I read an article about how American Football teams are using GPS systems to learn about their players. This technology gives them acceleration/deceleration numbers, everything a player does. Using it a team was able to learn that a star player was moving better to his right than his left. They noted that if this had got out around the league he’d have been toast. They found another player who was showing extraoardinary abilities to run fast then stop dead; they hadn’t seen this with their eyes but the numbers allowed them to build it into their approach.
I say this because I’m still struggling to pin down exactly what Fulham are doing that’s so awful. I mean it. I can tell in the abstract, and if you’ve been reading this for a while you know that we know about the shots thing. But with my eyes it’s just not that simple.
Here’s the thing though: the defence looks awful but isn’t getting any protection. So is the abject defending their fault?
The attack is almost non-existent. But the forwards are getting no service. Is the lack of penetration their fault?
The midfield will complain that they’re overrun. They will complain that the forwards aren’t moving. So are they blameless?
Here’s what we know:
Stekelenberg is probably as close to blameless as anyone here.
I have never been convinced by Sascha Riether’s defending but the width he gave us was meant to be a helpful counterpoint to that. He’s not playing at the moment.
Philippe Senderos is attracting flak, but he got that when he was playing well so in a downswing he’s like a magnet for the ire of our fans. We know that he has performed reasonably in Fulham defences in the past, so the fact that we’re being sliced apart every week can’t be down to him. Sure he’s struggling but as noted before, Jaap Stam and Franco Baresi couldn’t keep teams quiet in this Fulham XI.
Amorebieta impressed at left-back but I suspect his play in the middle has been a bit rusty. It’s a new partnership and perhaps hasn’t gelled as it might have. These things take time though, but time is short when you’re allowing a shot on goal every other minute the opposition have the ball.
Richardson I thought was doing okay for us but he had a stinker at the weekend. He’s Riether’s equal but that still only means a 6/10 player probably.
Parker is everyone’s idea of a good player to have around and it’s true that he was doing the bizzo for England not long ago.
Sidwell is a mystery. I always think he’s a good player but suspect he’s a bit frenetic to be relied upon in an engine room these days. I find it hard to conjure up an image of him in possession, which is weird. He has a nice nose for goal and tackles well but – I’m guessing – is fairly ordinary overall. Like I say, I can’t quite pin him down.
Kacaniklic and Dejagah are what they are. People got angry with Ruiz, these two played instead, and oh look, neither did anything. This was completely predictable.
Kasami continues to catch the eye as one player who can rise above all this stink. I don’t know what he is doing differently but it is refreshing, and I was quite wrong about him.
Berbatov has the track record but now people are naming their best XI without him in them.
Bent seems well suited to a late subs’ role. If you watch the Football League show it’s littered with players who got lots of goals but never managed to stick in the top division. Now the top division seems bereft of pure finishers, with the likes of Defoe and Bent both marginalised despite good goals records.
So what? How does the above lead to what is becoming an absolute disaster of a football team. We shouldn’t be THIS bad. Nobody is this bad.
First, we need to think of a football team as a chain. The Match of the Day people pointed this out in a way after the United defeat. If our forwards defend like they haven’t a care in a world then this puts pressure on everyone else. If the midfield is unreliable then so does this. We all have our limits: think of playing cricket. Facing a 40mph bowler your technique’s pretty good. Against 90mph the footwork’s not so clever. So it is for the likes of Senderos and co at the back. They can defend when given a chance, but breaking point comes when there’s no protection. The lack of protection can be traced from the lack of defence throughout the team, but ends up making the defence look like idiots.
I can’t really find an excuse for our lack of attacking menace. We are still picking attacking teams but not achieving anything. I suppose if we cast our minds back to early Jol when we were either awesome or awful there was at times too much fluidity. The 4-2-3-1 just seemed to result in a mess at the top and nobody quite knew what they should be doing. That’s probably what we have now. Kacaniklic and Dejagah can’t get into the game because they’re not good enough to take over (think about how Clint Dempsey would be playing at the moment for a good contrast). Berbatov is mentally gone and plotting his January move to Galatasaray. Ruiz is shell shocked. Sidwell and Parker are overloaded in their problems. The full-backs aren’t all that anyway.
To cap it all I think that mentally the squad must be in bits. When you’re playing this badly it’s hard to turn things around. There may even be a subconscious desire to get Jol removed. There may be something we don’t know about.
Or there may just be things beyond the naked eye. When I talked about the GPS at the start it was with Scott Parker in mind. What if, at 33, he’s a fraction of a second too slow to do his job? What if a couple of players are carrying injury that is causing them to be 15% off the pace? What if there’s other stuff happening that we can’t quite pick up on?
Because really, our absolute uselessness doesn’t make sense unless someone’s a lot worse than I think. People will say yes, Senderos and Berbatov and Ruiz, and maybe that’s right, but it feels like all three are good players. Is it some kind of ridiculous bad chemistry problem, the opposite of alchemy, where we have happened upon a group who simply cannot play together? Or what? Or what? The answers I read over and over again don’t explain this. The facts make it very clear that we’re very awful, but I can’t see why we’re this bad. This is a historically bad team at the moment and really it shouldn’t be. I don’t really understand it.