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.