Tightening up

I mentioned it in passing below, but by my reckoning Costa Rica caught their opponents offside 41 times this World Cup. There was a spell when basically Holland were caught every time they tried to attack. This, to me, really speaks for the value of hard work in defending. It has been noted in the newspapers that individually, the Costa Rica defence aren’t superstars. But they have worked really hard together to become a functional unit. Danny Murphy kept saying in commentary on Saturday that this doesn’t just happen by saying you’re going to be a good defence, you have to work really hard at it. We know all about that, don’t we? (I think the second highest in terms of offsides was Germany with 12).

Thing is, we can guess that this kind of organisation can happen quite quickly. Tony Pulis took over a Crystal Palace side that was full of empty-headed attack and turned that on its head, creating an organised, grizzly Crystal Palace side that became hard to beat quite quickly.

I bring this up again to (again) wonder why Fulham were so slow to fix last year’s problems. The team was so obviously bad that something really had to be done. Rene Meulensteen was effectively a skills coach at Manchester United, wasn’t he? In retrospect it’s hard to understand how he was considered to be the right man to fix Fulham’s issues.

I know this isn’t new but the more you think about last season the worse it gets. In the face of very obvious problems you at least have to have a stab at getting an answer. People moan about statistics but a number of (free) analytical websites pointed out very quickly that Fulham were becoming historically bad defensively. As in the worst in Europe. As in the kind of team that’s going to get relegated without much of a fight, according to Premier League precedents. So now, what’s the story here:

a) Fulham were aware of this information
b) Fulham were not aware of this information
c) It’s more complicated than that, isn’t it?

If a, something clearly had to be done to fix the defence. It wasn’t done. Is this because Fulham were aware of this information but didn’t believe it/felt themselves above this kind of thing, or that Fulham did believe it but assumed it would get better. Either way, it demanded a fix. There was no fix. If you believe Brede Hangeland, there was no attempt at a fix.

If b, you have to ask why not? Even if they don’t ‘like’ statistics – and I know very well that not everyone does – there was ample eyeball evidence that the defensive side of the game was horribly wrong. I hate to think that, like a lot of fans, the powers that be were fixated on the team’s attacking issues (many still believe that Dimitar Berbatov was the main problem).

Or c and perhaps d and all of this known and on the to-do list, but lost in the constant shuffle of managers and coaches?

I don’t know. But Jorge Luis Pinto could presumably have organised this team in no time. Would it have been enough? I think it would, yes.

It’s awfully easy to diagnose things in hindsight with no responsibility isn’t it? But even so.



12 thoughts on “Tightening up

  1. Hit the nail on the head as per usual. I think we can’t really play a high line due to having slow centre backs. We need to sort out centre midfield. The defence need protection, I don’t think that would be Parker as he failed to do this last season. So we should bring someone in.
    I’d like to see us playing 4-3-3 wirh a Chris David alongside two other defensively capable players and two quick wingers, Richardson and Dejagah would suffice. Mitro or Woodrow could do a job up top or maybw a new signing. Woodrow holds the ball up well.
    In defence Burn has to play. Both full back positions will presumably be new players.
    Amore could play but I think two left footers coukd be a problem.
    Stockers should start too.
    Most important is to keep the ball better: the opposition can’t score if they can’t get the ball.

    1. Rich’s point, with which I agree, is that it’s the “how” not the “who”

      Parker is vastly experienced and is a genuine trier. He would fit very well into a defensive system, playing to instructions, doing what he’s supposed to be doing and not doing the things he’s supposed not to be doing.

      Last season there was no such system. Rich wonders why and it’s hard to find any acceptable reason.

      It may be harder this season though because being hard to beat won’t be enough for promotion. That saves you from relegation. This season we also need to be asking serious questions of the opposition.

      1. Last sentence is what makes it all the more frustrating. As Rich notes, the problem was blatant, much like Palace’s pre-Pulis, and could and should have been tweaked sufficiently to scrape us over the line. This year we need to excel in all departments, which is so much tougher even in a lesser league.

      2. “[Parker] would fit very well into a defensive system, playing to instructions, doing what he’s supposed to be doing and not doing the things he’s supposed not to be doing.”

        Would he? He’s definitely a “trier”, as you say, but seems to be more of the “run all over the place and make things happen” mold than the “sit in front of the back four and keep things tight” mold.

          1. He did well at Spurs I think. If he can do that then we can bring in a deep lying playmaker to help shift the ball forward as this is a weakness of his and David can feel free to roan forward.

  2. I think we need additions though. We’ve lost four or five centre midfielders, two full backs and two centre backs. The squad is paper thin. Maybe Tunnicliffe can step up? I don’t know.

  3. Should some blame be directed at Khan? Given his reign with the Jacksonville Jaguars — and now with Fulham — there appears to be a pattern of ineptitude emerging.

    1. He spend a pretty penny, it’s not his fault that he was given poor advice on who he was paying for. The main thing he’s guilty of is backing Jol for far too long.

  4. The club were fragmented when Fyed left. He had not invested in the team for quite sometime. A half hearted attempt was made to save the club through Mulienstien but it didn’t work. When Magath came it was really to late. To many divisions not enough drive. The supporters fragmented to. Still singing Fyed songs.

    I think the club planned and accepted relegation and are hoping Magath will provide a promotion team, restore harmony and more importantly for him to get the everyone pulling in the right direction. Also bring the new chairman into the hearts of the supporters. Spending sufficient for this to happen. It’s cheaper for to fund a championship promotion for the chairman than winning any Orem trophy and he would not have endeared the crowd to him by Fulham floating around the Prem in mid table. But a championship promotion now that is another thing. Am I wrong?

  5. For some of these things, I wonder how much stability of the starting XI helps. I don’t know much about CRC’s depth, but I -assume- the back line were fairly well-established. Even with limited practice time, it probably is easier to work on these things as a unit if there’s that continuity. Since Jol took over (3 seasons!), there’s never really been a moment when I knew what the preferred formation of the manager was and who his starting XI were.

    1. I think the lack of continuity was very much a contributing factor to Fulham’s failures. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to who was in Fulham’s starting XI last season.

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