Posts Tagged ‘Brede Hangeland’

Fulham: A Third-of-Season Retrospective

November 15, 2010

In an attempt to make sense of how Fulham are actually performing this season I thought that having a look back at the Fulham performances over the first third of the season, with the benefit of hindsight, might bring some answers.

Bolton 0-0 Fulham:  A good draw against a team that have been doing very well this season under Coyle. Both sides had good chances and a draw was a fair result. Going away to Bolton is always tough so a draw is always a welcome result.

Fulham 2-2 Manchester United:  A game we deserved to win. Two stonewall penalties denied before an unlucky own goal and a harsh penalty nearly put us out the game. Thank god for Brede Hangeland. Great performance all round.

Blackpool 2-2 Fulham: The first glimpse of the defensive frailties of the Mark Hughes system coupled with the first glimpse of Etuhu as a serious attacking threat. Blackpool played without fear at their first home game and could have won it. We were the part-poopers but a draw was a decent result all things concerned.

Fulham 2-1 Wolves: A good result but one that could shape our season for other reasons. The loss of Zamora has had a huge effect on our team. The blossoming partnership of Bobby and Moussa was cut short and we showed character to get the win.

Blackburn 1-1 Fulham: Another draw, but a solid point from a tough away fixture. Decent performance against a physical side although the lack of Zamora was very noticeable in terms of our attacking potency.

Fulham 0-0 Everton: A game we were lucky to draw. Everton had been on a poor run to start the season but thoroughly outplayed us. The first time we were outplayed this season.

West Ham 1-1 Fulham:  This should have been our first away win in however many games. Fulham showed that they are a better side than west ham, but a draw was decent nonetheless.

Fulham 1-2 Tottenham:  The first loss, and an unjust one at that. The descision to award the Tottenham goal when Gallas was clearly offside and interfering with play floored Fulham, and without Zamora there was no way back. We may not have deserved to win but a draw would have been fair.

West Brom 2-1 Fulham:  A deserved win for West Brom who played Fulham off the park. Mitigating circumstances were that Fulham were without almost all of the first choice midfield.

Fulham 2-0 Wigan: A fine performance and should really have been more than 2-0. Wigan gave up with 20 mins to go but Fulham were excellent, controlling the midfield and running the game from start to finish.

Fulham 1-1 Aston Villa: A lucky draw at home courtesy of that man Brede Hangeland. Villa dominated with a young midfield full of energy then defended reseloutely. Hangeland saved us but the lack of pace and invention in midfield was worrying.

Chelsea 1-0 Fulham: A poor match that Fulham deserved to lose, but Chelsea were hardly setting the world alight. Again, the lack of options up front was very obvious.

Newcastle 0-0 Fulham: By all accounts a good result against a team full of confidence after a good start to the season.

A summary:

Wins: Wolves (H), Wigan (H)

Draws: Bolton (A), Man United (H), Blackpool (A), Blackburn (A),Everton (H), Villa (H), Newcastle (A)

Losses: Tottenham (H), West Brom (A), Chelsea (A)

So what conclusions can we draw from this. Well, firstly, it is too early to start panicking. We have beaten two teams we would expect to beat at home and drawn away against some tough opponents. One of our losses was unjust and the others away from home so acceptable. Secondly, our defence seems to be as resolute as ever. We are yet to concede more than 2 goals in a game and we know that teams with good defences are very rarely the ones that get relegated. Thirdly, we desperately miss Zamora. With AJ back, things may change before january but we need at least one good striker in the january window. It is not that our midfielders turned forwards have not tried their best, just that we lack a genuine goal threat up front now that Zamora is not there. With a full compliment of strikers I would guess that we could have turned several of those draws into wins, and would probably have our much sought after first away win of the season.

Things may get worse before they get better, but we can hope for an improvement in the new year with further additions and the return of the mercurial Zamora.  I am fully confident that Hughes can turn Fulham’s fortunes around, it may take time and this may not be a vintage season, but I am confident in the ability of Hughes to move us onwards and upwards.

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Fulham 0-2 Aston Villa: The Losing Streak Continues.

January 31, 2010

Another game, another loss. 2010 is starting poorly for Fulham. I have not dusted off the keyboard in a while and expressed my thoughts due to a combination of work and very little to positively talk about with regards to Fulham.

Whilst Fulham had lost their last four games, we were all able to hide behind the ‘poor away from home’ excuse. Not so anymore. Villa did not do much, but walked away with an easy win. Gabriel Agbonlahor is a very good player, and a promising young English star. Two goals from him, one a bullet header, the other sweetly turning Hangleland before curling the ball into the far corner, silenced the Fulham crowd and left Roy Hodgson wondering how we had become so porous in defence. Fulham put in a weak performance, obviously missing two bombarding full backs and Clint Dempsey, the tireless and attack minded midfielder out for several months courtesy of a forceful Blackburn challenge.

The difference in the fullback position had been the one that has interested me the most. So often we have heard the mantra that if you stop Danny Murphy, you stop Fulham. Yet against Villa, Murphy had lots of space in both halves, and whilst he created a few chances, we still looked impotent up front. The lack of confident full backs has been crucial. Fulham are a team that play a very narrow game, especially away from home. They force the ball into wide positions which are theoretically less dangerous; and this usually works with the towering Hangeland heading away any aerial threats, and Hughes sweeping up any leftovers. But for all the defensive solidity playing narrow affords Fulham, it poses challenges in attack. The usual remedy is to use the overlapping fullbacks as an ‘out ball’ or to pull the opposing fullbacks out wide allowing Duff and Dempsey to cut inside into space. Without the fullbacks we have little width and teams find us easy to defend against, with the opposing midfield simply dropping deep to stifle our creativity.

So should we be worried? Not really. Fulham have been struggling with injuries and this will get better. Upcoming games are also all very winnable (not that it guarantees anything) with lots of home games. Fulham only need 13 points to reach safety, or in other words four and a bit wins, which with so much of the season remaining is extremely possible. Finally, the teams below us are not very good. Hull, Pompey and Burnley look the most likely to go down, and will probably all sabotage their own seasons with a combination of poor defending and turgid displays.

Wednesday will be interesting. Pompey are struggling on and off the field and have lost their best player. Fulham are looking to end their losing streak. The bookies will favour Fulham, but I am worried about Avram Grant. There is no doubt that he is a good manager, lets just hope Roy can outclass him in a tactical battle.  On Saturday we will face a resurgent (sort of) Bolton under the guidance of Owen Coyle. This will be a tough test, and whilst I dont think Fulham have much of a chance, you never know.

Ultimately, injuries have forced our season off track in terms of the league. I for one hope that we go all out in the cup competitions as our premier league status is fairly secure and finishing 16-10 is certainly not the end of the world when you consider where we were a mere two years ago.

Some Quick Transfer Thoughts

January 7, 2010

I love the January transfer window.  I know it makes little sense and can be dangerous for a team like Fulham, but I love the crazy speculation and overflowing BBC gossip column that awaits me each day.

Fulham have been linked with many names already this window, but the one that keeps popping up is Stefano Okaka. He is of course the promising young striker playing for Roma who is looking to move due to the recent arrival of one Luca Toni. We have already been able to catch a glimpse of him in the Europa league, and whilst he didn’t overly impress me at the cottage, he did score Roma’s second goal at the Stadio Olimpico in our highly controversial match in Rome.

I think Okaka would be a good addition on loan, especially if we have an inbuilt extension clause in the deal. He is definitely raw, but not only would he offer some competition to the excellent Bobby Zamora, he may also flourish under Roy’s tutelage. This seems very low risk and financially viable. Okaka would join compatriot Marcelo Trotta who joined us this summer so he might be able to adjust to life here more easily. My one reservation is that coming into the premier league, especially at his age, he would either struggle or not make a huge immediate impact and could receive criticism from the fans. I am certainly not expecting him to be some magical wonderkid, I just hope people temper their expectations. Extra points go to this potential transfer because Okaka is a bit of a football manager legend of previous years.

Other stories include the recent on featuring Jamie O’hara on the radar again. The stumbling block here would be the fact we seem to have tons of midfield options and a possible 3 club rule restriction. I personally would rather see us get some cover at the back as injuries have limited our options and whilst I think Kelly will settle in and start playing confidently sooner rather than later, I would like some cover/competition for Konchesky who is carrying an injury.

One final word, not so much to do with transfers: Brede Hangeland and his knee injury. I may be being overly pessimistic but I feel there is a hidden story in this. His knee appears to have flared up/got infected and there were mutterings that he has been plying through the pain for a while now. I don’t want to be alarmist, but so often with taller players these kind of injuries can become a problem. Having recently signed a new contract lets hope that he doesn’t become a player who spends more time on the physio’s table than on the pitch. I mention this because I follow the Boston Celtics and Kevin Garnett (an outsanding player) has been struggling with knee issues of his own. I know he is both older and plays a sport that is more demanding on the knees, but his recent struggles got us thinking about our very own big man Brede who does a lot of jumping himself.