There was a moment in the buildup to the fifth (knockout) goal in which Mahmadou Diarra seemed to have lost control. A challenger saw him moment, but while Diarra re-orientated himself and relocated the ball, the tackler seemed to bounce off an invisible force field, perhaps more than once. It was like a lion cub trying to play with its mother: yes, yes, I know you’re there but I’m busy at the moment, get off and go away. Diarra regained his composure and moved the ball on, the defender perplexed. What?
Diarra said that his time at Fulham would consist of a series of cup finals in which he’d have to play out of his skin to win a contract. Well so far, so good. It was as if the game bowed to Diarra’s wishes, not the other way around. True, his victims were an exhausted, demoralised and useless Wolves team, but you can only dominate what’s in front of you, and dominate Diarra did.
His passing was sure, crisp and successful, and he was happy to play as a midfield pivot and (later) as a classic #10, offering Dempsey a fifth goal with a deliciously simple through ball that again showed composure and nous in a busy area. He can tackle, too, and while there was a fairly calamitous attempt at a clearing header, we’ll put that down to wind and rustiness: everything else he did oozed class.
It’s that sense of time that impressed me most though. Diarra got the ball, Diarra used it as he wanted to. To make a lazy observation, he looked like a combination of Etuhu and Murphy thrown into one player, which could be terrific news for us. If he really is this good and this useable we may be on the verge of something rather special, with Dembele playing champions league football, Dempsey enjoying the fruits of his hard work and Jol’s attacking tactics, and the wand of Ruiz available for special occasions. Pogrebnyak can’t keep going at this rate, but there’s enough good stuff going on out there to make us wonder if the all white kit, rather than an abomination, isn’t in fact a masterstroke after all.
Don Revie got Leeds playing in all-white and saw that team lurch into something extraoardinary; could we be witnessing the same?
(Obviously not, but this team is looking frighteningly good when it’s on song).