Blame AAU basketball, blame the one-and-done generation, blame whatever you want, but what cannot be argued is that there is an international wave taking over the NBA. Increasingly it seems like the best and most influential players in the NBA are from countries and regions outside of the U.S.
Far-Fetched Friday: Fulham Will Still Avoid Relegation
By: Jake Lofgren
With almost every Premier League club through about 23 games, mathematically, anything is still possible. For Fulham, they have been in the relegation zone since the season kicked off, and it does not look like they will get out soon. Fulham currently sits in 18th place with a measly fifteen points. They are eight points off Burnley and ten points off Newcastle/Brighton with a game in-hand.
Welcome back to Far-Fetched Friday, where every Friday we give you a bold prediction that we believe will come to fruition. This Friday, we look at a team that might need Ted Lasso.
If there is any hope for Fulham, it would be that Burnley and Newcastle both look like sides that could easily drop enough points to get Fulham back in it, and the two teams below Fulham (West Brom and Sheffield) both look as good as relegated already.
Fulham's situation is definitely worrisome, but there have been plenty of crazy relegation survival stories in the past.
Leicester City was at the bottom of the table during Christmas of 2014, and with ten games to go, they were seven points off safety. They defied the odds to stay up and then decided to do a whole lot more next season by winning the league.
West Ham in 2006/07 was rock bottom with ten games to go and ten points off of safety. They won seven of their next ten to climb themselves out of the relegation zone. Fulham is in a similar position as these clubs as they have been uninspiring all season, but at least Fulham still has time with fifteen games left on their schedule.
Although they didn't spend as much money, Fulham's transfer business after getting promoted reminded me a lot of Aston Villa. Bringing in a ton of new talented players and trying to get the team to gel immediately. Fulham bought some experienced Premier League players in Harriston Reed, Anthony Knockaert, and Mario Lemina.
They bought Kenny Tete who, played for a Champions League semi-finalist last season in Lyon, and Alphonse Areola, who has been a keeper at both PSG and Real Madrid. They bought two talented young fullbacks in Antonee Robinson and Ola Aina, who both easily look like Premier League quality players. Then took chances on a few loan deals from bigger clubs in Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ademola Lookman.
The talent in Fulham's squad is undeniable.
They may not have spent the 100 million Aston Villa did after entering the league, but the talent is on par. Similar to Aston Villa, Fulham has yet to really enter a flow this season. Depending on a lot of individual moments to keep them up. Luckily for Fulham, they have more talent than the teams around them at the table.
Fulham's squad on paper is better than the two teams below them in West Brom and Sheffield United, and then also more talented than Burnley and Newcastle ahead of them. Although Aston Villa looked down and out for a while last season, they still found a way to stay up and are now having a season nobody expected from them. I would go as far as to say if Fulham finds a way to stay up, and they replace some of their loans and make some more good business decisions, they could be next season's Aston Villa. They just simply have to stay up.
Another great way to track how well or unlucky a team is doing is to look at Expected Points. It measures the number of points a team can expect to get from game to game based on their Expected Goals that they create. It can often indicate how well a team is playing and if they are overperforming or underperforming. Right now, Fulham sits in 18th place in the actual table, but in the expected points table, Fulham is 17th with only one point off Newcastle and Crystal Palace.
Now I understand that does not sound like a big difference, but these things usually always find a way to even themselves out. Burnley currently sits in 17th place in the actual table but is all the way down in 19th place in the expected points table, making them the main target for Fulham to beat out. This means that Burnley is actually getting a bit more fortunate with results than they may have deserved.
Another good example of these things seeming to always work their way out is with Tottenham. They started the season on fire and were even on top around Christmas time, despite having very low expected points. This caused a lot of fans to question if they could keep over performing for the entirety of the season. Now only a few months later, they see themselves all the way back down in 8th place, and the crazy part is that expected points still have them even lower, which is in 10th. Meaning that these things can even themselves out very quickly, which is why I expect Fulham to start picking points up sooner rather than later.
With each performance from Fulham, they seem to get a little bit more comfortable. This season has been full of all sorts of unpredictable twists and turns, so why can't Fulham climb out of the bottom three right at the end?
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