If you look at the league table how many teams would actually say they’ve had a good season?
Then ask the same question for “not big” teams.
There are two: West Bromwich Albion, who had a good year but also a big striker on loan from Chelsea; Swansea, who have made some very clever moves in the transfer market and are generally admired throughout the land.
That’s it. Everyone else is more or less in the relegation mix, or would be were it not for three measly points.
Is this what happens when the rich get too rich?
Are Fulham just one of many clubs finding this out the hard way?
Are we – gasp! – really not that bad?
Goals change games, don’t they? Take the three goals away and you might call it an evenish contest. But of course you can’t take the three goals away, much as you might like to.
What a farce they all were. Sandro, dawdling just inside his own half, decides to have a dig. You’d say it was an insult to Mark Schwarzer, except the shot went in, swerving nastily and hopping over his hands. But even so. If David Stockdale had let that in it’d be proof that he’s not ready. I don’t know what it says about Schwarzer but I suspect there’s a reason you don’t see that many goalkeepers keep playing towards 40 odd. It feels a bit wrong criticising Schwarzer, as good a goalkeeper as Fulham will ever have, but this is part of the problem with playing a player to such an advanced age. When is a mistake just a mistake? When is it a sign of fading powers?
Bad became worse when Sigurdsson thoroughly fooled Philippe Senderos on the edge of the area and teed up Defoe for the sort of chance he lives on. Then Dempsey threaded a ball through our zig-zagged offside trap, Senderos again found himself partly playing offside, partly trying to intercept the ball, and of course he did neither and Spurs had a third. You could see the frustration in the big defender, and I felt for him: he hasn’t deserved the negativity his play sometimes attracts, but when he does make a mistake it’s proof that the naysayers were right all along. When you look at his Fulham career he has generally done well, and our results haven’t been any worse with him than without him, but once people make up their minds… in any case, he had a bit of a disaster today.
Other things: Gareth Bale annoyed me. After throwing himself over a tackle he got a yellow card. He then sarcastically clapped the referee. Certainly it would be harsh to send someone off for two consecutive minor misdemeanors, but if taking the piss out of the referee isn’t a bookable offence I’m a dutchman. Bale’s not nearly as good as he thinks he is and today did a very good impression of an arrogant prick.
Clint Dempsey had a quiet game and got a bit of stick from the crowd. He might have scored a couple of times but it didn’t quite happen for him, just as it never quite happened for him while he was at Fulham when he didn’t crash the area. Spurs seem to be using him as a second striker but he never got into the dangerous areas he needs to get into. The other former Fulham player, Mousa Dembele, had an understated but excellent game.
It’s hard to judge the Fulham effort because of the scoreline. Without those three mistakes we were more or less at the races in a tight and fitfully absorbing game. With that in mind perhaps you have to give some credit to the players, except… why were we playing so many long balls? What did we hope to achieve? It was enfuriating. We either won the header, in which case Spurs got the second ball, or we didn’t, and Spurs get the ball anyway. Why so many aimless hoofs? Nobody wanted the ball at the back because Spurs pressed quite well, but something was missing. Ruiz, mainly, but the team seemed to lack a bit of cohesion, partly because of Spurs’ smothering defensive work, but it felt like more than that.
Petric, for instance – a player I like a lot – seems to need a bit more approach work around him, otherwise he looks far too isolated. Berbatov played well but is perhaps trying to do too much and therefore perhaps not always where you need him to be. Dejagah shows promise, Frei the same (although he HAs to be more aggressive in his running!) Sidwell had a strong game, Diarra, too, but… no, this isn’t right, Spurs were pretty good.
We didn’t deserve to lose 3-0 but these things happen when you make mistakes against good teams.
In retrospect, we shouldn’t be surprised that two teams fielding three defensive midfielders each would get a bore draw on a cold night in West London. Both teams battled in a rather fruitless affair and Fulham could have snatched all three points, conjuring up the best chances in the second half.
Fulham lined up in a hybrid 4-3-3/4-5-1/4-2-3-1 with a defensive bent to counteract a potent Chelsea team, who up until recently, had been scoring with ease in the league. A midfield trio of Diarra, Sidwell and Karagounis did the water carrying, but a lack of creative midfield spark left Berbatov stranded up top for most of the first half, as Chelsea controlled possession but could not find a way past the resolute Fulham defence.
In the second half, the game opened up slightly. A fantastic ball over the top of the Chelsea defence by the hard working Karagounis found an onrushing Riise who managed to fluff a relatively simple chance and weakly push the ball into Petr Cech’s arms. Changes were made to both sides which saw the game open up further, but unfortunately the quality of the game did not follow the games upward trajectory.
Kerim Frei did add some pace, ingenuity and danger to the left flank that Fulham had been missing, and he made several good runs, but a lack of match sharpness was clear. His passing was poor when he got himself into good positions. Despite this, he did lay off a good pass on the edge of the area to Riise, who hit a rasping shot which tested Cech and brought a corner.
As the game came to a close, there were a few late penalty area scrambles but nothing came of them and the game finished goalless.
All in all, a good away point at a top 4 side. Fulham could have grabbed all three and despite the dullness of the match, it felt like a reassuring hug from a Fulham team reminding us that they still can defend when needed. The defensive performance was superlative and Hughes and Senderos put in a performance which will hopefully wake Brede from the slumber he has been in all season. With a resurgent Spurs side up next (damn you Moussa!) it was important for Fulham to get more points on the board and prevent a potential run of four straight defeats.