Making space to play in

UPDATE: I’m bringing this back from the archives in response to Alex’s comment below. Do you think we’ve improved here?

I exaggerate to make a point, of course, but the game yesterday seemed to sum up ‘bad Fulham’ under Martin Jol. When we get it right, we’re excellent. When we don’t we’re extremely frustrating. This is shown in the second diagram, illustrating our habit of trying to walk the ball through massed defences (who have funneled us accordingly, knowing that we can’t hurt them wide).

Again, I exaggerate – of course we use the width sometimes – but if we are to continue to invert our wide players we need more overlapping from the full-backs.  And when Blackburn went down to 10 men we could have been much, much, much more aggressive in using the flanks (especially as Chris Samba was out, ensuring the heart of the Rovers defence would’ve been even more vulnerable to crosses).  We don’t even have to get to the byline: that area on the edge of the box and level with the penalty spot seems to be quite dangerous these days. But we keep cutting infield and trying to thread a needle through a haystack.

Again: in attack you try to make the pitch big; in defence you try to make it small.  We’re struggling to make space when we attack.

15 thoughts on “Making space to play in

  1. So sorry, if you know to do it, why the hell could Jol and his players not do it on Saturday?

    Jol seemed to try something with putting Duffers on as a wing back but that was too late in the game. Frei was kept on the left, STILL cutting inside. Not sure who went to the right, maybe Ruiz (also cuts inside). By no means did either of the full backs push on at any point. Look at the chalkboards, hardly any by-line crosses/passes from anyone.

    Not sure what happened with the formation when AJ came on but I don’t think he touched the ball…

    1. well it’s a lot easier to sit here knowing the result and saying ‘we should have done xyz’ isn’t it? Jol presumably thought that if we continued to do what we were doing, we’d win, which 8/10 we probably would have.

  2. Our lack of width has been a problem all season and I haven’t seen much of an attempt to remedy it. If you’re going to invert the wide men (which I have no problem with) then the full backs need to be given the license to at least be willing to get to the byline. Riise I think is capable of that (just) but Kelly’s crossing is average at best and he isn’t pacey.

    As it is right now Zamora is spending more time on the left popping crosses in than anyone else which means we lose a good aerial threat in the box.

  3. I’m much more concerned about Jol’s defensive tactics. Really, there’s no excuse for giving up 3 goals to a 10 man team. Playing without a defensive midfielder is playing with fire in this league, and we got burned yesterday. When Blackburn had the ball on the counter, they were given WAY too much space in the area where Etuhu/Sidwell would have been there.

    Offensively, We DID create a fair number of chances to day, but obviously we didn’t do enough. The problem was when we did get the ball wide, either the service into the box was pitiful(Kelly) or we didn’t even get the cross off(Frei). I think the Frei/Dembele sub kind of killed us on attack. Before, we were working really well with the ball, and Riise had space to make runs down the left. When Frei came on, he occupied that space and as a result Riise didn’t really join our attack much after that. Frei is clearly a youngster with a lot of talent, but he was just not good yesterday.

    1. But what chances were there beyond the Zamora and Senderos headers (and Dempsey’s disallowed strike) (all headers, which again tells its own story).

      Defensively Jol acknowledged that he’d gone from a 6-4 to a 5-5 in terms of defensive and attacking players and really that should have been telling. As it was it just meant more people being ineffective in attack. It’ll be interesting to see what he does next, and indeed how badly injured Dembele is.

  4. Didn’t Ruiz start on the left yesterday? It seems, based on yesterday, he’s actually more effective cutting in (and yet still getting in those crosses for Dempsey to get on the end of) from the right.

    And when Frei came on and I guess Ruiz shifted into the middle, it didn’t help anything.

    Essentially, I think that Ruiz and Dempsey play better together when there’s some space in between them. Yesterday, they just weren’t linking up in the way they have been the last few games, which has been very exciting to watch. Much of their interplay, I think, provides width – that same width we were missing yesterday – as it tends to be from crosses, diagonal balls, etc. It may just be that they’re actually fairly similar players in a lot of ways, and are simply not as effective when they’re right next to each other.

    Of course, I haven’t looked at anything to back any of this up, just something I think I’ve noticed on my little TV screen . . .

  5. I think the general idea of Dutch total football (correct me if I’m wrong) is that everyone’s positions should be interchangeable. i.e. everyone should be able to play in every position rotating throughout the match. I figure Jol’s trying to achieve this with the four attacking midfielders – Ruiz, Dembele, Dempsey and Frei. The four players rotating into each other’s positions throughout the game.

    Sort of taking the idea of swapping the wingers periodically but doing it with four players as opposed to two…

    1. and when it works it looks terrific.

      But it doesn’t always work and perhaps we need a more simple Plan B.

      I’m sure we have that, too. But it just felt like we haven’t.

    1. I remember when Jol was at Ajax, he said of a striker he’d just signed (was it Suarez?) something to the effect of “It takes about two years to learn our system.”

      Two. Years.

      That’s probably going to be our learning curve. Considering that he’s going to be replacing our aging players this January and Summer, we’ll probably struggle more like two and a-half to three years until we have Totaal Voetbal on the Thames.

      1. But provided he keeps us up and makes the team younger is it not good to have a long term plan? Better than to continue with a system that relies on players who are going to retire over the next 3 years.

        1. Oh, I completely agree! I’m just putting our expectations into check. For the past three years we’ve had a surprisingly successful team who have punched above their weight when you consider the normal indicators: club size, salary pay, etc. Now that team and system is being broken up and we won’t see most of these players in two years time. On top of that, those new players will need to learn the system and that takes time. Our only true goal until 2014 should be to stay up.

  6. I think the solution to this problem as well as having full backs who attack to the byline is also having wingers strong with both feet. Then no matter what side of the pitch they play they have the ability to either cut inside or drive to the by line and cross depending on the situation. It still baffles me that a lot of professionals on huge great wages are still only competent with one foot. This is something I would like to see Ruiz develop if he Jol wants to play him on the right.

    Duff is a true model of how a wide player should play – cutting inside to get on the end of through balls and scoring, and driving to the byline and crossing with his second foot to create chances. Its great that Jol is now using him in this way and he is a great role model for our upcoming wingers – Frei and Kaca.

    Now Riise has the fitness levels to drive to the byline as well we are finally starting to play with width and open up defences. Even Kelly who I’d never considered to be an attacking wing back is getting further forward creating space. yes his crossing is poor IMO, but the very fact he is getting forward still asks questions of the opposition defence and creates chances.

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