Stoke 1-0 Fulham

The sort of game that makes you want to kick a dustbin. Fulham, so lively and so bright in recent times, stunned by the usual mess from Stoke, a team of trees that is always greater than the sum of its parts, always seems to have extra players on the pitch. Stoke seem to fill every area, and Fulham’s players rarely found space until a frenetic last ten minutes when we threw the kitchen sink into proceedings. And even then there wasn’t really anywhere to construct anything, as Stoke were packed deep and determined.

It’s hard to know what Martin Jol might have done differently. Without Ruiz the team tried a moderately successful approach that involved Baird, Sidwell and Karagounis in the middle and Berbatov and Petric up front. Dejagah was the true winger in all this.

But the trouble was, we couldn’t settle on the ball, despite having all these midfielders. Stoke eventually scored a very Stoke like goal, a deep cross knocked down by Peter Crouch and swivelled on by an advanced Charlie Adam. It’s not a goal you’d want to concede and it was a shame that Crouch wasn’t troubled more, but this is what Stoke do so well. The disappointment is more that we weren’t able to impose ourselves on them at all, which meant that Begovic had absolutely nothing to do until some late efforts from Berbatov and Petric, the latter in particular making us wonder what might have been: a devilish swirling shot that Begovic didn’t like one bit and spilled.

By then we had Duff on, Rodallega too, but there wasn’t enough exact football in the final third, mainly because Stoke were defending well. What do you do? We have no big target man, that’d be playing into their hands anyway, so the only option was to keep trying to play. Perhaps we might have tried to go through the middle more, and Sidwell’s occasional bursts hinted at something, but it didn’t feel like there were any good answers. We had most of the ball but just couldn’t make anything happen.

We defender okay too. Tony Gale in commentary seemed keen to adopt the fashionable “Senderos is an accident waiting to happen line” whenever Stoke attacked but he didn’t look so bad to me. An average performance in trying circumstances. And Stoke only had two shots on target all game (so did we, of course), so there’s that, too.

You have to look at these games in isolation and in context of others. In isolation it’s a tight defeat at a difficult place to go. In context it’s another game without getting what we want, but at this point nobody need worry – we’ll start winning again soon.


15 thoughts on “Stoke 1-0 Fulham

  1. Whether it’s us or anyone else, the problem with Tony Gale for me is that he is SO negative. He rarely finds anything good to say about anyone and once he has a bee in his bonnet is like a dog with a bone. Great player for us but what a boring boring man to listen to.

  2. We need a creative centre midfileder in January; key also to get the best out of Berbatov who has been dropping back to fill that role at times

  3. No damn cat, and no damn cradle.

    I still don’t quite understand the formation Jol put out. I like Karagounis, but in the first half when he played a sort of leftish midfield, we were so narrow that we couldn’t do anything against Stoke’s mass of bodies. Ruiz’s absence was very obvious – Berbatov dropped very deep to try to drive us, but who was he playing the ball to? Petric, trying to run through 8 men, and a lone winger. Dejagah has a lot of technique, but needs to spend a few months with the weight trainer during the offseason – Stoke had their way with him for much of the day.

    In the second half, Karagounis decided to take matters into his own hands and drive the ball forward, allowing Berbatov to push further up. This showed some promise, although things improved further when Duff entered the game and we could play wide. (Rich, I disagree with your idea that we should have challenged down the middle more — without Ruiz, it reminded me too much of some of our inert displays last year.) We got a number of decent crosses in late, but it was never enough. By that point, it was so late in the game that Stoke could just shut everything down.

    The Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle (whose recaps I always read, for some reason) claimed that Senderos didn’t jump against Crouch for the ball that set up the goal. That’s not how I remembered it from the replay – IIRC, Senderos (in front) and Riether (behind) both jumped with Crouch, who just went over them and knocked the ball down beautifully. Hughes, who seems to be made of teflon as far as blame is concerned, let Adam wander straight past him, and he banged home an easy goal. I will freely admit that I’m no sort of evaluator of CB play, but the quickness with which many are blaming Senderos in this instance seems suspect to me.

    1. I felt Jol had an eye on needing to be strong in the middle – so effectively played three central midfielders to keep things tight (and shore up the defence by allowing Baird to drop in and help when required). Riise has the ability to push on and give us width on the left.

      Sounds to me like we underperformed all round in the first half and didn’t have quite enough guile to find a goal in the second. Hangeland & Ruiz are big players to lose but I could see that Jol had tried to adapt the team to circumstances.

      1. I’d have been more critical of Sidwell rushing to cover the line rather than put pressure on Adam who ended up with bags of time to bring the ball down and crash it into the net.

  4. ” but the quickness with which many are blaming Senderos in this instance seems suspect to me.”

    To me too. We’ve conceded 11 goals in our previous 4 games, 2 of which were teams a lot easier than Stoke. We concede 1 with Senderos as a starter, and yet he is lambasted for our loss. Simple maths would suggest that it wasn’t the defence that let us down yesterday.

  5. Senderos didn’t jump for that goal, but to me it looked like beanpole had an arm on this shoulder. Senderos is decent cover, but I’ll be glad when we have BH back in the squad.

  6. If anything, I would think that having Brede out will actually make us appreciated how much we we need him and move his contract negotiations along more quickly.

  7. After a defeat that I genuinely enjoyed, to one that nearly put me to sleep. Stoke. Christ, after a while you have to imagine their fans will just stop going. Mid-table every year. Incredibly slow, dull football. What do you get out of that? And it’s not exactly as if the team was assembled on the cheap. They certainly cost more than we did.

    Anyway, Senderos. I didn’t think he looked great. Agree with Gale that he looked an accident waiting to happen. But he wasn’t terrible, either. And certainly wasn’t the cause of our defeat. I think here Jol made a mistake (as others have pointed out) by playing Karagounis and eschewing the balanced width we have recently gained. I’m certain he felt that we needed someone more robust in there against Stoke. But I’d have rather seen him play in the middle with someone who could create something and/or run past a man (e.g. Duff) on the left. That’s not to say that Karagounis was poor. He was probably our best midfielder (Dejegah, in particular, was poor). But would rather we hadn’t changed our team so radically.

  8. What is frustrating is that we are suddenly staring down the barrel of 4 straight defeats, which whilst not a disaster, would certainly derail our season and make me worry about the spectre of relegation.

    Even more frustrating is that we have had the opportunity this season to be right in the mix if we had held on to leads in the past.

    But then I think, as long as we avoid relegation, and the football is enjoyable to watch, is there really that much to complain about? Realistically we have hit the glass ceiling, so what’s the point in getting too anxious?

  9. Disclaimer: I did not watch the match because there was just too much else going on this weekend. However, it seems unfair to be overly harsh on Senderos for not being able to match up with Crouch in the air when Crouch is five inches taller.

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