Fulham 1-1 Twente

There’s an old coaching maxim that when you defend you try to make the pitch small so there’s no room, and when you attack you try to make it big, so there’s space to play in. Fulham – admirably though they played at times tonight – seem to have it the wrong way round, contstantly attacking a forest of defenders, while having to defend big spaces while undermanned.

That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but there’s some truth to it, too. We seem to spend extraordinary energy trying to walk the ball through crowded defences, while neglecting the wide elements of attacking play. True, we got 45 crosses in against Blackburn, but only four hit their man, which surely says something about something.

Tonight needed Matthew Briggs to hammer into the space on the left flank, but he rarely did so. The ball stayed in the midfield areas, where Dempsey and Dembele hurdled and twisted their way about the place. It was like something off Total Wipeout.

That gripe aside, we saw a terrific game tonight. Both teams came to play, and were prepared to get men ahead of the ball. This led to lots of open football and uncertainty until the final whistle. We could have won, we could have lost, but a draw felt about right. Twente were a good side, making passes our players wouldn’t even have attempted. Their technique was a joy, and while they weren’t nearly as good as Shakhtar Donetsk, it was the same kind of thing. Good, confident, crisp passing.  I enjoyed it a lot.

The problem is that while everyone played well there’s something keeping this from really counting. I suspect the system and the players aren’t yet as one, but wonder if they ever really will be. Arguably the team played better with AJ up front than with Zamora, a noodle scratcher if ever there was one. Everyone else was fairly normal, Grygera looks really solid, Baird was excellent, and Sidwell had a good, disciplined match. Much to like on all sorts of levels.

Both keepers had a bit to do: Schwarzer held a few crisp shots well and could do nothing about their goal (a fine header following a terrific, sweeping move) and their man made a couple of decent saves. AJ scored for us, a good goal rewarding his relentless running, and giving him a tidy four for the season already.

No real conclusions here. A good game between two good teams. We could have done with a win, for morale and pointy reasons, but the performance was probably encouraging for Jol.

9 thoughts on “Fulham 1-1 Twente

  1. Neat summary of a neat game.

    I think there were many encouraging signs tonight. It will take time for our season to get going, and fans need to be patient. Booing a 1-1 draw with a top Dutch side in our first group game in Europe for 2 years is moronic and unhelpful. I’m not sure what some fans are expecting, but for me the result was fine, even if we just shaded it in terms of real goal-scoring chances and possession. Dempsey deserved a goal, as The Guardian’s report says.

    Grygera looked good, and I just have a feeling that Dempsey, Dembele, Zamora, Ruiz and AJ could become a really exciting bunch under Martin Jol. His attacking flair will succeed if he is given time. We, the supporters, must afford him that time. Our season may not really pick up till QPR at home, but let’s stay calm – I think this squad is better than the one Roy took to the final in 2010.

    We’ve got the first of two games against the toughest team in the group out of the way and maintained our unbeaten home European record (played 21, lost 0!) I still expect us to qualify from this group, and,as Danny said in tonight’s match programme, every match is another chance for Jol’s philosophy to establish itself on the team.

  2. Hmm. I’m going to be odd man out. I didn’t like the way we played. Apart from some brief spells, especially at the start of second half, we looked fairly aimless. I’ve now lost patience with Dembele completely. He beats men beautifully but then either loses it or does nothing. Dempsey worked hard. Yes, we definitely looked sharper with AJ than with Bobby – there’s something wrong with that! Briggs looked fast and energetic, but there was a moment reminiscent of his early performances, when he was easily beaten, and then gave up. Looked horrible. I hate those unnecessary yellow cards e.g. Clints.

  3. I get the impression that if the Fulham front 4 click, we will look phenomenal. It is more of a matter of if we click. The signs are more encouraging though.

    I also got the impression that Jol is trying to get the team moving away from being based around Murphy. The front 4 were taking the initiative (in the first half at least) much more with Dembele recycling possession and keep the ball circulating, Kasami looking direct and Dempsey looking for the pass. Murphy sat deeper and was less directly involved until the second half, when we looked poor because players shirked responsibility and expected Murphy to do everything.

  4. During the game last night I was trying to find a reason for the lack of..a bit of everything really. I came to the conclusion that there are a lot of players getting used to a lot of new things. The young/new players are getting used to playing in the Premiership/Europa (Kasami, Briggs, Ruiz), we have mature players who are creatures of habits getting used to playing a new system (Zamora, Duff, Murphy even Clint) and we have a defence who is getting used to imposed changes (however that part of the team feels like its settling down).

    I also thought it was a great game last night and didn’t come away feeling despondent, in fact I think there is a chink light starting to come through. Some of the first half display was very fluent and fast. The important factor is going to be time. Will the Premiership, older players and the Fulham fans give what I believe is a promising team time for the new philosophy to bed in and work? Certainly hope so, but going by the fact that there was a lot of booing at the end of the game the old self fulfilling prophesy of saying everything is awful all the time then in time everything will be awful could play a big part. The glass is still half full for me.

  5. Yeah – not a bad draw. Grygera could turn out to be a sound buy – although I suppose it’s hard to go wrong buying an Italian defender.

    Watching the match made think of how much skill levels have changed. The influence of Tika Taka could be seen in some of our midfield passing. Very quick short passes under pressure. I don’t think many sides would have been playing like this 10 years ago (OK – maybe Arsenal).

  6. Graham Taylor and Pat Nevin made two points very clearly on Channel 5.

    Firstly AJ was the only man stretching their defence by running into the channels, which he did tirelessly. Although Zamora’s hold-up play is invaluable, there needs to be more forward movement off him, and in this game we had to make do with either or.

    Secondly, Dembele’s instincts are not those of a striker. As Nevin illustrated at the interval, time and again in the first half Fulham broke forward at speed but needed one or two players to move in front of the ball carrier into dangerous positions. Each time Dembele was well placed to be that man, but hung back. Hence no end product, either from him or the team.

    I’m sure Jol will sort these problems out. Rather than accepting that Dembele is a winger not a striker as Nevin was suggesting, I would just be making the guy aware of what he could and should be doing.

    Agree about Baird. I can’t remember him ever playing badly on the rare occasions he’s been at CB.

  7. They did a good job of shutting Zamora out of the game when he came on. Probably something they had worked on, since that, and pressing Murphy, are the most obvious ways of limiting Fulham. Passes towards Zamora were intercepted or if he did get a touch the area he usually works in was quickly crowded.

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