Defending Philippe Senderos

I don’t know that there’s much more to be said about the current problems so let’s get specific here.

People are blaming our friend Philippe Senderos for a lot of things and while he sometimes looks shaky it’s my contention that Bobby Moore would’ve been exposed in our current defence.  Let’s look:


Right then. At the very top you see part of our big problem in that the ball’s gone straight to our last defender with no midfield shield.  As Alan Hansen might say, you could drive a bus through that midfield.  So straight off the centre-backs are completely exposed.

Amorebieta gets close and gets turned, after which you see that Senderos and Rooney are both running towards the penalty area and Robin van Persie has the ball. I ask you: is Senderos really supposed to be able to deal with this situation on his own?  Of course he isn’t.  He realises how desperate the situation is and makes a futile attempt to intercept the through ball, but that doesn’t come off and moments later Rooney’s setting up Valencia.

The last picture is there to show you why Derek Boateng would be helpful: imagine that Amorebieta was in between Richardson and Senderos.  Senderos probably doesn’t shade so far across (look at the hole Amorebieta leaves!!), Boateng probably doesn’t get turned so easily and there’s really no threat. Instead the ball gets straight to van Persie against a centre-back, the centre-back sells himself and from there we’re up against it.   And everyone blames this goal on Senderos?   Not me.



For the second goal Parker loses the ball and oh look, the defence is completely exposed again.  Remember under Roy Hodgson we played Portsmouth away one evening and conceded a goal like this?  Bullard got caught in possession, exposing everyone behind him.  Same here, and straight away it’s 3v3 with, yep, no midfield protection.  With nobody to challenge the runner Senderos finds himself with a man ahead and van Persie behind.  What’s he supposed to do here?  If he goes out too quick it’s too easy to go past him, so he tries to hold his shape and hopes that United misplay their advantage.  Emphatically they don’t, van Persie thumping home, but again, if you’re blaming Senderos here you’re being very harsh.  Sascha Riether might have been helpful here but look where he was!!  Just about in shot on the far right of the penultimate photo…. oh dear.

The third goal had Riether playing the man onside, too. Maybe Senderos was slow following Rooney then but again, the damage had been done.

So yeah, blame Senderos for his awkward looking attempts to fend off an almost impossible situation if you like but we must acknowledge that this is a team defensive disaster and Senderos is only highlighted at the end of it because he’s the only one left back there.  There are numerous issues before the centre-backs are brought into play, and again, they’re just so, so exposed.

At this point I can’t think of an argument for not including Derek Boateng.  We haven’t seen enough to know that he’s the answer but really something has to happen.  If I were Philippe Senderos I’d be furious about how bad my teammates were supporting me.

23 thoughts on “Defending Philippe Senderos

  1. Right as ever. The defensive issues are clearly not the fault of one man, but of the shape of the whole team, from front to back. For me there were very obvious signs of total disorganisation in conceding the goals today. For the 1st and the 3rd specifically, 5/6 bodies all retreating furiously towards the goal-line, leaving no-one to pick up late runners into the box. Just looked totally clueless.

  2. Spot on Rich. Our shape is awful. I don’t know if it’s Jol’s instructions or the fact that our midfield consists of a championship level “hard worker” and the most overrated player in english football. Sidwell and Parker run around and look busy, but are completely undisciplined and offer next to nothing going forward. I don’t understand why Jol doesn’t play Boateng either. I have always defended Jol, but his stubbornness or blindness in sticking with this abominable midfield pairing is truly driving me crazy.

  3. Thank you Rich for eloquently pointing out exactly what I was thinking at the time (albeit being drowned out by the 17-year-old HammyEnd wannabe-ultras.

    Additionally, the booing of Ruiz was disgraceful. What he is supposed to do when he receives the ball and had no options in front or either side of him is beyond me, but the fans at the back I H6 expect him to produce magic every time.

    The reason that I bring Ruiz up is that he and Senderos have become crowd scapegoats entirely because of the (lack of a) system that Jol has employed. There is no protection for the defence, nobody deep who can pass, and no movement in front of the 10s that we insist on playing together.

    The negativity has become so rife that even Taraabt is vilified for having the temerity to have a go. Sure, he could pass more often; but how many times do we cry out for a shot to be taken and a poor pass is made?

    I’m somebody who normally finds the positives about Fulham. Unfortunately the time had come for Jol to go. Not only because there is no system for the players to work in (let alone flourish in), but because they are being so exposed by the lack of a system that every single error of their’s is being exploited by the opposition and latched on by the fans. It has reached the stage where no party is benefiting other than our rivals.

  4. Senderos personally accounts for about 65% of the reason I wish there were better football analytics. I can not for the life of me figure out if he’s good or not. But this was great analysis.

  5. This is Sanchez mark II: good players made to look bad because of a lack of structure and a game plan more based on chance than control. We have a great squad. The right coach could do something special with it

    1. The second half proved how good these players actually are but we desperately need better leadership, preparation and organisation.

      I came away from the match thinking we might not go down under Jol but things really could and should be so much better.

      1. This is exactly it. I’m beginning to wonder whether the upside with Jol always was the players he is able to recruit (whether because of his agent or his reputation). His relationship with Spurs’ executive management fell apart when Comioli came in. If you have someone whose job it is to scout and buy players, then why keep Jol?

        Look at the squad he’s assembled. It’s pretty remarkable. Despite what many say, there’s a decent blend of youth, players in their prime, and experience players. And I cannot remember ever having a squad so flexible. We could easily play just about any formation you could ask for (352, and 433 are the two we may best be suited for, but we also have the wingers to play a classical 442, and the tricky attacking midfielders for the 4231). And despite popular belief, our main attacking players (Ruiz, Kasami, Berbatov and Rodallega at least; not sure about Bent) are capable of putting enough effort in that we should be able to defend from the front.

        But we don’t play the defensive midfielder (Boateng or maybe Zverotic) that it is clear that we need (no matter the system). Nor do we seemingly require our attackers to do any defensive work. He just seems incapable of organizing the team properly. It seems pretty clear that we need to bring in a coach to do that and take the burden off him.

  6. The crowd has always got to have a scapegoat (or two). Logic and analysis don’t count for a lot of people. One thing Big Phil certainly has, which I greatly admire, is passion. Could do with that amongst some of the others.

  7. I have often lambasted Senderos in the past, but I fully agree with this article. Reither is becoming increasingly unreliable and unfortunately our continuance with Sidwell and Ruiz is exposing the centre of the team too much. Boateng was courted by us for so long, surely the unexpected arrival of Parker should mean playing them together is the best option, with Sidwell and/or Karagounis coming on late to ‘shore up’ a winning position.I believe that Ruiz has had more than enough chances to show what he’s got. Either play Taraabt insead of him, or play Taraabt for the first hour at least, with Ruiz only employed as fresh legs after Taraabt has helped us into a winning position – although I think that the passion Karagounis shows whenever he plays far outweigh anything Ruiz can give us.

  8. On Senderos in general, it’s a fact that Wenger, Moyes (after a few months) and the Milan manager (after one season) all showed him the door, which Jol was also prepared to do this summer. True also is that the first three were attracted in the first place. A more random truth is that the two Arsenal supporters of my acquaintance who normally seem the most acute tell me that he had chance after chance but kept ruining basically OK matches by a goal-surrendering blunder. Last week he did that very thing at Leicester.

    Senderos is, as it were, the object in Rich’s post, however, not the subject — lack of defensive cover. And he is right that you could replace our Philippe with the dream defender of your choice and there’d still be the issues laid bare by those photos.

    What to do? Well, our next fixture provides strong reason and excuse for playing more than the usual two, but instead three, out of Parker, Sidwell, Boateng and Karagounis, with one of them a bit more advanced. This would increase the chance of being less porous than yesterday — against a combination as worrying as Rooney/Van Persie. Bryan would be the one to make way for the sake of defence. As for how much the goal-threatening side of things would suffer — might we expect a shot or two and decent pass each half from, say Sidwell, pushed up a bit, and would we have anticipated much more at Anfield from Ruiz? Yes, I reckon so, and not really.

    1. While it’s true that Senderos was shown the door by Arsenal, Milan and Everton, it’s also true that we’ve had a lot of success by “reclaiming” players who haven’t really panned out, or have been phased out in favor of younger players, at bigger clubs – look at Murphy, Davies, Hughes, etc. Senderos is a limited player, sure, but he’s also A) serviceable if the rest of the team is committed to defending around him (as opposed to what’s demonstrated by the pictures above), and B) under 30, which means we can at least reasonably expect him to sustain his admittedly mediocre level.

      These pictures above sort of encapsulate the problem from Rich’s last post, about how everyone is sort of doing their own thing rather than really being part of a system where they have defined roles (as was the case under Roy). Especially against a team that has as much talent as ManU, we’re screwed if we don’t defend as a team. Better defenders than Senderos would have had just as much trouble in that same situation. I don’t know that Boateng is the solution (because there isn’t any guarantee that he’d be any more positionally disciplined than Parker and Sidwell), but it couldn’t hurt to try.

  9. I agree that the defense was left exposed in this game and that this is part of a larger problem with Jol’s team. But In my opinion hughes is the better defender and has much better awareness of the players around him. Sendersos may not have been at fault for these three goals as you point out rich, but on other days his rash tackling and tendancy to dive in (and miss the player and ball completely) can, and has, cost us goals and points in the past. I feel it’s criminal to play senderos and leave Hughes sitting on the bench.

  10. I think it’s becoming more and more impossible to defend Jol as it’s painfully obvious there is little to nothing of substance happening on the training grounds between matches. Perhaps it does come down to not having the right support staff around him, but shouldn’t he had made that determination some while ago? Isn’t it one of the first acts of a new manager, to assess the coaches and assistants and make any necessary changes? I seem to remember that when Jol came in he relegated all of Hughes’ remaining team to the development squad. He made the changes, brought in his own people, and spent £10.6m on one player… £10.6m that could have gone towards coaching staff and/or other players to fill roles within a coherent system of play. So where is the responsibility?

    Amorebieta’s punch last week and now Riether’s stamp… do you think there’s a relationship between Jol’s lack of defensive nous and the lack of discipline now being shown on the pitch?

    1. I’ve wondered the same in comments to prior posts as to whether Jol should change his staff, but I guess that just doesn’t happen in footy like it does in most American sports.

      And I’m pretty certain that all of Hughes’ staff left with him.

      Current Head Coach Michael Lindeman arrived with Jol in summer 2011. The two go back to Jol’s days at HSV. According to some anonymous unsourced article in The Mirror, the players and he had a dustup in January 2012.

      Jol’s brother Cornelis Jol is the Football Operations Manager. Like Lindeman, the two go back to HSV.

      The only coaching move made was when Jol reinstated Ray Lewington to the First Team Coach when Jol first arrived. If you recall, Sparky banished Ray to the Youth Development Program, or something similar, much to the fans chagrin. He eventually left to join Roy’s England staff in May 2012. Billy McKinlay was then promoted to first team coach.

      Needless to say the club just hasn’t been the same since Ray left.

        1. right, that is true, but we’ll never know how much of that was Jol demoting him like Sparky did, or more due to the elongated hiring process by the FA.

          If you recall that process took several months due to compensation (dis)agreements, so conceivably both the club and Ray decided it was best he have some figurehead position until his status got resolved, rather than have some messy termination fiasco, or Ray juggle two roles at once.

          1. Yes it might have been like that, but it’s known that it wasn’t. Ray felt he was sidelined and unappreciated by Jol. There are several sources for this, the best being an Fulham 1980s teammate and good friend of Lew who discussed it with a TIFF regular while they were neighbours on a flight.

  11. Looks like Riether has been charged by the FA for violent conduct. Very disappointed in him. I HATE to see Fulham players behaving like this, it feels so unfulhamish. For so long we have been a well liked club…would hate to lose that. Riether hasn’t impressed so far this season either IMO.

  12. Agreed. Very disappointed in Reither. Not been as good (see third goal on saturday), and stamping is just not on. There were rumours back in the summer about him wanting to leave (go back to Germany) and I wonder if he has lost interest (that and the general malaise around the squad).

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