Post Newcastle thinking

This at Viva El Fulham all seems quite sensible so not much for me to say, tactically.

When I saw our lineup I was pleased – I thought we’d got things just about right, and probably it was the team I’d have gone with, less Riise.

But turns out they didn’t turn up.

It’s too early to start shouting “Jol Out!” – 3 points from Sunderland and Newcastle away and Arsenal at home is certainly par for the course – but I’m starting to sense that something’s not quite there.

Here’s what I mean.  Today I briefly managed to negotiate control of our TV and watched Leeds v QPR.  It was an absorbing game, honestly, and I noticed something quite impressive about Rangers.  Harry’s taken them back to basics.  The team was Rob Green, Danny Simpson, Richard Dunne, Nedum Onuaha, Clint Hill, Joey Barton, Karl Henry, Shaun WP, Gary O’Neil, AJ, Charlie Austin.  It’s a team that would be destroyed in the Premiership but which, in the Championship, is playing with gusto and conviction.   Redknapp has put together a British core of players.

Just as it’s too soon to say Jol Out, it’s ridiculous to start talking about British cores for Fulham, but it’s also worth having a look at some of our better teams under Sir Roy.

Schwarzer (Aus, English is first language), Paintsil (Ghana, English), Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky, Murphy, Etuhu, Duff, Dempsey, Davies, AJ, Zamora, Gera….

Hodgson believed in having a team of good eggs who could communicate well.

I’m not saying that the current team isn’t chock full of good eggs – it very well may be – but watching QPR first and then us after that, I was struck by how one was a team and one wasn’t (different levels accepted).

I don’t know what I’m really getting at here, but today we were fortunate not to be hammered.  Newcastle had a number of really good chances and only some very good defending and goalkeeping and at least one really bad missed kept us in it.

Perhaps you need 10 players defending.  Even if everyone in our team tries to defend, we have (at least) Bent, Berbatov, Ruiz and Kacaniklic who aren’t very good at it.  That leaves you with a back six, but in there we have the overrated Reither and the increasingly disappointing Riise.  Hangeland and Hughes are now four years removed from what might have been a peak.  Sidwell divides opinion but is not a disciplined defender.  Scott Parker is a good defender but against Arsenal he seemed to be trying to be more of an all-rounder, perhaps nullifying his greatest ability (to shield the back four) – I say perhaps because I don’t know his game that well.

Could it be that by being so awful at defending we’re messing up everything else?  We can’t defend and attack like a normal team because there aren’t enough players in the lineup who can defend.  So we either end up horribly open or some uncomfortable mishmash of defensive play with no real attacking gumption.

All of this might be a big overreaction to some disappointing performances, but again I go back to QPR today, who, limited or otherwise, played as a unit. I think of Crystal Palace, more limited than QPR but stuck in the top division nevertheless, and playing for each other.  And I think of Fulham, not really doing it.

If you take this idling to its natural conclusion you need to rebuild the team defensively.  You bring back Boateng and Duff.  You hurry Amorebietta back.  You cash in on your one way players and replace them with more rounded if less gifted individuals.  You sign someone like James McCarthy of Wigan. You coach them all to play as a team.  You line up: Stockdale, Riether, Hughes, Hangeland, Amorebietta, Boateng, Parker, Sidwell, Duff, Kaca, Bent,

None of this is necessary.  We finished mid table last year and will do so again.  It’s just my knee-jerk brain dump.  That’s all.

11 thoughts on “Post Newcastle thinking

  1. A strange reaction Rich. You have never been a knee-jerker Rich, but some of your views today don’t add up. Are you really the old Rich ? There is something about your writing style that is different, but I can’t quite put my finger on it just yet.
    As for over-reactions. The Fulham forums are ablaze tonight; Sarah Brookes is whimpering on Twitter about ‘negativity’……..
    FFC are in denial. We are being ruined by an ‘oafish’ manager who makes after game statements that are a million miles away from reality; are divisive to our players; and are totally destroying the fabric of the team…..
    And you’re talking about QPR. Who cares about them while our precious club is declining before our very eyes.
    The truth is, we are playing the slowest, most uninspiring, disorganised football in the premiership. If we carry on with Jol we will be relegated. It’s not simply ‘Fulham not really doing it’
    For the first time ever Rich, I totally disagree with your thoughts. Now that I do find interesting.

      1. Yes, now I’ve read what you’ve written again, I do see what you’re trying to say.
        Harry has begun to make changes and in-roads at QPR. The thing is Jol is still making the same old mistakes and if anything getting worse each game and each interview.
        I guess what I’m saying is, that it is not too soon for Jol to go. The sooner the better, if we’re going to have any chance of rescuing something from this shambles.
        I haven’t seen such anger on FOF since it started.

  2. I wonder what Roy could do with this group of players. I believe we have a very strong squad. I just don’t think the players know their roles. There is no clear system for them to adhere to.

    Just as an example: Jol said that Parker was his number 4, his anchorman, and yet he is playing more of a box to box role. I am not sure what Sidwell’s role is, he receives the ball and just passes it backwards again, so is he the anchor/destroyer? Im confused, would not Boateng be better at that role? What was Berbas role today, he certainly wasn’t the second striker feeding Bent, he was a very very deep number 10 misplacing half his passes. What was Ruiz’s role, he spent time on the byline and spent time cutting inside but was unable to create much attacking impetuous. Bent was feeding off scraps and Kaca seemed to be all over the pitch.

    My concern is nothing appears to have changed from last season, which begs the question what have Jol and his team been doing in Pre season?

  3. I didn’t watch the match but I am also worried about the tactics our manger employs. Whereby he seems happy to play for a draw away from home and seems. Afraid to take the game to the opposition – not even Burton Albion !

    The defence worries me most ; especially the last back position where neither Riise or Richardson are good enough to be first choice .

    Parker is an excellent signing but for me , neither Ruiz nor Tarrabt give our midfield enough steel or attacking prowess.

    I am certainly not taking mid table for granted but after Di Canio , Jol will be the next to go if he doesn’t shake up our performances . I will give him another 5 league matches to sort it out and if there has been no marked improvement I would bring in someone else – not sure who – rather than waiting until December and giving a newcomer no time to assess what the team needs before he ha to dive into the transfer market in a panic .

  4. I think the West Brom game is crucial. That seems to me to be must win. If so we’re mid table with 6 points from 4 games. Won’t satisfy the anti Jol message board hysteria but that represents a decent start in my opinion. Fail to win and you have to wonder who we CAN beat.

    Leaving tactics as such aside we seem to lack urgency and energy and that ought to be a basic requirement.

  5. One thing I think CCN has been consistently good at it is urging people not to push the panic button. We don’t usually expect to get points from Newcastle away, or against Arsenal, and we started the season with 3 away points. I’ll bet some of us would’ve predicated 1 or 2 points from these first 3 fixtures. I agree things look like a mess tactically, but I’m still backing Jol because I think the alternative right now is worse–disruption, plus the same squad but now a manager who doesn’t know the squad. It seems Jol might not either but I think he has a better chance of getting it right than just about anyone else. Plus new managers, brought on in moments of desperation, seldom seem to have the desired effect.

    I think a nice win (or two!) will calm some rattled nerves. There are some very winnable fixtures on the near horizon. COYW!

  6. Nothing I disagree with in this post. However there was one thing in the Arsenal report that I can’t see, as you said it was essential for Berba, Ruiz and Bent always to be playing. I can’t see how Ruiz and Berbatov can be in same team if we are looking to improve. When I saw the teamsheet that included all 3 for first time, I thought “please God let this performance prove Rich right about this”.

    Bent is clearly more suited for Ruiz’s game than Berbatov and it was evident in the first 15-20 min (when we were slightly on top, just as we were against Sunderland at the beginning) in which Ruiz had a couple failed passes that were directed at Bent that this was where we were looking to hurt Newcastle. I think that this route will eventually come off after a few games.

    I also think that Ruiz is only effective as a No.10. He is not effective on the wing, and I think the overalll mixed opinion of him is down to him being played in this position too often.

    If this partnership has potential then it begs the question what Berbatovs role is? With a limited amount of 11 players on the team I don’t think we can afford playing him in addition to Bent and Ruiz (or keeping him on the bench when you consider we could have 2 good players for the wages he is on). As we experienced last season, he plays too deeply to be our target man, yet he is too lazy and doesn’t track back or defend to be condidered a midfielder (or the middle of the 3 in a 4-2-3-1).

    Rich, you are the first person to point out that a player can add more to the team than his individual ability (to quote your arsenal report “players being less than the sum of their collective parts”). Isn’t it becoming ever more evident that Berbatov is making it difficult for the players around him, hence making them less than their collective parts?

    The obvious other possiblity is if Jol managed to get Berbatov and Bent to play together, but then I see no room for Ruiz in the starting line up.

    However, although the Burton game wasn’t great I thought our line up was ideal with Dejagah, Ruiz, and Taarabt (these 3 can obviously be interchanged with Kaca, Duff, Kasami and Mesca at will) playing behind Bent. With all these options in attacking midfield / on the wing and with all our centre midfield options being better suited for deeper, defensive roles a 4-2-3-1 line up has got to be our ideal line up. Bent is best suited as the target man in this set up, hence no room for Berbatov as target man or in midfield.

    1. Also: our best performance arguably last season was our undeserved loss at home vs Man U, with Ruiz running the show… and no Berbatov..

  7. The lot of mid-table teams (which is what we like to think we are) is that in reality they are much closer to the clubs that finish 16th / 17th / 18th than those that are 3rd / 4th / 5th; just look at the points spreads over the history of the Premier League. So even when we are “doing well” we are theoretically not far off a crisis. Our famed home form has been undermined by a run of five successive home league defeats, but then look who those games were against: Arsenal (twice), Chelsea, Liverpool and just one club we “should” have beaten: Reading.

    Martin Jol came to us with a reputation as a fine coach; remember how pleased we were to get him. He’s not perfect but neither are any of our rivals’ managers. He has assembled a good squad on a budget for transfers and wages which must be way down the premier league table. If the declarations of some of our new recruits are to be believed, we have a team spirit and family atmosphere at the club which is outstanding.

    Like others above I agree that balance is the problem. Perhaps Jol is too easily seduced by individuals with silky skills at the expense of balance. He doesn’t appear to know who should be in his best eleven. How long it will take to resolve I don’t know, but there will probably be a totally unexpected and improbable event which proves to be the catalyst. Remember Chris Baird’s goals at Stoke which turned our fortunes around during the Mark Hughes season.

  8. “Could it be that by being so awful at defending we’re messing up everything else?”

    This is what I’ve been getting at all summer – everyone has been clamoring to sign an exciting striker and a creative central midfielder, but the problem we had last year is that we were not as good defensively as we’d like to be and conceded too many goals, though we scored plenty. (People can gripe about how it looks all the want but the numbers were what they were.) My impression is that Jol correctly identified that as the biggest problem to fix, thus why the priority at the start of the summer was Stekelenburg, Amorebieta, and Boateng. Except now the first two are injured and… is Boateng also? Or just Jol trying to give him time to acclimate after he looked a bit shaky defending at Sunderland? So while we’ve got some new attacking options in Bent and Taarabt, the problem is still what you’re getting at. Stockdale is good but not great (though, to be fair, he’s probably too good to be Fulham’s backup and we’re lucky to have him in that role). H+H are, as you noted above, not as young as they used to be, and we all know Senderos has his flaws. None of our left backs are particularly good.

    But, as I’ve noted elsewhere, we have three points from three fixtures from which we got one point last season, and that with injuries to two of our summer signings who were expected to have the most immediate impact. I think we’re placing way too much emphasis on them because they happened to be the first three, and like you said, I think it’s entirely likely that we’ll finish mid table again just like last year.

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