Fulham 1-1 Blackburn

Quite a fun game in the end, but our relatively easy start of Villa-Wolves-Newcastle-Blackburn hasn’t left us overflowing with points and until given evidence to the contrary we must assume that we’re in for a long, hard season. Manchester City visit next, and that’s frightening. They’re going to hammer us.

Gloomy, perhaps, but again we’ve made a bad side look half-decent, and for all the pressure and bluster, Paul Robinson in the Blackburn goal wasn’t genuinely tested. Two points, two goals, four games. We need to improve.

The problem is there aren’t too many hopeful signs. Today’s system saw Murphy and Sidwell sitting behind an attacking trio of Duff, Dempsey and Ruiz, with Zamora as a single focal point. Until the game opened up in the second half (and wouldn’t that have been a nice time for Ruiz to make his first appearance?) Sidwell seemed stifled, Murphy harassed and the forwards somewhat aimless. Time and again the ball would move forward but with no obvious plan in mind. Passing was laboured, movement (again) poor. Several times a Fulham player would look up and see that all available passing lanes were closed off. That doesn’t feel right, not at this level with these players.

Poor Ruiz was like a rabbit in the headlights. He looked nervous from the minute he walked onto the field, had a couple of safe touches but then found the two man pressing from Blackburn hard to deal with. He frequently turned away from one man and straight into another. He tried to counter this by playing safe, but even then he seemed unsure of where in the fluid three he was supposed to be, and – no surprise – disappeared.  His time should come, but in retrospect Jol got it wrong today. A 75th minute entry would’ve given him time and space against tiring limbs, rather than a 45 minute horror show he experienced instead.

Ruiz it was who lost the ball for the Blackburn goal. This time he was in an outside left position (again, shouldn’t he have been given one, slightly better defined, role on his debut?) when he lost the ball. The ensuing cross cut out our defence and was crashed home off the cross-bar with a fine left footed shot.  (Interesting fact: as Blackburn attacked AJ and colleagues were warming up in front of us. I shouted “AJ” and, bless him, he moved! What a nice fella he is).

Luckily we equalised quite quickly, a Zamora left footer inside the far post. Nice goal, and deserved, even if we were struggling to get into the game.

The second half was good for the spectator, with both teams opening up. An end-to-end game resulted, with Clint Dempsey particularly impressive. Time and again Dempsey drove into Blackburn territory, his best performance for Fulham for ages. He deserved something from the game.

Sadly nobody else in a white shirt was quite on their game. Duff blew hot and cold, some good approach work tempered by Blackburn blocking off his favourite diagonals so he had to keep going down the line. Zamora did okay but looked isolated, and Dembele’s half-time introduction helped but still wasn’t enough given the lack of movement, the poor *timing* of our attacks. Otherwise Stephen Kelly played well, but we needed more from someone in a more forward role. AJ came on and hesitated when in a good position (only he will know why – did a defender clip his boot?), Hangeland headed wide from a rare good corner, and Dempsey and Murphy brought decent saves from Robinson (who wasn’t tested with long shots despite a known weakness against these).

Not immediately clear where we go from here. We’ll need Dickson Etuhu against City, and we’ll need to attack with much more pace and precision. It’s a long season so no need to panic yet, but momentum is not with us, and this could be a problem.

8 thoughts on “Fulham 1-1 Blackburn

  1. Under Hughes we struggled to adapt from Hodgson’s solid approach to a more open style, and it took about six months until we found the right balance and clicked again. Seems to me we’re witnessing a similar thing now, but a better way to describe the change might be from ‘patterned attacking’ to ‘fluid attacking’. Or something. In any case, I think the Jol way has the potential to be dynamic and dangerous, but – just as under Hughes – the players (and he) are still working it out. They’ll need time.

    Perhaps Dembele will come to thrive in a system that gives him a bit more licence. For all his wonderful skills and balance, he needs to improve his decision making – true – but he’d also often feel a bit subdued/caged in last season by virtue of being in a rigid position, left or right or wherever it was. Maybe this’ll work for him, and maybe Ruiz is that type of player too. Jol might know what he’s doing, in that sense.

  2. On the bright side, we had 1 1/2 penalty decisions go against us. Webb should have given us the decision when Zamora was barged down in the 1st half. And he should have given us the decision in the 2nd half when Salgado when through AJ to clear…particularly since he blew the decision in the 1st half.

    On the other hand, the fact that I’m clinging to denied penalties as a sign for optimism after a home game against Blackburn is a very troubling sign.

  3. Could not make the game today so have been trying to piece together how we played. most seem to think jol is clueless which is worrying.

    Don’t really know where we go from here but we have hardly been cut adrift at the bottom. long season ahead but i cannot believe we will not improve so would be surprised if this group of players got relegated

  4. The idea that Martin Jol is clueless is as laughable as the idea that Bryan Ruiz had a horror show debut. A horror show debut is Jonathan Woodgate for Real Madrid.

    Yes, Ruiz looked dazzled at times, and he probably deserved 20-30 minutes at the end rather than 45 at the beginning, but he was far from disastrous.

    Jol is an excellent manager, and for my money JamieR has it spot-on: transitions take time, and changing systems take time. We will come good, if we stick with MJ (that’s Jol, not the statue).

    The positives: Dempsey had a terrific game, Kelly looked assured at right-back, Hangeland still looks awesome, Senderos is developing a neat pairing with the Norwegian and Duff was lively. Murphy still pulls the strings – great pass for Zamora’s goal. I sit beside 2 Murphy Haters, who have berated him ever since he signed for us, and it drives me crazy.

    The negatives: Stll not convinced by Sidwell, despite his obvious spirit and commitment. Riise looked a shade off the pace, but that’s understandable. And obviously we still have no victory – and the forthcoming run of games looks very tricky. Can we “do a Fulham” and upset the form book with an unlikely win against Man City…?

  5. Far too early to be worried. As per other comments – players/teams take time to adapt. Agree with Eddie on all points.

  6. Yes, remember that Hughes’ team was all over the place until the New Year.

    My two bob’s worth:
    Senderos looked good. Kelly looked like a proper full back.
    Ruiz should have only come on with 15 mins left.
    Dembele, as usual, looks like a more skilful version of Dio. Just dribbles further up blind alleys than Dio could.
    Sidwell does nothing for me – bring back Dickson.
    Dempsey – wasn’t as impressed as most of you. Flashy, but not a lot of threat.

    And most important of all – Brede has developed a serious bald patch. Is it the stress?

  7. Please give Ruiz some time, he deserves it. He is at best when being appreciated. I remember the first matches he played for FC Twente; not his best, but he quickly turned into the best player of the Dutch competition. Probably the most wonderful thing about this special player is that although being a star player in NL, he doesn’t act like that, staying the sympathetic guy he used to be. While playing, he always tries to win the ball at all positions and granting opportunities to other players, directing them to positions where nobody expects them except for the team member his passes are supposed to be.

    Therefore in fact, Ruiz was a real bargain for Fulham, especially when compared to the 25? million euro’s of Suarez to Liverpool while Ruiz being a much more complete player.
    In Twente, we already missed his tremendous creativity loosing the first match last Sunday in a flat game.

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