What can you say? Sometimes things just click and you have to tip your cap to the opponents. I read that Leon Britton made 99 passes, and found a teammate with 95 of them. That’s astonishing (although you can be sure that Fulham fans would complain that those passes don’t *do* anything were he our player). Swansea were simply really good, courageous in their adherence to a difficult approach, good enough to make it work. Fulham couldn’t keep up.
The bare facts, before we go too far forward, were that Fulham conceded a pair of goals to Gyulffi Sigurdsson and a third to the excellent Joe Allen. None of these goals had been undefendable, but the suspicion is that our players were so twisted and dizzied by Swansea’s passing that poor defending was all but inevitable.
Usually in these games you can have a ponder and suggest ways in which the team might go about changing things. A popular answer in our area was to “get stuck in” but it felt like this would just make it easier to pass around us – did we get stuck in against Shahktar Donetsk? No, we kept our shape and weathered the storm. Something similar may have been required today, but we just weren’t at the races. Would another body in the middle of the park have helped? It felt that way, but equally, it might just have meant that Swansea found space elsewhere.
They set up to get us from all angles, you see. The back four could all keep the ball so you couldn’t just let them have it. Allen and Britton are as close as we’ll see to Xavi and Iniesta in this league, and then it gets really interesting: Scott Sinclair and (yes) Wayne Routledge (whom I’ve always rated) can buzz, pass and fly on the wings, then you have the imperious Sigurdsson behind the hardworking (and effective) Graham up top. They have all the ingredients and it’s tempting to wonder what another year of TV money signings might mean for this squad. The sky could be the limit and again, I’m not sure what we might have done to change things other than be 20% better in all facets of our play.
Which I suspect is the trick: Swansea played so well because they are very good, but they’ll find few more welcoming hosts in their travels this season. For whatever reason, Fulham just weren’t at the races. We really accomplished nothing, with no sense of danger from anywhere in the team. A goal, were it to arrive, would have had to come from nowhere (Ruiz is the only player we have to can conjure but Jol took him off) and so we were left wondering what a fit Bobby Zamora might have meant in a game like this, and again why everyone else had such a hard time imposing themselves. Where were our big players today?
Just as it’s stupid to get carried away like I did after Wolves, so too is it daft to panic too much after this kind of defeat. Nobody will do that to us again this season, and we must remember that every 10th place finish must be accompanied by a dozen defeats or so, and that these rarely look particularly good. Yes, today was bad, but as we said, sometimes you just tip your cap and move on. Well done, Swansea; wake up, Fulham.