About this time year ago, practically to the date, Fulham labored to a 1-0 win over Portsmouth. After a horrid January that saw many losses and injuries to several first-team squad members, the win over Pompey began an unbeaten run that lasted until mid-March.
Yesterday’s result occurred in the midst of a good patch of form — only two losses in 7, both 1-0 away to Spurs and Pool. But, we can still hope it spurs a similar run like we saw last year.
Anywho, yesterday confirmed to me the big difference between Steve Sidwell and Dickson Etuhu. I’ve posted last night’s passing chart from Sidwell and Etuhu’s performance against West Brom (his last full 90). It’s not so much the passing completion percentage, of which Etuhu dominates, but the location of where each player receives and then passes the ball that we should pay attention to.
I don’t really have any video or other footage to prove my point, but watching Sidwell play the ball is like watching a baton exchange during a relay race. During the exchange, the racer without the baton often runs a few strides with his team-mate before the baton-holder passes it to him/her. Likewise, Sidwell runs with the ball for a few paces before making his first touch. It’s not that he doesn’t go to the ball, or let the ball come to him (every youth coach’s nightmare), but he tries to make the defender commit before making a touch. Sometimes this works, sometimes it ends poorly (as evidenced in the low completion rate).
Compare that with Etuhu. In comparison, he’s a bit more static. Now, it must be said we’ve seen Etuhu come out of his shell going forward this season. But Dickson often uses his massive frame to block opponents attacks, and then quickly distribute to (usually) Murphy or Hangeland. It’s not a knock against him, but he’s playing to his strength — much like Sidwell or any other footballer. He may not spray a ‘killer’ ball, but you can’t get the ball off him.
What this means for either, or our starting midfield as a whole, I’m not too sure. Sidwell offers us a little bit more fluidity, but Etuhu keeps shape.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Etuhu returns in a few weeks time.