The first thing that occurs to me about Saturday’s win is that we were probably quite lucky. It’s nice to say “a perfect away performance” and perhaps it was, but if someone showed you the 90 minutes, less the minute we scored in, you’d be slightly unsure what to think.
It was a very muddy game, with neither side really showing much quality. I watched Crystal Palace v Spurs yesterday and Spurs look really, really good. There was quality all over the pitch, and while they struggled to get their goal and their win, that was probably less important than the style they showed.
Fulham showed none of that. Now, a) we wouldn’t expect to and b) we weren’t at full strength, but as best I can tell our key players were Hangeland, Hughes and Stekelenberg, with shouts out to Riether and (yes) Briggs.
Derek Boateng had a tough debut and when he’d calmed down I thought he did okay, and Sidwell’s Sidwell (I rate him but understand why others don’t). But moving forward it was more of the same, fairly stodgy attacking play without much by way of combination work. I was surprised to see Kasami playing and clearly Taraabt wasn’t supposed to go 90. Duff started and did okay; Berbatov was quiet. Our front-most six players basically contributed nothing of an attacking nature.
I’m not being contrarian here: the dividing line between wins and losses is miniscule and we usually don’t deserve to be slated when we lose and we often don’t deserve enormous amounts of credit when we win.
This was one of those games where the team was robust enough to prevent their opponent from doing much, then nicked a goal to take three points. As I write that I see that yes, perhaps that is a perfect recipe for playing away. I would qualify that by saying it’s a perfect recipe for playing away to the really big clubs, from whom you’d expect nothing. Away at Sunderland, effectively a peer of ours, maybe we could have done more and played better. Maybe not though: it was the first game of the season after all
As things stand a win is a win, a very good one at that, but I thought we looked quite ordinary. Bring in Ruiz to coordinate the attacks, Bent to add a goal threat, and all of a sudden we’re different.
Anyway, away win to start the season. Hurray.