This year there were 918 shots in games Fulham played, 24 per game.
Last year there were 826, 22 per game.
In 2010/11 home encounters with Man Utd, City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal there were 30, 20, 35, 26, 22 shots (133 in total). Away to these teams we saw 28, 25, 24, 23 and 26 (126).
Last year 26, 24, 16, 16 and 32 at home (114), 41 (33 to 8 for Utd! Ow), 31 , 21, 20, 21 away (134).
Does this show us anything?
Probably not, but I’ll be interested to see where it takes us next year. If you look at the results under Hodgson and Hughes a position could be taken that under Hodgson we were better against the big teams but not as good against the bad ones. Under Hughes we have struggled against better teams than us, but beaten those inferior to us.
It’s not hard to take a guess at why this might be. By closing a game there are fewer chances, fewer opportunities for the best teams to prove their superiority. Think about it: if Fulham play Manchester United in a game lasting two minutes they have a very good chance of getting something from the game. If Fulham play United in a game lasting for five hours then the chances are United will prevail. Equally, if each team has two penalty kicks the weaker has a good chance of taking something; if each team has 500 penalties you’d expect the stronger side to prevail easily.
You can achieve the same effect in a 90 minute game by either playing an open or closed game. Blackpool played a massively open game this year, the effect being (beyond that of surprise) that they were challenging opponents head on: in these games the best team is likely to prevail because there are more goal chances to prove this (had Blackpool stayed up this year I’m convinced they’d have gone down by a spectacular margin next). In closed games the opposite is true: if there are few chances, the weaker side has a better chance of coming out on top.
It was a frustration under Hodgson that we didn’t open up against weaker sides and give ourselves a better chance of beating them, especially away from home, and I think this has been a big improvement under Hughes. Against that, the open approach against the bigger clubs seems to be ceding the Hodgson advantage, leaving us more or less where we started.
The numbers above don’t necessarily bear out the above as happening, but I think it is, to a degree.