Just following up on below’s post: if there’s one thing that watching and studying Roy Hodgson’s teams taught us is that attacking and defending are not unconnected.
When Hodgson picks James Milner to man England’s left flank he’s accepting that he might not create as much as, say, Adam Johnson, but he will more or less ensure that opponents don’t get to create much on that flank either. It’s important to remember that a goal not conceded is just as valuable as a goal scored; it’s virtually impossible to actually measure this defensive contribution but it’s there and it’s valuable. Provided Hodgson feels he has enough ways to create through other channels, or that he’s not too fussed about creating in the first place, Milner remains a sound option.
We’ve long wondered about the balance of the current Fulham side, but what I think the numbers bear out is that we’re adopting an attacking philosophy, by and large, but that the gains going forward are simply not compensating for the holes being left at the back. That’s balance, and it’s not correct.
Part of this is because our best players are forwards. Berbatov, Ruiz and Bent must play. But all three are more or less one-way players. Jol’s default has been to add in at least one more forward player, and then we have Parker and Sidwell both going box-to-box, and Riether likes to overlap, and Riise at least attempted to.
But despite all this we’re not creating chances, we’re not scoring lots of goals.
So what needs to be fixed? There are perhaps a few options:
Change the balance and field more defensive players. We have Derek Boateng and he did well against Sunderland, and would give Parker and Sidwell justification to play as they do. To do this you would have to sacrifice an attacking player, but as noted, that extra attacking player isn’t paying off anyway.
Keep the existing lineup but make them play differently. Parker is a wonderful defensive shield player, and while you’d lose a lot of Riether’s value by making him stay back, there’s no reason why you can’t just get Parker to sit much deeper, tell whoever’s at left back not to overlap as much, and generally set a bit more discipline about just how many players are to get ahead of the ball.
The latter might see a trend towards a more counter-attacking philosophy. People say that Berbatov and Ruiz slow down our attacks but I think that’s only because the team as a whole is favouring a slow buildup and defences are behind the ball. Ruiz can counter, Berbatov’s vision would seem to lend itself to this approach, and Bent’s best facing the goal. Riether’s overrated by Fulham fans but is the best counter-attacking full-back I’ve seen at the club. Sidwell has the energy and nous to make late scoring runs into opposing areas. I think we have the talent to play this way.
I am always very nervous of “we should do this” type posts, me being a footballing outsider and all. But when data is on my side, and the data below suggests that the balance of the team is wrong, then there’s some justification here.
If we see more tight defending, fast attacks and perhaps even a bit more speculative shooting, we’ll know they’ve been reading!