Fulham 6-0 Port Vale

The heavens opened over South West 6 tonight but the football was divine.  Port Vale are clearly not a wet weather team, but this was like watching Muhammad Ali sparring with a stuffed bear: “If the pitch gets slick I’ll hit them for six”…

It was brilliant to watch, for all kinds of reasons.  First, the resurrection of Matthew Briggs, who is going to need first team football sooner or later, and got a chance to show what he could do tonight.  This is unfortunate for Paul Konchesky fans (Liverpool bound, then?), but nice for Briggs.  Indeed, the first five minutes seemed to be all about giving him ‘early touches’, Murphy in particular doing the captainly thing and bringing the youngster into the game whenever he could.  And it wasn’t long before Briggs made a serious contribution, laying on one of the better goals we’ll see at the Cottage this season.

Damien Duff spied acres of unguarded green grass on the left wing and switched play accordingly.  There was one man on the field who could keep Duff’s pass in, and sure enough Briggs retrieved the ball and whipped a wondrous high ball into the area, at which point Zoltan Gera hurtled through space and thumped home with a falling header, getting a boot in the face in so doing.   It was an extraordinary goal, with immense credit to all three players.

Moussa Dembele, making his first start, made it two.  Showing tremendous control and a delicious sense of.. time? (the old adage about great sportsmen never rushing springs to mind).. Dembele wandered infield and smacked a low drive into the very bottom corner of the Vale net from the edge of the box.   Sad to say, but he looks like the player we all hoped Clint Dempsey might be (and I say this as a huge Dempsey fan); he looks absolutely brilliant really.

The third came from Briggs again, his pass infield dummied by Zamora, picked up by Gera whose angled pass set Zamora free in the area.  A cross was on, but instead Zamora whacked a shot into the top corner.  Extraordinary pace to the move, beautifully done.

Zamora teed up Gera for a fourth, the latter given time to control and swivel and shoot home off the bar.  A nice goal, again.

The second half saw things calm down slightly.  Zamora made it five with a free-kick, then Dempsey six with a humming drive from the edge of the area.

Dempsey had six or seven shots at goal and appears to be trying a bit too hard.  He’s a good player but is again having to force his way into the side at the start of the season.   His has been a strange stint, our longest serving player, scorer of several vital goals without which life would have been much less interesting at Craven Cottage, but still he is somehow not entirely at home.   An attempted reprisal of “that chip” was (as Jamie suggested to me) almost a cry for help:  “see what I can do; remember what I did“.   When he eventually scored he ran towards the bench where his friend Eddie Johnson was waiting.

25 thoughts on “Fulham 6-0 Port Vale

  1. I have to say, whether you’re a Dempsey fan or not, calling an attempt to chip the goalkeeper “almost a cry for help” is a cheap shot. Surely any Fulham fan without severe brain damage DOES remember what he did vs Juventus, and it seems weird and inconsistent with everything we know of him personally to attribute to him some pathetic need for validation. His game is low percentage and often frustrating and Hughes doesn’t seem to think he’s a starter, which is fair enough, but I for one could do without the speculative psychology.

    1. I agree that this is a little bit of a cheap shot. Clint has said that if he comes on as a sub, he’s going to shoot. I didn’t see the game, so I don’t know the quality of the shots. I did think he provided a nice offensive spark on Sunday. Some cheeky passes that almost led to goals. I did think some of his shots were forced, but I figured that it was the first game and you might as well get sighted in. Also some nice defense from him

    2. Cool, do without it. The point was that since that golden goal things haven’t gone his way and this effort served to underline that. It wasn’t literally a cry for help, any more than this was literally like watching Muhammad Ali fight a dead bear.

      1. Completely agree. Clint’s a weird one. He’s a guy you’d want on your side in a scrap. When backs are against the wall, he’s the guy you want. He won’t give up, he’ll out hustle his opponent and he’ll make opportunities that others don’t.

        In a run-of-the-mill game, where it’s not a battle, he just seems to go through the motions. He doesn’t work as hard without the ball. He just plays differently.

        I like Clint. He changes games and creates from nothing, but he lacks discipline. Oh, and he seems to have come back from preseason pretty fat.

        1. Your first para sums up Clint well, but the following amendments are nowadays required, none of which reflect on the man himself. He is “one of several guys you’d want”, etc. and the paragraph should nowadays end at “opportunities.” No change implied in Clint, it’s just he’s been joined on the podium.

          They will all by the nature of things fade in and out of form and fitness — just hope that they all stick around at Fulham for the purpose.

      2. I’ve read that sentence three time and it still looks like “watching Mohamed Al-Fayed fight a dead bear”.

        Now I literally would like to see that.

      3. Completely agree with you here. He looks really punchy and miserable. And there’s nothing cheap about saying that he looks like he’s hoping for something miraculous to turn everyone’s heads, in light of new additions.

        You have to remember that Dempsey came to us in Jan 2007, after playing a full season in America. He had that summer off — I think — but since then it’s been pretty much full on and he’s probably had less time off than any player in our squad.

        I’m about to go on my first holiday for 9 months, after putting no less than 70-80 hours a week, every week over the last 3, and still working my tail off in the others. I’m utterly shagged, completely incapable of bringing a positive attitude to a job I really like. And frankly the quality of my work-product is significantly under par at the moment. I know it is, and I know why. But whenever I put pen to paper I’m desperately hoping for some inspiration that will help me turn the corner. The fact is, nothing will put a good break.

  2. Great night out. We’d only just taken our seats, having failed to leave the pub with anything like enough time to make the walk through Bishop’s Park in time, to see Briggs accelerate down the left flank, retrieve a pass it seemed he had no chance of claiming and then pinging a perfect cross that was crying out to be buried in the back of the net. Gera still did very well to reach it and was man enough to take a boot in the face.

    I agree with what you say about Dempsey but we really need to find a way to include him in the first eleven. He’s a player that finds that bit of magic to win you games and I think it would be a massive shame to see him move on because of lack of playing time with us.

  3. I really enjoyed tonight. I was never worried about us getting a result, the team seemed almost to be on auto-pilot, doing everything correctly and quickly. Port vale looked lost, they didn’t know what hit them. I was saying to my friend at half time: ‘what does Micky say to a team after a first half like that?’. They didnt play poorly, they just never really had a chance.

    The Dempsey conundrum rears its ugly head once more. He looked much better tonight than on sunday, although that was probably more down to the quality of the opposition than anything else. I think Dembele is going to seal his place as the man behind Bobby and I don’t think that we will be getting in another striker before the window closes. I am a fan of the one up top as it gives us much more tactical flexibility, plus the two wingers are told to tuck in and support Bobby when they dont have the ball which makes it some sort of 4-3-3/4-4-1-1 variant that is very pleasing. Dempsey will get his chance when injury strikes, I am sure it will not be long before Davies or Duff goes down. Funnily enough when just before Dempsey’s chip I shouted ‘chip it’, so when he did, several people chuckled around me.

  4. This is far from the first cup game attended in which we ought to have pummelled the opposition through our superior class, and the first in which we have actually done so decisively. We were absolutely superb, and even allowing for the opposition one has to be impressed and excited.

    With Dembele added to the mix, of the standard at least of our other attack-minded players, there is no end to the number of permutations that can be made in that respect…..except when it comes to substituting for Bobby. Elm again didn’t make the bench and can be inferred to be factored out.

    Nice to see Clint smile when he scored — the first time I’ve noticed him do that for some time. He has even stiffer competition now, and that’s all to the good from a spectator’s point of view if all parties can be kept on board.

  5. Can’t wait to see the highlights of this performance. Sounds like some terrific stuff.

    Petty correction here, but I’m pretty sure that Davies is our longest serving player rather than Dempsey.

  6. Welcome, welcome Matthew Briggs, few would have bothered to chase that ball – he did and created a precision cross for Gera’s brave header. Several other good crosses. Mighty promising.

    A word for Vale fans who marched down Finlay Street in full song “The Vale are going UP” soaked to the skin and six goals down they made a brave show. I was too cold and wet to applaud but I do so here.

    Now to pack for Blackpool and a seaside trip down memory lane for Mr and Mrs Pensioner. IVOR’s first goal for Fu;ham? Some words with Sir Stanley and Reginald Dixon? See you all there.

  7. I thought it was an absolute masterclass. A delight to watch.

    Hodgson would have picked a mostly reserve team that probably would have won but last night will stay in the memory and I think we’ll see much more of the same this season.

    Dembele has everything including, it seems, the right attitude. A wonderfully exciting player.

    He IS competing with Dempsey of course but actually with Gera, Davies and Duff we have 5 very good and equivalent players competing for 3 places and there seems no good reason why they can’t share out the time and thus keep fresh.

    To stay at his best Dempsey seems to need a challenge. I doubt that it’s a coincidence that his goal against Juventus was after coming off the bench. Every season he fights for his place yet after winning it the performance level slightly lowers. I hope he stays and fights for playing time.

    1. Of the five you mention, we already know that four can play in more than one position and it’s pretty clear that Dembele can too, so the potential arising is awesome in terms of flexibility — and watchability.

      We go decades without having a single offensive player of that quality and suddenly there are (including BZ) six. And AJ still to add to the mix, something different again. We shall be in danger of turning into one of Europe’s most attractive sides.

      1. I think this is the number one thing: Fulham can become one of Fulham’s most incisive attacking sides, which is a joy.

        The only limitations I see to our attacking side come from the back up (in an attacking sense) for Etuhu and Murphy.

        I would also echo rjbiii’s comment: form comes and goes. It’s a long season. People will get injured. Moreover, a lot of our players will have the weariness of international duty, and this will make them lose and gain success.

        Another thing to consider: Mark Hughes has demonstrated in his short time here a much greater willingness to rotate 2-3 players per game. If you look to the last comparable season to Hodgson, in terms of games played, 08-09, Hodgson had nowhere near as many changes in such a short time (despite having 5 out of the 7 players mentioned above, plus potentially more subs in the midfield, Bullard, Andreasen,etc.). The point, I think, is that all of the above 6 (excluding AJ)shall get ample opportunities to play because we have a good number of players from an attacking point of view.

        1. Agree with all of this. I think the key question here is whether Dembele can do a decent job of subbing for Zamora. We know that none of the others can and I worry that if we have to get another attacker in we’d disrupt a nicely balanced attacking unit — both in terms of playing time and player morale. If Dembele can play for Zamora when he needs a rest or is injured, then we’ve got a great balance and everyone will get their share of games.

  8. Didn’t see the game but some interesting points come out of it.

    Dembele: Impressed with his cameo against Man U and think he will be fantastic for us, especially in tandem with Zamora.

    Dempsey: I understand all the coments above. If we were to lose him it would be a shame, but not the end of the world. What an asset to have as an occasional starter/bench player though, provided he doesn’t lose heart.

    Gera: If he has to play wide midfield I think he’s much happier on the right.

    Briggs: Thought centre back was his prefered position. Is he a good enough left back to be first reserve in that position? If so he and Chris Baird could provide bench cover for defensive midfield and all the back four positions.

    All in all, many reasons to be cheerful.

  9. Agree with everything that’s been said so far. I really hope we can make a push for the Carling Cup this year. It’s a trophy we have a realistic chance of winning, and I think Sparky knows that too. He’s probably targeted the final so that he can appear to have matched last season’s heroics in the eyes of the fans.

    1. Some points to add to your debate Rich:

      Dempsey is one of only 15 players who has scored 6+ goals for each of the last three seasons in the Premier League.

      Davies has himself said (as of last year) he thinks Clint is the most technically gifted player at the club.

      Davies has scored 12 fewer goals than Clint in 10 fewer games in the same time at the club (an indication potentially of his injury troubles).

      Davies has 17 assists in premier league play v. Clint’s 8. 8 of these, though came in 2007-2008 when Simon had a career year. Otherwise throughout his career he averages about 2 goals and 5-6 assists in a season, i.e. 8 goals added a season. Clint aside from his first year, averages around 9-10 goals a season. So I would not say that Davies is a more consistent stat producer.

      I would say, though, that you are right: Davies is a more consistent cog. He will not be the point at which an attack ends (provided he’s not playing injured) the way Clint will when he tries to do something unexpected (does this frequently in a game, often not pulling it off). In our current set-up with some very talented attacking players, this may be more useful and what the coach wants.

      Another thing to think about: Clint is 4 years younger than Simon. That’s not insignificant. While, I think Simon will continue his great play, there is a chance that over the course of the season he will not play anywhere near as well because he can’t take the wear and tear. I personally think this will impact Duff, also 31, in the same way.

      That is why, I believe, Hughes is rotating much more than Hodgson. I think he both is partial to playing lots of players, and he is aware of the aging of the squad (Dembele is the youngest of the regulars, Clint the next, and then Dickson at 28).

      Honestly, what I hope is that Fulham scores 50+ goals this year, because if we do I think we’ll be top 6. You could pretty easily break this down into the 6 excellent attacking players we have: Bobby, Gera, Clint, Simon, Duff, and Dembele, plus the odd goal here and there from other squad members (Murphy and Etuhu included). If I have a goal for this season, that would be it: break 50 goals. Last year we scored 43 or so, so it means 7 more goals, and without Europe, I can totally see this happening, especially away.

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