Will Fulham go down as the worst defensive team in Premier League history?

Slavisa Jokanovic

Having conceded an average of one goal per game in the Championship last season, Fulham seemed well-equipped to deal with the defensive demands of the Premier League upon their return to the top flight.

However, 10 games into the 2018-19 season, Slavisa Jokanovic’s side have equalled the record for the most number of goals conceded (28) at this stage of a Premier League campaign.

They began the season in relatively decent form, picking up four points from their first four games, but they have since conceded at least three goals in matches against Manchester City, Everton, Cardiff and Arsenal.

Jokanovic even decided to change the goalkeeper for Saturday’s match against Bournemouth, with Sergio Rico replacing Marcus Bettinelli, but the Spaniard was unable to prevent another humbling 3-0 defeat at home.

So, will the newly promoted Cottagers stop the rot soon and get back on track? Or are they doomed for relegation after making one of their worst-ever starts to a season?

Let’s take a look at the only other five teams who have conceded 26+ goals in the first 10 games of a Premier League season to see if they improved as the campaign went on…

Swindon (1993-94): 26 goals conceded
Final position: 22nd, 100 goals conceded
John Gorman’s Swindon are considered to be one of the worst teams that the Premier League has ever seen. They failed to win any of their first 10 matches in 1993-94 — the only season they have ever spent in English football’s top flight — and they finished the campaign with a goals against tally of 100, which is a Premier League record that still stands to this day. Needless to say, they finished bottom of the 22-team table.

Derby (2000-01): 26 goals conceded
Final position: 17th, 59 goals conceded
Fulham can take inspiration from Derby’s 2000-01 mid-season resurgence. Jim Smith’s side spent 10 weeks in the relegation zone early on in the campaign before they had a drastic change of fortunes, keeping eight clean sheets in 11 games. They began shipping goals again towards the end of the season but they still did just enough to stay up.

Bolton (2011-12): 27 goals conceded
Final position: 18th, 77 goals conceded
In fairness to Bolton, managed by Owen Coyle in 2011-12, they faced five of the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ in the first two months of the season, so it was no surprise that they conceded 27 goals in 10 games. They had a brief revival towards the end of the campaign but they never fully recovered from their poor start, finishing 18th.

Barnsley (1997-98): 28 goals conceded
Final position: 19th, 82 goals conceded
Barnsley’s one and only season in the Premier League began with eight losses in their first 10 games, including hammerings from Chelsea (0-6) and Arsenal (0-5). Like Derby in 2000-01, they had a resurgence midway through the season. However, their leaky defence ultimately cost them and they ended the campaign in 19th place after spending the final 30 weeks of the season in the bottom three.

Southampton (2012-13): 28 goals conceded
Final position: 14th, 60 goals conceded
Fulham need look no further than 2012-13 Southampton for proof that a woeful defensive start to the season can be improved upon. After conceding 28 goals in their first 10 games, Saints only conceded 32 in their next 28 matches and ended up in 14th place. The bad news for Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic is that the improvement was largely thanks to a change of manager, with Nigel Adkins being replaced by Mauricio Pochettino in January 2013.

So, what have we learned here?

Derby and Southampton performed miracles to turn their seasons around, while Bolton and Barnsley both had good mid-to-late season spells but they couldn’t recover from bad starts. As for Swindon, the less said the better.

With fixtures coming up against Huddersfield (A), Liverpool (A) and Southampton (H), Fulham desperately need to get their act together.

If they don’t, it’s not unrealistic to think that they could become another Swindon.

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