I am still reading Inverting the Pyramid, the brilliant book about the development of football tactics by Jonathon Wilson. This morning on the way to work I read a passage about the Brazil side of the 1970 World Cup. Considered by many (including me) as the zenith of football ability, combining success with artistry. Wilson makes an excellent point that had Brazil not won the World Cup that year many of their most celebrated moments (Pele’s lob from the halfway line against Czechoslovakia that hit the bar and his dummy to evade Uruguay’s goalie which he followed by missing an open goal) would have been viewed as counter productive extravagances rather than beautiful football.
I continue to be frustrated by so called analysis on British television that rarely tells you anything you couldn’t have seen for yourself and is very much focused on contentious decisions and praising the side that won the game. A player might receive great praise one week because he played a key part in a side that kept a clean sheet but be taken apart the following week because he made one mistake that led to a goal. I understand that winning is important, I know I would not be happy if we lost stylishly EVERY week, but I’d like to see football analysts look beyond the result a little more often.
The great thing about live football is that you see the game you want to see. I’m thoroughly enjoying the current style & panache of Martin Jol’s Fulham. Sunday’s match was the first time I can remember enjoying a game we lost. Early on we were so comfortable it looked like we’d cruise to an easy win and there’d be little need to get excited. Hangeland’s sending off changed the game (a ball winning tackle that ironically brought to mind Bobby Moore’s tackle on Jairzinho in the 1970 World Cup) and wasn’t helped by the fact we’d not long replaced Alex Kacaniclic. Despite the imbalance in numbers we still dominated the first half and to my mind were the best side in the second half too.
Berbatov was supreme throughout, drifting into fabulous positions and picking out passes that perhaps only Johnny Haynes would have been able to see as clearly. Ruiz buzzed about and, though he does have a tendency to give the ball away at bad moments, looked like he was going to be able to unlock the Sunderland defence until his unfortunate injury. Having replaced Ruiz, Petric started like a steam train and even when struggling a little after getting studded whilst scoring, looked threatening for the rest of the game. So many positives throughout the team that I felt the performance outweighed the result.
Even at 3-1 down I felt we had a chance to get a result. I was enthralled to the end and proud that we didn’t try and shut up shop and went for the win. Perhaps at times we were a little naive in defence but I think rather than try and posit blame on individuals we need to understand the disruption caused to the team balance from the loss of a player. Poor old Philippe Senderos got a tonking from some of those people around me. Whilst I’ve not yet been convinced of his abilities myself, he really was on a hiding to nothing and left horribly exposed on several occasions.
Obviously results do matter. If we lost stylishly every week I’d soon tire of it but we’re having a great season so far and I’m excited to see this Fulham side playing. We’ve got a tough few weeks ahead in which we’ll be missing key players. Hopefully this will give the opportunity to some of the squad to show us what they’re capable of. Senderos will almost certainly get a little run. He needs to perform. I’d like to see more of Dejagah and Petric. I’d also like to see what Rodallega could do in a more central role. Whoever plays though I’m sure it’s going to be fun.