With the benefit of hindsight…
The midfield issue
Injured Murphy + growing realisation that teams can stop him and stop us + Wolves impressive midfield work = dodgy performance.
Murphy’s legs will go, but it’s as much the team’s problem as his. That’s why I liked Sidwell coming on and smashing things around a bit. This ought, in theory, buy more space and time for Murphy. It’s easy to say that Sidwell didn’t offer a great deal beyond energy, but a) we needed that energy and b) we needed to compete in the middle of the pitch. If you check the Guardian chalkboards Wolves won shed loads of tackles in the corridor between their own penalty area and the centre-circle. Fulham won about three in this area. But Sidwell did win five tackles in the second half. Murphy didn’t win any all game, which is unlike him and surely a result of his injury.
Dickson Etuhu looked quite good, keeping the ball, seeing lots of it, and adopting what looked like a slightly left-leaning position on the field. He was unfortunate to be substituted, and in retrospect perhaps Murphy should have given way.
I’m guessing Kasami was injured, but the switch for Dembele certainly helped. Kasami’s time will come, but he did look a bit lost in the first half. Duff – who’s been in lively form this season – was relatively quiet.
The defensive issue
I think Jol’s making a mistake here. You really do need a good reason to break up the team’s best ever central defensive pairing, and I don’t think Phillippe Senderos, impressive as he has been, is a good enough reason. Hughes and Hangeland know each other inside out, have perfected their partnership and are the pillar on which the whole team is built (with Schwarzer behind). Senderos has been very good individually, but I’m concerned that the team’s play has been compromised. Added to which, Hughes has clearly shown that he’s a better centre-back than right-back. His distribution has always been poor – those floated balls into the channels are about the sum of it – and this is only accentuated at right-back. Fine, Jol might not like the look of Chris Baird, but as a new manager he surely has a duty to familiarise himself with what we did last season when Baird was so successful. In some ways it’s nice that a new manager feels able to make tough decisions, but in this case it flies in the face of sensible thinking. Put another way, what can the justification for the switch be? Baird is clearly better with the ball – this can’t reasonably be disputed – and arguably no worse as a defensive right-back. It doesn’t make sense.
Zamora supposedly told Tony Gale before kick-off that he was fine to play so lord knows what’s going on there. Did I also hear that Clint Dempsey had had back spasms before kick-off? We had nothing up there. Dempsey nearly converted a rebound after AJ had shot at the keeper when well placed, but otherwise the front pairing was non-existent. If the midfield breaks down, if the full-backs don’t give you thrust and width, forwards will suffer, especially away from home. We’d have been better off withdrawing one of them and trying to win the midfield war, then using that as a platform from which to build.