Close but no cigar: Spurs 3-1 Fulham

Rats. We can talk about not having expected anything but in our position we need unexpected points. We are only going to survive on unexpected points.

So when, at 3-1 down, a penalty went our way, it seemed that a redemptive Eastlands moment had arisen.  But Sidwell’s hit and hope penalty was beaten out and with it probably our chances of staying up.  I’m not saying that’s it – there’s an awful lot of football still to be played and anything could happen – but that was a big moment and we blew it.

Fulham did so much right but were undone by two extraordinary free-kicks from Christian Eriksen (I don’t care who turned them in, they were his goals) and a piece of dire defending on the left flank.

1-1 at half time had looked entirely fair and the team should have been optimistic about its chances. But then Aaron Lennon was given acres by Dejagah (with Riise behind him – what, were they that scared of his pace?) and his cross was headed home.  It was an awful goal with no redeeming features.

The team put in a fine effort to keep its winning run going but ran in to a better team. Spurs scored first via the first Eriksen free-kick, a laser beam that landed in our six yard box unmolested, for Paulinho to shin home from a yard out. Marking? Well, maybe, but that was a world class cross.  Fulham came back with a fine Steve Sidwell goal – all charge and fury – and you could almost imagine the team puffing out its collective chest at half-time, ready to take the second half.  But then that soft, soft, goal, and Fulham didn’t really recover.

What did we learn?

Stockdale did well again. The left flank looked like it might be dangerous defensively and proved to be. Parker, Sidwell and Kvist was a solid three but probably ties up a player that we could use elsewhere. Two really good players in synch ought to be able to do the same job, it feels, and while it’s lovely that Felix isn’t getting lulled into doing the Sidwell/Parker duo thing, the midfield we did put out was really limited in possession. Kvist I like as a player but he seems to have little range on the ball, a sort of slightly different Etuhu with a good selfless game but not much capability offensively. Parker was terrific for a bit but again lacks a bit of guile attacking: Spurs seemed to give him room in their half but he didn’t have the wit or the options to really make the most of it.

Sidwell we know: he did what he does, scoring that wonder goal, missing that vital penalty.  It’s his season in microcosm, more good bits than anyone else has come up with but perhaps with a slight sting in the tail lest we get too carried away with his overall contribution.  I always feel terribly harsh being anything but positive about a player who clearly shows a lot of balls and is a team leader and an admirable pro, but as the Times noted today in its analytics column, we have the worst squad in the league on this year’s performance: being the best player for Fulham in 2013/14 isn’t all that.

Rodallega continued to be a revelation up front.  I don’t mind him not scoring, he got into positions, did all he could to make things happen and if he sometimes makes bad choices he more than makes up for it with an energy and quality that was basically not there in our team until Magath took over.  There is quality in Rodallega, a reminder that under Jol our chaotic attacking play did nobody any favours.

Kacaniklic tried hard but is still probably a season away from regular quality contributions, Dejagah’s contribution reminded us why some players are better as substitutes (and as soon as football realises that this is a legitimate ‘role’ rather than an afterthought the better: Dejagah coming on breathing fire is a dangerous thing. Going through the motions as a starter is no use, and while he’s better than he showed today, he has been devilishly effective as a second half shock sub. Why change that?).

So, yeah.  Hope for the future, doom and gloom for the present.  Spurs were there to be taken but it needed a lot to go right, everything to go right, but as we know, this season has no remaining margin for error, and Fulham were not without error.

16 thoughts on “Close but no cigar: Spurs 3-1 Fulham

  1. Thanks Rich. You are the word of reason and its good to hear your thoughts on the day of the game no matter what you write. Especially after having our hopes severely dented – once AGAIN – after the Sunderland result. Where it was going to be a challenge to stay up at 5pm it is now looking unlikely again for the first time this week. If we can get 3 points from Hull we will have one hell of a big away day at Stoke. No matter what happens come the last day of the season, I am sure we will be able to rely on a grounded, glass half-full perspective from you – and for this I will always be truly grateful.

  2. Sadly we missed Diarra very much, and holtby too of course. If Diarra doesn’t play against Hull, I fear that is it. Nothing much else to say really.

  3. Didn’t Dejagah start today for lack of perceived alternative? It was a semi-reserve line-up that became even more sub-optimal with the two enforced substitutions. One of Europe’s best young midfielders undid us twice. We competed and then it was beyond us, albeit coming close twice ourselves. Your title is apt.

    It was a disappointing day, particularly after that competitive first half, but the anger in some quarters is misplaced. Maybe on-screen viewing masks this a bit, but the pitch is huge when quality opponents are playing with the confidence born of a two-goal lead. If unable to seize control and generally by-passed in that situation, lack of resource is more the cause than lack of moral fibre.

    It’s still vexing that, as you say, Spurs were there for the taking. Sometimes you go there when team and crowd are really up for it and it’s just overwhelming. Not so today in either respect. But we didn’t have the ammunition and, susceptible even to routine set pieces, we were hardly going to survive high-class ones.

  4. Once again I think we lost our impetus when coming out after half time. Has anyone else noticed how poorly we start after the half-time cuppa. Yesterday, not for the first time, we took over five minutes to get going during which Spurs scored. This happened recently at the Cottage and the opposition scored before we had barely touched the ball. Perhaps it is the age of the team and the legs don’t restart as quickly after a break but this period of chasing shadows is really costing us. Perhaps I’m paranoid about this but to me it has been a feature since the Jol days. Maybe the ‘cuppa’ should be laced with something that has more of a kick.

  5. “Parker, Sidwell and Kvist was a solid three but probably ties up a player that we could use elsewhere. Two really good players in synch ought to be able to do the same job, it feels, and while it’s lovely that Felix isn’t getting lulled into doing the Sidwell/Parker duo thing, the midfield we did put out was really limited in possession.”

    I have to imagine this was because Holtby was unavailable and Diarra presumably unfit/exhausted, rather than Parker-Sidwell-Kvist being any sort of “Plan A”.

    “Dejagah coming on breathing fire is a dangerous thing. Going through the motions as a starter is no use, and while he’s better than he showed today, he has been devilishly effective as a second half shock sub. Why change that?”

    Well, on the other hand, Dejagah has (if I recall correctly) come on as a sub for Kasami, who’s been largely ineffective lately. Why waste important pitch time in important matches on a player who’s out of form? I mean, it seems irresponsible to rely on substitutions as part of your tactical plan when you’ll often need them to deal with injuries and the like.

    1. Why? NBA have sixth men. Baseball uses closers and relievers for high leverage situations. We know that players are MUCH more likely to do well as a sub goalwise owing to tiring legs against them. Leveraging this ought to be a legit strategy.

      1. True, and I’ve agreed with you in the past about, for example, Bent being more effective off the bench. With just three substitutions available, though, there’s only so much you can plan on/take advantage of this, without potentially handcuffing your ability to deal with an injury, a defender or goalkeeper getting sent off, etc. Plus, like I said, Kasami has looked bad lately; are we going to keep playing him for 55 ineffective minutes in order to get 35 more effective minutes of Dejagah? I guess I don’t really know the right answer here.

  6. There is some terrific analysis of the match, with pertinent freeze-frames, at http://www.spursfanatic.com. Some of the illustrations are a bit scarey, but they do help to explain how the goals go in!

    The subtitle of the piece, as self-explanatory and apt as Rich’s, is `central congestion beaten by width.’ His verdict overall is: “On one hand it was a comfortable score line, but the game itself was anything but. Fulham were a constant threat throughout, but just failed to find a cutting edge, the story of their season.” Admirably fair, even if the defensive stuff he illustrates is even more the story of our season.

    1. The preview of the match is also well worth reading — loads of homework had been done and there’s better analysis of Magath’s Fulham than you’ll (to my knowledge) have read online other than here. The author even predicts the score correctly.

      1. Thanks for the heads up! Very interesting.

        Clearly allowing chances from wide is preferable and usually we won’t concede three from crosses in the same game. This was a bit of a freak in that sense I feel. Hopefully the defeat won’t have a negative impact on the players and we’ll have LH, KR and MD back too.

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