Open up

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.

6 thoughts on “Open up

  1. Which all begs the question – why not play an open game against poor teams and a closed game against the good teams? I understand that there will need to be different players to suit each situation but thats what a squad is for.

    1. exactly. I’m sure we do this to a degree. Sam Allardyce did this a lot, slowing the game right down, delaying everything he could delay, stop-start, etc. IF the game is effectively 80 minutes long his team has a better chance against better sides. Not fun to watch but it got him results.

    2. It sounds good, but I don’t know how feasible this is to do to a large extent. When Roy came on board in the middle of 2007-08, it took a month of (presumably) intense preparation before the team got its first positive results (the draw with Bolton and the win over Villa on the Bullard goal), but really more like three months before finding any sustained success. Now, obviously with a full preseason under a manager the players can be better prepared, but I think there’s a good chance you dull the effectiveness of a regimented system like the one Roy instilled if the players are spending half of their training time doing something else.

  2. your analysis of all the facts and figures is quite impressive – if I only knew what it all meant!! Personally I go to the Cottage to see my favourite team play football the way it should be played and it’s great to see them win whatever the opposition, but then I’m a simple soul and I’ve only followed FFC since 1939! But one cannot help making comparisons with the Haynes, Jezzard, Tosh Chamberlain, Cohen, Strong, Ronnie Rooke (how many remember him?) Len Quested, et al, teams whatever division we were in did not matter, but then we stood on terracing made up of railway sleepers and ash cinders, and you stood with half-a-dozen mates next to half-a-dozen away supporters and the only thing thrown were craik remarks – but then I am now 80 years old!!!

  3. Regarding Blackpool in particular, I totally agree with that sentiment. I have to admit being a bit relieved that they did go down in the end this year because I seriously think they’d have set a new Premier League record for fewest points if they stayed up (well, I guess Pompey’s record from last year could still be worse, but the point still holds if you leave out point deductions for insolvency). It was a fun team to watch, particularly early in the year, but they just didn’t have the guns in the end. Actually, I think that one of the cooler aspects of promotion and relegation is that teams with relatively small bases of support can come up for a year or two, do their thing, and then go back to a competitive level. In American baseball, to contrast, there are Man United teams like the Yankees and Red Sox but on the other end of the spectrum there are fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates who are adults and who have never seen the team win more than they lost.

    Speaking of American sports, please pardon me some more but in retrospect it looks like Roy Hodgson’s best comp in NBA terms wasn’t exactly Phil Jackson (of the Bulls and Lakers) or Pat Reilly (of the Lakers and Heat) but Mike Fratello. Back in the 90s, Fratello took over an underpowered Cleveland Cavaliers team and basically had them stall as much as is humanly possible in basketball. In a league which still, at least at the beginning of his term there, saw teams average more than 100 points a night, the Cavs averaged in the upper 80s and low 90s, and sometimes finished games with scores like 70-66. It was all pretty boring but it did keep the Cavs right close to .500. The problem was, as the team got more talented, Fratello kept the snail’s pace, and the Cavs never were able to get over the playoff hump.

    Anyway, my point here is that maybe Hodgson ultimately did the Cottagers a favor by leaving for Liverpool last year. He was a great guy for the situation the team found itself in when he came aboard, but they’re not in that situation anymore and unfortunately he doesn’t seem geared to change his style for the situation at hand.

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