Posts Tagged ‘Fulham’

I have moved!

June 10, 2011

I thought that I would freshen things up, and start a new blog focused on Fulham and football in general.

The Maestro’s Metronome

Enjoy!

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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.

Were Fulham the victims of ‘Furbizia’?

September 13, 2010

I have always loved Italian football. I loved the fact that Inter won the Champions League this year (effectively) with one of the best defensive displays of the last decade against one of the best teams of all time. I also enjoy supporting the team that everyone loves to hate at the world cup: the Azzurri.  Why do I enjoy this? Furbizia.

I have never been a particularly good footballer in skill nor athleticism, but I have always had a good footballing ability to read the game and a decent level of intelligence that allows me to be more canny with how I deploy my (rather limited) resources. This is where Furbizia comes in. Simply put, it is the ‘art of guile and cunning’, a way to help get the mental upper hand in football. Over on footballitaliano.co.uk there is an excellent article detailing exactly what Furbizia is and how it influences the game:

Furbizia is something very different. Firstly, it is something which takes place only and exclusively on the football pitch. The word ‘furbizia’ itself means guile, cunning or astuteness. It refers to a method which is often (and admittedly) rather sly, a not particularly by-the-book approach to the performative, tactical and psychological part of the game. Core to furbizia is that it is executed by means of stratagems which are available to all players on the pitch, not only to one team. What are these stratagems? Here are a few: tactical fouls, taking free kicks before the goalkeeper has finished positioning himself, time-wasting, physical or verbal provocation and all related psychological games, arguably even diving.

An interesting concept that is very evident in Italian football. Many call it cheating but I believe it is an art and  style that helps to define Italian footballing philosophy and adds flavour to the game.

How is this relevant to Fulham? On Saturday, Fulham were subject to some of the most cynical football known to man sending the messageboards into meltdown and myself into a frenzy of irritation at the match. Over at Craven Cottage Newsround, Rich offers both sides of the argument as to whether what Wolves were doing was wrong or not, and whether as fans we have the right to get upset.  Timmy  at The Offside also threw some light on the situation by arguing that Wolves are not a dirty team. Were Wolves employing the tactics of furbizia or is that far too kind?

If we look at the footballitaliano article it discusses the use of tactical fouls as part of furbizia and as part of a larger tactical game plan. There can be no doubt that Mick McCarthy purposely instructed Wolves to play this kind of game but the problem with wolves approach was simply that they were not very good, nor very subtle at it.  footballitaliano describes their failure perfectly:

As with all matters in sports, there are variations to how well all this can be performed. Anyone can provoke an adversary, but it takes real guile (real furbizia) to find the weakest links in the other team’s psychology, then wear them out and bite them until something or someone gives in – all without ever breaking a single rule in the book of football.

Wolves simply provoked rather than really found the real weak links in the Fulham team. They also did not have the technical skill to back up the tactics they were employing, rather using their cynical style of play to launch a series of (admittedly dangerous) counter-attacks during the game. The real problem on the day was not Wolves rather basic furbizia tactics but the totally inept performance of Phil Down, the man in the middle of the park. If he had nipped Wolves’ obvious fouling in the bud early on then Fulham would have run out comfortable winners. As it was, he failed miserably and created a hostile environment for himself and the Wolves team (albeit one that I found surprisingly enjoyable!).

Ultimately the ‘dark arts’ in football can add a value to the game but the rather cheap and lazy ‘imitation furbizia’ that Wolves attempted turned what could have been an interesting game into one that has been brought into disrepute.

Blackpool 2-2 Fulham

August 28, 2010

A crazy game that Blackpool were unlucky to draw, but a result that should please the Fulham faithful. After the highs of Wednesday night it was tough to see Fulham a goal down but pleasing to see that the resilience that was shown against Manchester United was still evident.  For me, this game really gave us some clues of how Mark Hughes wants his side to play and what we can expect to see in the future.

The game was played at a frantic pace, Blackpool pressurising Fulham all over the pitch and really playing up to the crowd, feeding off their energy. Blackpool had the majority of the ball and were passing about nicely, although not creating many clear cut chances. After having  goal correctly disallowed, Blackpool went behind. Dembele was put through on the right wing and beat his man with an excellent cross, nodded in by the mercurial Bobby Zamora.  Blackpool were not  disheartened and finished the half well, out passing Fulham, but again failing to look particularly dangerous up front.

The second half continued at the same frantic pace with Blackpool really pushing Fulham. When Zamora came off Fulham lost some of their tactical identity and it was not long before the breakthrough came.  Luke Varney caused problems up front, before getting a shot off that was smashed into the top corner by the hapless John Paintsil (who had the worst game I have seen from an RB at Fulham in a good few seasons).  With Fulham rocking, Blackpool capitalised with an excellent goal. A poor pass from John Paintsil was intercepted and Luke Varney was put through; he made no mistake with an assured finish. At this point it looked as though Blackpool would put Fulham to the sword but they sat back slightly and allowed Fulham back into the game.  It didn’t look like Fulham could create anything without Zamora but after Blackpool gave the ball away, Moussa Dembele (who was the best player on the pitch) hit a slide-rule through ball for Dickson Etuhu to latch on to. Etuhu finished with a deft chip over the keeper and looked comfortable doing so, which surprised me to say the least. Looks like we might have a player on our hands.

After that the game fizzled out as both sides settled for a draw. Fulham relieved not to have thrown away too many points but disappointed at not capitalising on their early lead, Blackpool happy for the point but disappointed not to have had all three.  Looks like we may have to wait a while for our first away win…

Dembele, Halliche and Salcido

August 27, 2010

So Mark Hughes has wasted little time bringing in some new faces and start to mould the squad in his image.  Lets go through the signings:

Moussa Dembele (£5m, AZ Alkmaar) – Hughes’s first signing in the transfer window and one that has already got people excited. Dembele made his debut against Man Utd and looked completely comfortable, especially since he had played less than 90mins is pre season. We got a second look at him on his full debut against Port Vale and he looked excellent. Powerful runs were matched with excellent awareness and some great distribution. Dembele notched up his first goal too, a cracking drive for the edge of the area which snuck inside the left hand post. It is early days but Dembele is already looking like a bargain at £5m.

Rafik Halliche (£1.6m, Benfica) – A slightly left field signing but one that had been on the back-burner for a while with Halliche training with the Fulham squad. Halliche spent last season on loan at Portuguese side Nacional and finding his opportunities limited at Benfica decided to try his luck at Fulham. He had an excellent world cup and Hughes has seemed impressed with his performances in training. I am sure he is a backup for Hughes and Hangeland, but it is always good to have cover.

Carlos Salcido (£2m, PSV) – Signed today, Salcido is a left back by trade and comes in either as deputy to Paul Konchesky or as a replacement, depending on who you believe. Like Halliche, Salcido had an excellent world cup. He had fallen down the pecking order at PSV and had been looking to move on. Salcido appears to be a quality player and it will be good to have some cover at left back (finally!).

With the potential for new signings over the next few days, these really are exciting times for Fulham under Mark Hughes!

Welcome Mark Hughes

July 29, 2010

So after weeks of speculation regarding the vacant managers position at Fulham, Mark Hughes has been unveiled as the new gaffer on a two year contract.

My instant reaction is one of relief combined with the excitement that a new managerial appointment brings.

What can we expect? Well to a certain extent it is a case of wait and see. New managers bring new players and new ideas to a club. I cannot pretend to be an expert on Hughes tactics/playing style but his managerial record is certainly impressive. With Wales, Hughes was on the verge of qualification to Euro 2004, beating Italy twice in qualification (much to my chagrin). At Blackburn, Hughes turned around a side destined for relegation and got them into Europe (sound familiar?). Success at Blackburn meant that when Sven Goran Eriksson was fired from Man City, Thaksin Sinawatra came calling. His tenure at Man City ultimately ended in disappointment in rather harsh terms having not lost a game all season.

As a personality I won’t pretend that I am a massive fan. To put it plainly he is a moaner and a rather sore loser, which is something that is a major difference from the previous regime. I was always a huge fan of the Hodgson approach to the media and not the biggest fan of Hughes’. However, if Hughes starts to deliver results one can hardly criticise how he handles the media. To put a positive spin on Hughes’s attitude, it is the attitude of a winner. He has a fire in his belly and in all probability a chip on his shoulder since his exit from Man City.  A manager who shows real ambition is always a bonus and I am sure that he will be working his hardest to achieve what I believe to be his ultimate goal, replacing Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

Overall I am pretty pleased with how the Fulham managerial search has turned out. Hitzfeld would have been the standout appointment but that was always unlikely to happen. I think that Jol and Hughes are very much on a par so or new manager is not in any way a step down after the public chase of Jol. Sparky has a lot to live up to following in the footsteps of Roy Hodgson but I am sure he is up to the test.  Whatever happens, I am sure the coming season will be interesting.

No Jol

July 22, 2010

Well that ended rather abruptly! After a week of careful negotiation, Ajax have finally put a stop to the deal.

Or at least that is what Fulham are telling the media. Ajax claim that Jol wants to stay. Who knows what happened, but there is little point discussing it now. However frustrated we as fans feel, I am sure Alistair Mackintosh and the rest of the board are even more so.

Who is next? To be frank, nobody knows. I am sure that Fulham have a shortlist and I am also sure that there will not be a rushed appointment of someone unsuited to the club. I am still championing Vahid Halihodzic but he doesn’t even appear to be in the frame.

Whatever happens in the next few weeks I am sure the Fulham board will make a sensible appointment. MAF appears to want a high profile manager and he is a man who usually gets what he wants.

Fulham’s Next Manager – The Candidates

July 12, 2010

Although I have as much of an idea as the papers as to who will be managing Fulham next season (read: none at all) lets have a look at the candidates, or at least the ones that I consider serious candidates.

The Early Favourite – Sven Goran Eriksson. Has been touted by almost all papers as the successor to Roy Hodgson. As has been mentioned on other blogs Sven would represent continuity going forward. He learnt from Hodgson and plays a very similar style, albeit a slightly more attacking one. Opinion amongst the fans seems to be split here, some fans worried that he is a mercenary who will try to suck Fulham dry  whilst others see his outstanding track record at club level and his potential appointment as a massive step forward for the club. I am very much in the latter group. For me, Sven would represent a coup for the club. I am not expecting to be challenging for Europe, but Sven would consolidate Fulham further, maybe bringing in more flair and I would expect Fulham to comfortably steer clear of relegation. Will he come? Is he actually even in the running? Who knows, but I would be delighted if he was appointed.

The Safe Pick – Alan Curbishley. Greeted with derision by the vast majority of Fulham fans, Curbishley would be the safe pick. He has an excellent record in the premier league with both Charlton and West Ham and would steady the ship. Again, I would expect Curbishley to help steer Fulham clear of relegation next season. Whilst not the most inspiring pick, he would undoubtably be good for Fulham and my Charlton supporting friends cannot say enough good things about him. The biggest obstacle to Curbishley coming to Fulham however, is his relationship with several key players. He has a rocky relationship with both Konchesky and Murphy so this move seems unlikely to me.

The Young Manager – Mark Hughes. Not exactly inexperienced but one of the youngest potential candidates. An excellent manager at Blackburn, Hughes was unlucky at Man City. Whilst there is no doubting his credentials as a manager, he is probably my least favourite manager personality wise, too often moaning in post game interviews and ungracious in both victory and defeat. I am sure that he could take the club forward but I just can’t see this coming off. Not only does Hughes come with a large entourage but I can see his demands being fairly stringent in terms of his wage and guarantees over the transfer budget.

The International Manager – Slaven Bilic. This would be the adventurous pick. Has a good record with Croatia but has very little managerial experience at club level. He would certainly be an exciting pick and Fulham would play more expansive football. It was rumored that he was poised to take over before Coleman took over, but that never materialised. Brave pick, but fortune often favours the brave.

The Wildcards – Ottmar Hitzfeld and Vahid Halilhodzic. These are the guys that I would love to see. Hitzfeld is one of the most successful club managers of all time. For me he would be a class appointment and show a real statement of intent by the club. He is currently with Switzerland but with a few years until the next tournament he may be looking for a new challenge. Halilhodzic is my preference. He has not even been mentioned as of yet, but he would be a very Hodgsonesque appointment. He has had lots of success with clubs a similar size to Fulham (Lilles and Rennes) but has struggled over the last few years in the wilderness. He made a comeback as the Ivory Coast manager but political rangling got him fired 4 months before the World Cup. Halilhodzic is experienced and out of contract, two things that Al-Fayed seems to prize above other things.

Now that I have laid out some of the options for the vacant managerial position, expect someone completely different to step into the breach!

Goodbye Roy and Thanks for the Memories

July 1, 2010

So Roy is now gone. After weeks of speculation Hodgson was confirmed as the boss of Liverpool FC this morning.

I will always consider Hogdson the best Fulham manager of all time. He performed miracles with the club, turning Fulham from perennial relegation candidates (and in the year of his appointment, near certainties for the drop) into a consistent, defensively strong (!!) and cohesive unit, whilst maintaining attractive football and a team first mentality. Anyone who can get Fulham to a European Final will have my respect.

Unfortunately the backlash has already begun. The messageboards are full of screams of ‘Judas’ and ‘Hypocrite’. Many fans believe that Roy has been disloyal to the Fulham cause, some sort of managerial tart who used Fulham for his own ends. This is nonsense. Roy’s silence over the last few weeks has been down to the fact that he was not officially offered the job until this week. People say that he should have been more open, but that would not have helped at all, jeopardising his position both at Fulham and in the managerial race for Liverpool. If you had been lined up for a job that was better paid and more high profile would you walk around your current employers and spout off about it before it was confirmed? Thought not.

An interesting summer period lies ahead for Fulham in terms of finding a new manager, new players and holding on to the players that they already have. The Fulham chronicle is reporting that Fulham might take up to a month to appoint a new manager, which has been met with howls of derision. ‘It’s damaging the club during the important transfer period’ people are screaming. Au contraire, the need to take time with what is probably the most important decision a club can make is crucial. Why rush into the appointment of a manager when there is time to asses the candidates properly? When a company looks for a new CEO there is an average period of six months searching. Football clubs could do well to heed this advice in order to find the perfect appointment rather than the easiest/cheapest/quickest option.

I will post my thoughts on a successor to Roy in due course, but for now all I will do is wish the man well. I would be delighted if he succeeded at Liverpool. After years in the wilderness he is finally getting the recognition that he deserves. Good Luck Roy, and as for Fulham, onwards and upwards.

Roy Hodgson’s Star Turn

June 18, 2010

Tuning into BBC One’s coverage of the France v Mexico game last night I was pleasantly suprised to see Roy Hodgson in the pundit hotseat alongside Clarence Seedorf and Alan Shearer. Hodgson outclassed the lot of them. Searing tactical insight that had Shearer mumbling ‘as roy mentioned earlier’ on more than one occasion. Hodgson is not new to TV work having done his fair share in Italy.

My favourite of Roy’s observations was that Carlos Vela was pulling Bakary Sagna inside, leaving Salcido acres of space to create mahem. No one else picked this up of course.

Why the BBC and ITV do not go for more managers as pundits, particularly ones as seasoned as Roy is beyond me. Instead we are left to a cascade of ex-players, many of whom do not have the tactical nouse or bottle to manage, never mind read the game at an interesting level. I would much rather see the likes of Ferguson (unlikely, perhaps), Moyes or O’Neill offering tactical insight than Alan Shearer, Mark Lawrenson or Robbie Earl.