Let us hope our wish was granted and that beating Sofia 1-0 softened Fulham up. In a detailed assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of our Sunday opponents, based on watching the Fulham game before Sofia, a fellow subscriber to the Blackcats list, Jim Minton, gives us hope that we can do something about our atrocious away form – but also warns about the minefields. He is less forthcoming on the subject of Korean karaoke …
It was my dubious pleasure to watch Fulham v Bolton last weekend in the company of a group of gentlemen who thought it would be a good idea to kick off a stag weekend watching Clint Dempsey slugging it out against Gavin McCann from the corporate boxes at Craven Cottage.
Anyway, rather than digressing into tales of late night karaoke in a Korean bar in Soho and how my rendition of Since You’ve Been Gone came to cruelly curtailed for public health reasons – which is how the stag weekend ended – I thought I’d offer my thoughts on our opponents for Sunday.
Most of the reports I read after the match suggested that Fulham dominated, and that was certainly how Match of the Day presented the game too. But I actually felt Bolton were unlucky not to beat them,
and in the way they approached the game there may be some pointers for us.
To begin with, Fulham are very lightweight up front. This forces them to try and “play through”, with lots of movement, short passing around the box and moving the ball quickly from centre half through the
midfield to the feet of a front player.
Bolton neutralised this pretty effectively by putting McCann in front of their back four and just letting him break up play. Cana could perform a similar role for us on Sunday – with the advantage that his distribution will hopefully be superior to that of the “former england international”.
They may have Zamora back on Saturday, which will give them “presence” but the consensus among the Fulham supporters and an ex player who was wheeled out after the game to talk to us was that he basically wasn’t up to it. Having said that he is bound to score against us now!
In defence, Hughes, it pains me to say, looked very assured. But Klasnic, gave Hangeland a torrid time, mostly playing with his back to goal, turning and laying the ball off. I know we don’t tend to play like that, but if we put balls in the air the 6 ft 7 defender will win them – obviously. Hopefully we can get Bent in behind him, as he has no pace and no great awareness either in my view.
For most of the game, Bolton tried to put Kevin Davies up against Konchesky (a horrible, rubbish player in my book) which was interesting – predictably Davies won every header, but equally predictably when he got the ball on the ground could never beat the full back. I think if we can get early balls to them, in between the full backs and centre halves, then Jones and Bent should give them a tough time – though Schwarzer continues to be very solid.
Putting pressure on the full backs did push Fulham back, allowing Bolton’s own full backs to get forward. Again, there could be opportunities for us as Fulham tend to play quite narrow, if we can get McCartney overlapping and Malbranque is on his game.
Even if they have Murphy back, I would hope that our midfield should at least match theirs.
The one player who did stand out for fulham was Duff. He didn’t really play wide, but floated across the whole pitch, and looked dangerous whenever he got the ball – much more direct than any other player, he wasn’t greedy, but he rarely looked to pass and had defenders backing off him a lot in the second half.
I don’t think he needs a Fabregas-style “follow him everywhere” strategy, but our midfield and centre halfs will have to be very watchful about who is picking him up as he tends to float between the midfield and forwards. Its the kind of role I wish Malbranque or Richardson might take on for us, but perhaps that is a forlorn hope.
Anyway, just my thoughts. Looking forward to the game – we have recently done quite well at Fulham and hopefully it will be another good one. But we really need to approach it as if it was a “big game” and go for it from the start, rather than handing them the initiative as we have in some of the other away games recently.
* The photograph appears at Slowtron’s pages at Flickr. It is not know if the list includes the “oh what fun it is to see Sunderland win away” version of Jingle Bells.