It was encouraging to see the team play with a bit of zip. One touch passing was occasionally in evidence, there was a general sense of tempo. More than that there was a coherence to the play: Fulham’s players weren’t just 10 boats being blown around on a lake, they moved in concert, sometimes fast, sometimes more measured. That side of things was encouraging.
A couple of clever selections, too. Karagounis is just the kind of player to inject some spirit into a shoegazing football team. He plays every game as if it’s his last (if he didn’t it might very well be). Kieron Richardson and Darren Bent were apparently injured but their removal resulted in good things, too: John Arne Riise, whose hair suggested that he wasn’t expecting a recall, or even to be seen in public at all, had as good a game as I can remember from him. No, he wasn’t perfect, but he showed a willingness to overlap and brought presence to a defence that too often has (rightly) had the look of frightened rabbits in the headlights.
Up front Berbatov was stationed as an out and out forward and moved with more vigour than has been the case for some time. He might have scored and made Dejagah’s goal with the sort of pass that looks obvious once it’s been made, but which would have been beyond the majority of players. This is why those who have been baying for his removal had it the wrong way around: you get rid of your worst players, not your best ones.
We also had good performances from Kacaniklic, who will benefit from having time in the team and on the pitch, and from a deep-lying Parker. Dejagah took his goal fabulously well. Senderos was terrific at the back.
On the downside we allowed a couple of long-range goals, which is always disappointing. Stekelenberg had a good game and couldn’t have done much with those shots, but there is a nagging feeling that the shooter might have done less well had he been well closed down, which gets back to the team’s failing all year of being very easy to attack against. If that seems harsh then we have to realise that the margins between success and failure and currently we’re a long way on the wrong side of that ledger: the little things matter; the little things will save us.
In the cold light of day we did better but were still beaten. Spurs had 60% of the ball and managed 18 shots, which is more or less what we’ve allowed most games and remains a recipe for relegation. On the plus side Fulham managed 16 shots, a nice improvement on previous games.