Club strategy has been muddled now for 18 months, from a time when the great benefactor Mohamed al-Fayed was quietly planning his exit strategy.

Just like the BBC, Fulham's own football institution by the Thames lost focus. There was internal doubt and decay, an erosion of purpose and confidence. Muddled thinking under pressure brings even the biggest of enterprises to meltdown.

What slim chances Fulham had on the field on Saturday of carrying off this blogger's blueprint for mounting a rearguard action and playing for a point were blown away the moment the team lineup was announced.

For all his achievements in the Bundesliga, Felix flunked it big time. How does any top-line manager envisage going to Man City and giving them a game when Fernando Amorebieta and John Arne Riise are picked in defence, your one creative player sits on the bench and the line is led by a 19-year-old rookie still looking for a goal in the Premier League?

Don't blame Sascha Riether for failing to bury that header from Kieran Richardson's inviting cross. He's a full-back, not a striker. I thought all footballers were best in their natural positions -- but what do I know, Felix? You're the expert with every honour in the game on your CV.

Amorebieta's positional play has been weak all season. His decision-making is appalling. He allows Alvaro Negredo to get goal side of him and as a consequence any hint of body contact invites the shout for a penalty. For 25 minutes Fulham were in the game, and with a touch more composure in front of goal would have been ahead. Once Amorebieta sees red for the second idiotic challenge in the box the game is over. The Spanish import should be first out the door come May.

No point in beating ourselves up over being played off the park yet again. The ethos in writing a regular column on the same topic is to look beyond the facts seeking fresh angles and insights. Otherwise Phil Mison might as well be whistling in the wind.

All three managers and their support teams have consistently failed to come up with answers since August. Are they to blame or is it simply that the players are not good enough? Results from the past 18 months will tell you that at Fulham it has to be the latter.

Pre-match we had team captain Brede Hangeland telling us the gaffer was working the players harder than ever before. There were more training sessions and less time off. Some players were fine with it, others less so. The squad had finally "woken up" to the fact they were in real trouble. Fans were urged to "still believe" and stick behind the lads.

So what does Magath make of the performance at the Etihad? "This team only seems capable of playing for 60 minutes. It is unacceptable the way we lost belief in ourselves after the second goal."

Mistake has been heaped on mistake in this season of despair. It began with the hubris of Martin Jol, sadly in denial for far too long over his ability to assemble a decent team. How to explain the methods of Rene Meulensteen, consolidating a side that then concedes six in one half at Hull, wins at Norwich, only to ship four at home to Sunderland before curling up like limp cabbage in the Cup?

As the walls come tumbling down it is the board, of course, who ultimately must answer to owner Shad Khan. Like all journalists I file my work, ever prepared to defend my position.

I noted last week my blog from our very first home game of the season against Arsenal stated this Fulham team was not good enough. Like every other supporter, we looked to the January window for the club to put things right. The club chairman did his bit by fronting up the money. Now refer to this quote from Meulensteen at the start of January, regarding a bid for Ravel Morrison: "He would add pace, power, unpredictability and a real attacking threat."

So my question to you is, while Morrison was scoring yet again for QPR on Saturday, why are Fulham still working on Kostas Mitroglou's damaged knee seven weeks after the Greek signed, for far more than the Hammers wanted for Ravel, and asking a 19-year-old to carry the fight to possibly the best side in the Premier League?

Seven games to go and Fulham need five wins. Given the goal difference, 37 points won't be enough.

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