While it’s very much glitz and glamour on one side of West London, for those at Craven Cottage it is much removed. Fulham are rapidly running out of time to retain their Premier League status for a second season.
Claudio Ranieri has just thirteen games left to save his team but the former Nice manager record so far in charge of the Cottagers would suggest they aren’t going to escape the drop.
Raniery, who was appointed in November after the club decided Slavisa Jokanovic was no longer the man for the job, has struggled to get any more out of the players than his predecessor. Indeed, just three wins in thirteen games suggests the Italian is fairing no better with their form being very much of a side destined for the Championship.
Much was expected of Fulham and Jokanovic after winning the play off final last year, playing an exciting, expansive brand of football which although needing to be tempered slightly to cope with Premier League football, should have produced better results even from the outset.
One of their biggest failures has been to pick up points from the clubs around them, a must for any club battling to keep their league status. The squad however is very short on Premier League experience and the window passed by with very little movement into the club meaning Ranieri will somehow have to use what he has at his disposal to reach that magical 40-point mark.
Whilst the Cottagers don’t fair too badly in scoring goals, Aleksandar Mitrovic top scoring with 10 and ably assisted by Andre Schurrle and Abou Kamara with 6 and 5 respectively, it’s at the back where the real problem lies with where only bottom of the table Huddersfield have a worse goal difference. Ranieri has to hope that his side start to tighten up at the back to take points off those around them and quickly, but that may means their only way to do so is to outscore the opposition
With the next test coming on Saturday as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer brings his resurgent Manchester United team to Craven Cottage, Ranieri then has almost a two week break before they take to the field facing West Ham in a London derby.
This period could be crucial for any injuries to clear up as they face Southampton less than a week after the trip to the London Stadium and whilst time has not yet ticked away, the Italian will be well aware that 23 points are still needed and only 17 have been gained all year.
And facing three of the top sides in March doesn’t make the job any easier. By the time Spring has sprung in April, Fulham might well be needing more than snookers to get themselves out of a hole. It would be interesting to see if Ranieri would follow Rafa Benitez and stay with the club following relegation.
Both managers are used to challenging at the right end of the table and in the top divisions of whichever country they happen to find themselves. Fulham may have to go down to come back again stronger with a team better equipped to survive a Premier League campaign, after all Ranieri proved smaller clubs can spark a surprise here and there, it remains to be seen if he can manage that again.