A few thoughts on the Hull and Norwich games

Last night I found myself awake at 1am watching the Ashes. England were scoring pretty fluently. Alastair Cook had 41 and Carberry had…. 5.

I decided to go to bed. I put the radio on quietly and continued to listen. Michael Vaughan, former England captain of some repute, was talking about how Carberry had got himself into a negative state.

Vaughan listed the reasons: Carberry is 33 and new to the international scene. If he doesn’t deliver now he is not going to keep his place as one for the future. His future is now. He needs runs. But he hasn’t been scoring runs, despite being in quite good form. He has scratched around for 30s and 40s but 30s and 40s aren’t much use in Test Cricket: you need 100s. England haven’t scored any 100s. They’ve lost badly. Carberry’s been in better nick than most and hasn’t cashed in.

Vaughan thought this was weighing on him and resulting in him playing sub-optimally. At one point he noted that Carberry was defending balls that, were he playing for Hampshire, he would have smashed to the boundary.

Alastair Cook is averaging 27 in this Ashes series. In 2010-11 he average 127. Cook has captaincy weighing on his mind and also Australia’s bowlers have plans for him.

Both England openers are not performing to their potential. Would we, I wonder, contest that they don’t care? Are they performing badly because they are useless? Or are they good players who are, for a variety of reasons, not performing as well as they once did?

Carberry’s desire to do well is inhibiting his ability to perform. He is, depending on how you look at it, either trying too hard or playing a safety first game that inhibits his ability to do the job he was picked to do. Cook has a lot on his mind and is probably somewhat burned out. He is not delivering in any aspects of his job. Do we think he doesn’t care? No, of course not. He cares, he cares a good deal. He is really good at what he does, too. It’s just that circumstances aren’t going his way at the moment.

My point is that you can’t just say that Bryan Ruiz doesn’t care. Confidence and psychology are important parts of sports and if you’re out of form, particularly when you’re out of form after being injured in an awful team, then this can manifest itself in a number of ways. Doesn’t care? Alright, maybe he doesn’t care. But I’d be inclined to suggest that the opposite is the case, that his confidence is shattered, that when the ball comes to him he has lost that swagger or that certainty that you need out there, he is playing safe, he is playing scared. His runs are tentative and irrelevant. His touch has gone. He doesn’t really want the ball because he knows that when it comes to him he is likely to do something sub-optimal with it.

He’s a fine player and we’ve already seen that. He’s lost at the moment, more damaged than most by Jol’s debacle. Given the chance he could be a fine player. After today it might be that he doesn’t get the chance, but I felt compelled to defend him again as once more he drew much of the vitriol online and once more the whole team had a shocker. Ruiz went off at 2-0, and we shipped another four without him.

Which brings us back to a point I’ve long argued on the message boards. There was a time when this team’s problems were all at the feet of Dimitar Berbatov, but the forward players are hardly likely to make something happen in a team that plays like this one. We are abject defensively, and yes, part of this is due to the play of Ruiz and Berbatov and others like them. But put Roy Keane or Patrick Viera in this team and all of a sudden the luxury flair players are skill players who the team needs to make things happen. (Indeed, Viera talked about how Arsenal’s Robert Pires was nothing when the team didn’t have the ball but important with it). We are blaming the wrong players, mainly.

This is a team whose appetite for defence is either damaged, missing, or compromised by an outright misunderstanding about how to keep goals out. It’s a squad that has been fatally compromised, where money has been misallocated and where outstanding young players are overlooked in favour of bits and pieces nobodies who aren’t going to contribute now or in the future. We complain about the £10m spent on Ruiz without realising that £10m isn’t much these days. £10m is a good first teamer, which Ruiz undoubtably has been. It is a measure of Fulham’s fall that £10m is considered a big money signing. Our cast-offs policy worked well but it’s not a way to sustain a team in the long run. We have tried to supplement a core of players with youngsters but only Kacaniklic has stuck, and he’s been in and out of the team every other performance, as if to say to him “we like the idea of you but not what you do on the pitch”, which in its own way is probably leading to Carberry issues for him, too.

You could go on and on. I thought the corner might have been turned but you don’t lose 6-0 at Hull unless something is horribly wrong. What is the diagnosis, then?

a) Scott Parker is now a vital player for us and without him you’re asking Sidwell to run the team
b) We’ve talked about Ruiz. He’s out of form and lost and clearly hasn’t rediscovered his mojo.
c) Dejagah looks like a good player when used on the right and in concert with Riether, but on the left without Riether he might as well not have been there.
d) Amorebieta might need a bit longer to get used to the English game but he has been conspicuously present in many of our worst defensive performances.
e) Aaron Hughes is struggling in the current setup.
f) I was slow on this but Kieron Richardson is another whose presence in defence seems to lead to bad things happening.
g) Adel Taraabt got a lot right at Norwich. Hugo Rodallega sometimes looks handy as a late sub on the counter but his Fulham career has been one of continued non-happeningness. There’s no point in playing Darren Bent in this team either, but given Taraabt’s success it might have been worth going like-for-like here: the nearest would be Kasami I suspect.

But I don’t know. Somewhere in there you’ve got a shift from a good away win to a bad away defeat. We could create nothing and in the end could stop nothing, which is the Jol failing and which is of course a dire combination.



9 thoughts on “A few thoughts on the Hull and Norwich games

  1. I only really saw the first half — down 1-0 we had a plumbing disaster that I had to investigate, and with my four year-old shouting out updates from the other room. (I think he’s become a Hull City fan, regrettably. This was probably the most goals he’s ever seen scored by a team.) But even in the first half, the midfield trio looked noticeably out of sync compared to the past few performances. A lot of this I think was schematic — in that 3-5-2, Hull can utterly pack the center of the pitch unless we apply enough pressure on the flanks to draw some of their midfield wide. We didn’t do that, and their numbers overwhelmed Sidwell/Kasami/Karagounis on both sides of the ball. But the absence of Parker also seems, in my gut, like it may have been a factor.

    I think kind thoughts about Rodallega, but he seems utterly the wrong man to play up top in Rene’s preferred formation — Berbatov and Taraabt have both looked good, and they are both playmaking forwards, which Rodallega is notably not. He is strong and fast, but has a dodgy touch. There’s a rumor in the Colombian press he may be going back there on loan, in which case I wish him the best. Most of our problems were elsewhere today.

  2. Nice piece – I can’t help thinking that 2 games on the road in 3 days must have been a factor, particularly as we collapsed in the second half.

    1. Not sure if that can be an excuse since we made 6 changes to the team. Although our centre backs played in both games so they may have been a bit jaded. At this level it shouldn’t be an excuse though…

  3. “There’s no point in playing Darren Bent in this team either, but given Taraabt’s success it might have been worth going like-for-like here: the nearest would be Kasami I suspect.”

    I think in a lot of ways Dejagah is very similar to Taarabt in terms of tight control and quick change of direction when dribbling, but I don’t know that we’ve ever seen him played in a central role (nor do I really mean to say that I think he should be). Kasami sometimes reminds me of a bull when running at defenders, Taarabt more like a bullfighter (to continue the metaphor).

    I’m glad you came through with a post highlighting the lack of team commitment to defending (and of a player in an anchor role to support the back four) after I mentioned this yesterday on FOF as something you’ve often (and correctly, in my opinion) brought up as a flaw with the current team.

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