Will Fulham retain their Premier League status this year?

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Fulham's victory against West Bromwich Albion on New Year's Day was only their second win in the last 13 Premier League matches.

Martin Jol's team is currently 13th in the table and are only six points above the dreaded relegation zone. When the season started the Cottagers held ambitions to rise and challenge for the Europa League spots.

After the summer acquisition of Dimitar Berbatov, seeing him play alongside Bryan Ruiz seemed like an exciting prospect for the Fulham fans. But the truth is, while these flair players, may look very attractive when in full flow, they do need others who can provide them services from the midfield.

Other than Steve Sidwell and Mohamadou Diarra, there is no great physical presence in the middle of the park. They miss someone like Moussa Dembele who used to give them a Patrick Viera-like presence in midfield.


Fulham also have the unwanted record of having the oldest squad in this Premier League season with an average age over 27, which should not come as a surprise seeing their lack of attacking spark.

Also, being the oldest squad, the regularity of injury also increases. Ruiz, Diarra, Sidwell and Damien Duff have all been sidelined this season, which has not helped Fulham's cause.

The departure of some of Fulham's best players in the summer has also hit them hard. Players like Dembele, Clint Dempsey and Danny Murphy, who were their lynchpins last season have all left for greener pastures. Since they have left, Jol has been forced to play with a 4-4-2 formation and not 4-3-3, which is his preferred system.

Also, their away form has been dismal. They have won only two of their away matches with half the season gone.

The winter transfer window is an important phase of time for them. They will have to strengthen their squad urgently, with a goalkeeper on top of their minds. Mark Schwarzer, 40, has been out with a neck injury for the past two matches and second choice keeper, David Stockdale is just not good enough.

Schwarzer, himself has not been his reliable old self this season which can be reiterated by the poor defensive record of the team this season. Having conceded 37 goals, they have the sixth worst defensive record in the league. Keeping this in mind, a new goalkeeper should be on top of Jol's January wishlist. He has already made a move for highly regarded Molde defender Vegard Forren, but seems likely to face competition from both Everton and Sunderland.

But, all is not bad in the Fulham camp. The return of Ruiz from injury in the last match, certainly seemed to have lifted the spirits of the players. Jol, for one, certainly finds him to be very "influential" and thinks him to be the key for Fulham's survival hopes.

When Ruiz was out of action, we often saw Berbatov dropping down almost to the midfield trying to orchestrate attacks, which he even managed to do successfully to an extent, but if you are a Fulham fan, that is not somewhere where you would like your best striker to be playing.

With the return of Ruiz in the last couple of matches, he has dropped down, which has left Berbatov free to wander in the penalty box and do what he does best. When fit, this strike partnership can create havoc to organised defences and Fulham fans should pray that the injury timeout for Ruiz is done for the rest of the season.

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