Assessing the Understudies

On Friday I popped along to the u21 game being played at Craven Cottage with the Whites taking on Chelsea’s youngsters. These games always strike me as a bit odd – the new u21 and u18 league set up is designed to give youngsters a more competitive edge but the game still had a bit of a sense of a friendly match about it, particularly with several first team players included to aid their return to full fitness.

It is also difficult to know exactly what level the game could be compared to. I saw two sides with obvious talent and ball playing ability, playing in difficult conditions and an entertaining match with plenty of skill. Would a team of this calibre be able to hack it in League One? The Championship? I would imagine they could give a good account of themselves in the former, although the physicality of the league might be an issue.

Anyway, without offering up a full match report, I thought I would comment on a few of the more notable performances from various players who caught my eye:

Philippe Senderos – Gave a very good account of himself and was head and shoulders above the rest of the defence, as you would expect a first team player to be. Very assured in possession and was happy to step forward into the midfield to help shepherd the ball out wide or forward. It was his fantastic raking cross-field ball that Charles Banya expertly lobbed the keeper with for Fulham’s first goal. With Hughes and Hangeland both looking shaky at times it would not surprise me to see Senderos replacing one of them in the near future

James Musa – Our new signing from the Antipodes, Musa put in an impressive performance, playing both a support role alongside Senderos and then a more dominant role alongside Jack Grimmer in the second half. He made several good tackles and blocks and combined this with a calm attitude on the ball and a noticeable passing ability. We may never see him in the first team, but to my eyes he looked better than Rafik Halliche

Jack Grimmer – An assured performance from the right back, particularly when linking up with Dejagah in the first half. Strong on the ball and in the tackle, it would not surprise me to see him on the fringes of the first team sometime soon

Mickael Tavares – Seemed to hide for most of the first half, happy to sit back and not stamp his authority on the game which worried me as these are the kind of games that first team players should be trying to stand out in. Improved in the second half and looked tidy in possession but I can’t see what he would really bring to the current first team other than cover.

Ashkan Dejagah – Had a 45 minute introduction to Fulham fans and looked every inch the established first team player. Had the young Chelsea left back struggling significantly and was happy to take the ball to the by-line or cut inside to have a go on goal. Unsurprisingly looked short of match fitness but he appeared to have all the characteristics of a successful premier league winger – pace, strength, confidence, two-footedness and stamina. There was one point where he waltzed through the Chelsea defence only for Trotta to steal it off his toe and shoot wide. The look on Dejagah’s face was delightful; one of pure disgust and frustration. I think he will do well here

Kerim Frei – A return to action for the youngster who lit up the Europa League last season but has missed most of this season due to a hamstring inury. He looked bright and, crucially, a cut above most of the attacking talent on show. A criticism may be that he was trying a bit *too* hard but he was to driving force behind much of the creative play going forward. I am really looking forward to see him and Kaca battling it out for the starting spot on the left this season.

Marcelo Trotta – An enigma of a forward. He didn’t really offer much other than wasteful shots and grass stains on his shirt yet came away with two goals. I really want him to do well but his all round game seems to be lacking. He desperately needs a loan to the Championship for at least half a season because he needs to step up a level – let’s hope Jol has plans for this

Did anyone else pop along? Agree/Disagree with the way I saw it?

6 thoughts on “Assessing the Understudies

  1. Thanks for this writeup. I was just watching the highlights footage that the club posted and trying to make sense of it. The video was grainy, but both of Trotta’s finishes looked ungainly.

    Glad to see that Frei is making progress. Between he and Kacaniclic, I thought Kaca looked the more versatile player last year, but I’m interested to see how he’s developed over the last few months.

    Everyone is saying the same thing about Dejegah – very lacking in match fitness, but very talented.

    1. I don’t understand why Dejegah isn’t match fit. I am sure I saw that he played the last game for Wolfsburg before his move to us. Was pleased to see he was in starting eleven of a strong team

    1. That is the thing. I just dont know. He looks like a very average player who will probably be a championship striker but will never get to the top level.

      But, as you say, he scores goals. Not that either goal was particularly emphatic. He certainly does not have the look of Frei or Kaca or even the general business of Kasami.

  2. Glad to hear the update on Senderos. He’s a better choice to play alongside Hangeland since we are determined to always play out from defence.

  3. Having played for Felix Magath’s side, there cannot be any doubt about Dejagah’s match fitness. Magath is widely considered the Bundesliga’s toughest manager. It is rather his difficult character that might have kept him out of first team action so far. His refusal to play for Germany’s under 21 squad in Israel was frowned upon by everyone here in Germany, for example. But Jol was aware of all the details and brought the player in – so he will get his chance sooner or later.

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