Hi, sorry, where does all the time go?
I am a week late on this, but life gets in the way sometimes. Today, in fragments, I watched Cardiff v Fulham, and took notes while so doing. These notes have been mangled, deformed and struck through by my children’s uncaring hands, but the truth, as I see it, shines through. It is these notes, this truth, that I type below. Better late than never.
First key observation I don’t know if Voser has much experience at left-back but Cardiff found a way behind him twice early on. Two different approaches but the result was the same. As the game wore on he seemed to be on a slightly different planet to the rest of the back four, frequently further away than he should have been. In the second half he got a bit more help from Pringle, but not that much more. I think full-back cover was a bit slapdash throughout. This is odd, as Pringle seems like the type to give everything, so I’m thinking part of this is a coaching thing. Yes, I know, pile on Symons, but the man’s track record doesn’t exactly fill us with confidence does it, so when you see something like this you have to assume it’s in part down to instructions.
Likewise, why did Longergan not want Fulham to have the ball? If he kicked it long to Cardiff defenders once he did it 40 times. I have actually looked at the whoscored.com stats for this but I don’t believe them. I think he gets an ‘accurate pass’ if someone heads it, but that generally still seemed to end up with the ball at a Cardiff foot. Are we really saying, in this day and age, that we’d rather Cardiff have the ball just inside their own half than Fulham have the ball a bit deeper? Really? It just seemed like a complete and utter waste of possession. Again, is this Lonergan being dim or has Symons just told him to hoof it as far as he can in Matt Smith’s general direction?
Good news! I like the, look of Tom Cairney. He and Christensen both play with their heads up and both can use either foot. They look like they have the makings of a fine combination. Proper footballers. Good signing!
Bad news! What a fractured team we looked. I know we were away at a decent side in the first game of the season but the machine’s parts aren’t yet in synch, are they? The defence, I thought generally tried to play out okay, and the midfield all had their moments, but the front two (Smith and the deep-dropping Captain McCormack) seemed very cut off. There were clear routes to goal down the flanks, with Voser and Richards both overlapping well, but Fulham couldn’t get that going often enough, and instead found most attacks to ultimately be nothing of the sort. It’s lazy to just suggest that the presence of a big man at #9 makes his teammates play these aimless diagonals, but that did seem to be what was happening. McCormack lacked the fizz we have come to expect of him, but I would expect that he and the midfield will come to enjoy one another’s company, either as they get used to each other or when they get a coach who can better utilise their skillsets.
Alright news! I think we have all had it in our minds that Fulham need new defenders, and it’s true, but I thought Richards, Burn and Hutchinson did pretty well. Cardiff did have the odd moment but that’s almost inevitable. Hutchinson in particular showed some nice anticipation in making some good covering… erm… plays. I’m not confident enough in my diagnosis of what Voser was up to but it seemed to upset the spacing of the other three, and in the second half Burn did seem to be dragged across quite a lot. But yeah, they did fine.
The goals! Ours was a fluke, really. Credit Smith for having the nouse to follow the ball in and the ability to stick it away, but it’s not like the breakthrough came from anything clever. I’m not going to say we’re getting back to coincidence football, but it sometimes looked like that. The Cardiff goal was awful. I heard that Noone had scored a worldie, but in truth he went almost half the length of the pitch without anyone deigning to interrupt him. That’s disappointing. Pringle shuttled across to close him down in the end but slipped, so the shot was completely unimpeded. Someone has to get there, right? Disappointing.
The ratings!! Here we’re trying to judge a players general way of doing things. It’s not about seeing the most glaring incident and letting that dictate our result but rather the shape of the performance, the things the player was doing, and how they might relate to scoring or conceding or not conceding.
Lonergan – 5. Man of the Match at Viva El Fulham but I can’t get past all those pointless turnovers. I don’t like to say turnovers, but really that’s what they were. Just giving the ball back in the name of stupidity. I’m not laying it all at Lonergan’s door but “I was just following orders” doesn’t cut it either. He made the odd good save but nothing out of the ordinary. This feels harsh, but if an outfield player just booted the ball to the opposing centre-back 40 times a game questions would be asked. By me, if nobody else.
Richards – 6. Fine. Looked good to me.
Hutchinson – 6. Good performance. Not perfect but good.
Burn – 6. As above. Occasional hairy moment but we’re judging at an overall level and he looked switched on and capable to me. You have to stick with Burn I think.
Voser – 4. I don’t know if he hasn’t played left back but this was a performance that would have had Brighton’s advanced scouts feeling excited about having something tangible to tell their superiors. He felt like a weak link, an area to be exploited. That the equaliser came from the left flank didn’t surprise me at all.
O’Hara – 5. I’m not sure where the man of the match award on the official website came from. I thought he did okay but not to the degree I know he can play. I do concede that his role in particular is one that’s often easier to appreciate in person, e.g. organising, knitting things together. It’s not his fault, but he is by default our most defensive midfield player and this scares me somewhat. Clearly can use the ball but I guess the trick will be understanding how we can best use this in the future. So a goodish start but I think he will be more influential in time, and to repeat, we need someone else to break up attacks as this isn’t really what O’Hara’s for.
Christensen – 7. Felt a lot more threatening than his peers. Lots of nice touches and seemed to be involved in most of our non-random good moments.
Cairney – 7. Loved what I saw. Two good feet, poised, brought teammates into attacks, alive to options, not always the obvious ones, and seemed just to ‘get it’. I’ll be watching him with interest in the weeks ahead.
Pringle – 4.5 Slow to find his feet. Got better in the second half and I can absolutely see why he will be a good player for Fulham, but there wasn’t much there for me. No real threat down the left, he seemed to be roaming infield at times, but of course that didn’t help us defending the left flank. And of course his slip led to the equaliser. Harsh? Sure, but if he keeps his feet the goal doesn’t go in. Anyway. A lot of nothing in the end. He’ll do better I’m sure.
McCormack – 4.5. As above. I thought McCormack had a really ordinary game, neither fish nor fowl and not at the races.
Smith – 5. Hard role to play and hard to assess his performance. He got the goal, so credit there, but you can see why they might be looking at a Dwight Gayle type who offers an over the top threat away from home. I don’t want to say that we’d have won that easily with Gayle up front instead of Smith because clearly that would be a stupid thing to say, but equally you can see how Gayle’s pace might have been a nice option for our little wizards to have. It might just have opened up O’Hara’s Charlie Adam/Steven Gerrard demonic long balls from hell, though. Who knows? Anyway, Smith did okay.
Dembele – ? Not long enough but I liked the way he went about things. I confess that I’ve never really seen what all the fuss is about but he looked sharp and made some intelligent contributions, which is what he needs to do.
In conclusion we did quite well and while Cardiff had a lot more pressure in the end, Fulham did feel halfway comfortable with the lead. It was a lot better than Ipswich last year and it’s clear to see how this might evolve into a really good team. Seriously: in some ways it’s almost there. I don’t want to harp on, but a coach with a track record of building a team would probably help to ensure that potential is reached, but in the meantime it feels like the Fulham supporter’s glass ought to be half-full. And, without going all UKIP on you, even if it doesn’t work out, seeing a young, largely British, Fulham side does help a bit, I think. Thank you for your time. I’ll be back next week to talk about this week.