Good win over Palace

We wanted to see some evidence that the two week break had changed something and I don’t know that we got that, but a 4-1 away win with two fantastic goals is not something to sneeze at, is it?

Some thoughts, then:

Palace are pretty bad. As Jamie Carragher pointed out last night, they’re arguably weaker than they were last season. They’re going to be relegated and there’s not much they can do. Sensibly, I think, they are making improvements to the club while there’s money around but not doing anything rash. But games like tonight’s are matches where they might hope to win, and they emphatically didn’t.

They started well though. With the evening kickoff and the floodlights there was always going to be a decent atmosphere. Palace scored early and Fulham seemed a bit shellshocked: despite all the creative players in our team, the main approach seemed to be Senderos to Hangeland, Hangeland to Senderos….

We were rescued by as good a goal as we’ll ever see. Kasami did well to make the run he did, Riether did well to find him. Kasami did well to control the ball on the full like that. If the move had ended here it would’ve been quite impressive. But to hook the ball into the top corner from there… I always think that the mark of a great goal is whether a park player could conceivably have scored it. Many goals fail this test, as wellying a football is something most of us are half capable of (Sidwell’s own wonder strike, good though it was, will be replicated on parks around the country this weekend). Anyway, basically nobody on earth could have done what Kasami did last night, which raises its own questions, primarily around what on earth has happened to the young man in the last year. We’d seen glimpses but Kasami 2013 is something else. A nice surprise, and, dare we say it, credit Jol for letting him play.

And so on. It’s like one of those FA Cup 3rd round games when you win well but against limited opposition: great for morale but hard to understand in the context of the wider season. What it probably does confirm is that we’re all fighting to avoid a single relegation spot: Sunderland look shot, Palace will struggle, and that leaves only the one space for the remainder of us to avoid.

The second half was a good deal better and it was nice to see a couple of set piece goals. Other thoughts:

Scott Parker very clearly played a much more disciplined role. Previously he has used his experience and quality to adopt a bit of an “I’m running this team” approach, but that’s not the best use of him at this point, and it was nice to see him settle down into a more conservative but more useful role.

They needed help initially though: Palace had Parker and Sidwell outnumbered and this was causing all kinds of problems. With the ball they kept going back to the defenders; without it both were playing on the edge of reason, a predicament Sidwell seems to enjoy but which seems to get both the best and worst out of him. Luckily the goal took the sting out of Palace and this issue ceased to be.

Riether seemed a lot more conservative, too. Ruiz was helping him out and was closed down *very* quickly.

My arguments about Darren Bent as a sub still hold, I think. He touched the ball less than a dozen times in the time he was out there, so a good argument could have been made for using his place to stiffen that midfield and maybe let Ruiz play off Berbatov. That said, his pace offers intangible benefits: Palace couldn’t press too high up the pitch for fear of what we might do if they did, which probably helped us find our feet in the game a bit more.

It’s touch and go though. While I like Bent and agree that he just needs games, I wouldn’t be averse to him being used on the hour every week.

The “it’s all Berbatov’s fault” brigade should be quiet for a bit now. He has been out of form, of course, but quality like that should not be discarded quickly.

I’m worried about Hangeland and at this point wonder if he is worth his place in the team. Senderos, whatever people might like to think, is doing a good job, and Amorebieta looks impressive whenever we see him. Given that Richardson and Riether seem reasonable full-backs, perhaps the time has come to change the back four more dramatically.

The world is moving to a pressing game and it’s something Fulham haven’t really done. To press you need to move up as a team. If only some players press they leave gaps behind them, so it has to be a concerted effort to squeeze the game. This means a high back line, something you can’t do if your centre-backs are slow. You have to weigh up all the team’s strengths and weaknesses but an ongoing theme this year has been the number of shots we have allowed. This might be because the team isn’t compact defensively: the back four stay back, the midfield is fragmented. It feels as if a more compressed unit might be harder to get through. This is just conjecture though. It’ll be worth watching how Southampton play at the weekend though: they’re very good at this.

In any case, bananaskin dodged, nice win, please for the players. We live to fight another day.

18 thoughts on “Good win over Palace

  1. Hangeland surely must be injured.

    That’s twice now that he’s been taken off at half time. If that was because of form then he wouldn’t be playing the next game and it’s not the way that Jol would treat his captain.

    Whatever the problem I think that he must be allowed to make a full recovery before playing again.

  2. Your comments are very reasonable , except for one glaring error – Richardson is dreadful . I watched his performance closely yesterday and he is like a rabbit in the headlights when the ball is at his feet ; his sense of positioning is weak and he often loses control of the ball in dangerous areas. As a wing back he lacks urgency and tends to deliver aimless crosses into the box.
    Despite all his deficiencies, I would rather see Riise (sic ) in the team .

    We will remain in a dogfight unless we find a competent left back and a midfield player who can distribute the ball and carry it to the forwards .

    Yesterday’s performance was a morale booster but if we are honest , we didn’t look comfortable until we were 3-1 ahead . There’s still a great deal of work to do .

    1. Lee, I’m not sure that an opinion can be a glaring error. I think Richardson’s okay and far preferable to the lumbering Riise; you say he’s dreadful. I’m not saying you are wrong but please can you build on this. I know I’m a bit ott on stats sometimes but where opinions diverge statistics can be useful. in this case, what evidence is there that Richardson really is awful? Do we concede lots of goals from the left? Do teams tend to attack us down that flank? Does he give the ball away a lot? I don’t know the answer to these but until I get decent evidence I will stick with my opinion that he’s fine. not perfect, not a big problem, a good solid, athletic player who can replicate a lot of what Riether does on the other side of the field.

      1. If you have the match recorded watch how uncomfortable he is when he has the ball at his feet with opponents at close proximity . Watch how he is caught out of position and how he gives the ball away far too easily . He’s playing without confidence .
        A few sliding tackles don’t compensate for regular sub par performances . However , you are correct that an opinion is not a glaring error – my apologies .

  3. as for your midfielder point, that would be nice but I don’t think it’s just about finding new players; it’s a team game and the team needs to function better. That’s about coaching. Just signing someone else in the midfield won’t change much if the team’s overall philosophy doesn’t cater to this new player.

  4. The point about Bent stopping Palace from holding too high a line is the key one for me. This is why Ruiz and Berbatov as the front two doesn’t work. It becomes all too easy for teams to compress space. I have no problem with the argument that Bent may be most useful as a super-sub, but his replacement should be Rodallega and not Berbatov otherwise the disincentive to holding a high line just isn’t there.

    With regard to the performance, it was what it was. We won away from home again. Nothing else matters. The home games are where you expect to see things a little better. Still…Kasami…has he been watching video of Dempsey?

    1. Whilst Bent did force the Palace line to not play ludicrously high, I don’t think he was that effective and Palace still pressed us very competently in the first half. I’d side with Rich in that I think he’s a great option off the bench, but has to do much more than simply stand on the shoulder of the defender. His off the ball running was very last night, something which he’s really got to improve because we remain static.

      I’d plump for Kaca to come back and be used as a winger/inside forward who stretches play behind the defence. He’s got the pace and he’s got the finishing to do this and he has been a potent player linking up with Berbatov a fair bit, especially away from home (Arsenal, Swansea etc).

      1. The problem that we have is that we cannot play Berbatov as the sole man up-top. He really needs to be in the 10-role, where he can move laterally and has players to pass to in all directions. Having a quick forward in front of him gives him the space to be much more effective too.

        I’m with Rich in that I think Bent is a brilliant opinion to have on the bench, but at the moment he just doesn’t make enough of an impact when he’s starting, and we’re wasting an asset. Whether that means we start Rodallega up front, I’m not sure. Kacaniklic could be a decent shout – he could stretch play – but he’s too slight to be a forward. Similar to Duff. What we would give for a Zamora/Johnson forward to play in front of Berbatov.

        I think the time has come for Senderos and Amorebieta to be the starting centre-back partnership. Looked very comfortable against Stoke and Palace, and whilst they’re not the best of teams, Hangeland needs to be rested until he’s 100% fit and gets some form back. People say that Senderos is an accident waiting to happen. He’s playing well at present, and Hangeland seems to be making uncharacteristically large mistakes whenever the ball is near him.

        Richardson did well for the first hour, but sloppy mistakes sneaked in thereafter. I wonder if that’s a fitness thing – he can’t have played 90 minutes very often over the last couple of years.

        Finally, there’s surely no coincidence between how much more organised and calm we looked defensively with Stekelenberg in goal. Seemed to breathe confidence into the team.

  5. “With the ball they (Parker and Sidwell) kept going back to the defenders, without it both were playing on the edge of reason, a predicament Sidwell seems to enjoy, but which seems to get both the best and worst out of him.”

    Brilliant Rich, brilliant.

    Reasons to be cheerful:
    1. We won, emphatically in the end.
    2. Senderos had his best game for a while, even without the goal.
    3. It was a better, though far from perfect performance.

    Reasons for caution:
    1. See 3 above.
    2. Until Kasami’s wonder goal we were decidedly second best, getting knocked off the ball too easily.
    3. Brede Hangeland. Jol has said that he is having trouble with a sciatic nerve. He looks only a fraction of the Brede we know and love.
    4. Our build up play:

    Watching on TV you don’t get the full picture, but the struggle our defenders and central midfielders had when trying to move the ball forward suggested insufficient movement up front. Yes, Palace really got in our faces, but Southampton will be a tougher nut to crack. You imply that Bent’s presence helped to create space but he hardly got on the end of anything in a productive way. His performance looked a long way short of the sort of thing we used to see from a fit Andrew Johnson.

    Regarding the Left Back debate, I’m not convinced by Richardson but wouldn’t dump him yet either. He needs a run of games. My feeling is that Briggs’s pre-injury form was better. How far off is he?

    Even without his wonder strike Kasami is obviously a burgeoning talent (that late effort which Speroni palmed away would also have been a terrific goal). He has to be part of the mix now, but we seem no clearer about our best combination.

  6. Rich, I’m starting to see what you were saying when I asked why I should be excited about signing Parker. He’s more mobile (for more of the match) than Karagounis, and better composed with the ball than Sidwell (though I find his final ball not to be great and he isn’t the “creative midfielder” that people were clamoring for, right or wrong).

    Bent… I don’t know. He doesn’t seem to have the pace anymore that’s really needed to stretch a defense or be very effective on the counter, and surely the goal poacher that Martin Tyler seemed so intent on telling me Bent is should have finished the chance that fell his way when Speroni’s goal kick hit Berbatov in the face. I’d like to see Rodallega given some more match time.

    I’m also with Lee and Nick above on not being entirely convinced by Richardson. Yes, obviously he’s faster than Riise, but his passing and crossing aren’t great and he whiffs on tackles and headers more often than I’d like.

    Speaking of whiffing on headers, Hangeland continued not to look “right” in the air. Mariappa is seven inches shorter than him and yet won the header to score Palace’s goal.

    Gosh, I sound like a downer, don’t I? It really was a nice morale-boosting kind of win ahead of a tough trip to Southampton, even if it was against a squad that seemed lacking in much spark other than Bolasie. (I think we all know by now that Chamakh is terrible, and was that THE Kevin Phillips? The one who led the Premier League in scoring what seems like seven hundred years ago?) And it was great to see Stekelenburg back in match action and making some saves that should help him find his form.

    And, obviously, Kasami.

  7. I’ll join the chorus of those who are deeply concerned about Brede. This is undoubtedly wrong, but I feel like the majority of goals we’ve conceded this year have involved someone heading the ball in above a flat-footed Hangeland.

  8. Fantastic description of the Kasami goal Rich. That single play was just about enough for me this week. Between a goal like that and a win away, I can’t bring myself to care too much about positional worries or potential roster changes.

    Also, the “park player” test will be my benchmark for great goals from now on.

  9. Apropos of absolutely nothing, we should put out a bald/-ing XI:

    Bent
    Kasami–Berba–Taarabt
    Sidwell–Parker(SHAVE IT!)
    Richardson(SHAVE IT!)–Senerdos–Hangeland–Reither(SHAVE IT!)

  10. Recorded Southampton game and watched it late last night… Although I walk out of most games wondering what your report will say, this time I am really dying to hear your opinion.

    I have never left the “Jol in” camp this year, until the Cardiff game, when I was probably about 60-70% in favour of getting a new manager. After yesterday’s performance I firmly in favour of him getting the sack. A lucky win against stoke after which Tony Gale said that the result was more important than performance. And lets be honest about the palace game; had it not been for the 2 wondergoals that are likely to be our best 2 goals of the season we would have lost that game.

    So in combination with one of the most pathetic performances the premier league has ever seen (yesterday), its looking like the result against Stoke was not more important than the performance and I its very evident in my eyes that we need a new manager immediately.

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