Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Greening’

Juventus 3-1 Fulham

March 12, 2010

It may be the rose tinted glasses that I can often be found to be wearing but I really don’t think that Juve were two goals better than Fulham last night. Yes, Juve probably deserved to win, but we certainly weren’t pinned back a la Shakhtar, and the game had more of an away game to a mid-table premier league side than last rounds of the Europa league feel to it. Fulham had lots of the ball, particularly in the second half, and if the defence had been up to their usual standards we would definitely still be very much in the tie.  As it is, Fulham have a mountain to climb, but we are at home and we might have Juve right where we want them, overconfident.

For an excellent match report here and here and highlights, if you can bear to watch, here.

Juventus are a huge team. The most successful team in Italian footballing history, with the largest support in Italy (not that you could tell from the crowd las night). Yet Fulham put in a battling display, even if the result was not particularly fantastic. Considering that Fulham were missing their captain and heartbeat of the midfield in Danny Murphy, our regular right back in John Paintsil, our regular striker in Andy Johnson and of course Clint Dempsey (who did make an appearance but has been out for a significant amount of time) this was a solid display. Add to this our left back only just returning from injury and it is quite impressive that we managed to go to Torino and get a goal. Two years ago we could never have dreamt of playing Juventus in the last 16 of the Europa Leauge, never mind doing it with half a squad of backup and reserve players. This is how far we have come.

I would almost say that it is a damning indictment of how far Juve have fallen in recent years, that a mid-level premier league club struggling with fatigue and injuries, could come to Torino and give a good account for themselves.

As for Fulham, the result could have been worse. We now have to go back to the Cottage and put in the display of a lifetime to go through, but hey, this is what cup competitions are for! No one thought that Fulham could beat Basel away from home, but they did, no one thought that Fulham could beat reigning champions Shakhtar Donetsk, but they did. In fact no one really gave Fulham too much of a chance of getting out of the group stages, but here we are. 2-0 is not a scoreline that is ridiculous, however if they score, it is probably all over. I for one cannot wait for the return leg, the Cottage will be jumping and knowing that two goals have to be scored, Roy might just take off the shackles a bit more than usual. Whatever happens it should be a memorable night!

Player Ratings:

Schwarzer – 8    Excellent in goal, could do nothing about all three of the goals

Baird – 5    Not his best game, struggled to add much to the game

Hughes – 6     Solid as usual, but not amazing

Hangeland – 6   Again, solid, but at fault for a couple of the goals

Konchesky – 5  Looked like a man returning from injury, and couldn’t find his rhythm.

Duff – 7  Industrious as ever, looked dangerous and if the man marking of him by Juventus is anything to go by, they were worried about him too.

Greening – 5  An easy scapegoat, but had a very average performance in the middle of the park and picked up a yellow.

Etuhu – 6    Better than people give him credit for and played one great pass out to Zamora on the wing that made me smile. Oh, and he scored!

Davies – 5  A poor game. He really struggles on the left which is fair enough considering he is a right winger. Would still like to see him play centre mid though!

Gera – 6  Buzzed about and looked dangerous, but couldn’t grab hold of the game.

Zamora – 7  Worked his socks off, was persistently fouled (as per) and continuously called offside, even when clearly on. Look for him to take it to Juventus in the return leg.

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Fulham 3-0 Burnley

February 10, 2010

It was before christmas the last time I could legitimately enjoy a Fulham performance. That game was Fulham’s 3-0 battering of Manchester United, which was followed by a good draw with Spurs then a terrible run of away form. The Portsmouth match last week was more nerve-racking than enjoyable and the game at Bolton on Saturday pretty dire, only the result softening the blow of another fairly poor performance. Not that I am complaining, Fulham have been crippled both by injuries and an extensive fixture list which pitted them against their most disliked adversaries in the form of both midweek games on cold nights and northern teams who are not afraid to put the boot in.

Alas, last night Fulham stumbled upon a northern team who tried to play football. I have a lot of admiration for Burnley, they play football in an aesthetically pleasing fashion and are attempting to stay in a league well known for fiscal excess with a plan of prudence and measured spending on a shoe-string budget. Maybe it was because Fulham won, but I found myself liking Burnley and their fervent away support, the voices not subdued by a poor away performance. The television cameras kept cutting to jubilant Burnley fans trying to stay warm by dancing around with smiles on faces. They join the list of teams that I never thought I’d like, alongside Hull and Stoke (the latter because I like the fact they have shown no fear of the premier league and have a manager who seems honest into the bargain).

As for the football, Fulham were excellent last night. Something seemed to click; was it the return of some steel in our midfield in the form of Etuhu? Was it the return of the excellent Bobby Zamora? Whatever it was, it is certainly welcome. The game had a fairly quiet start, with both sides determined to play nice passing football. Burnley looked lively when in full flow but ultimately not particularly threatening. Fulham upped a gear and the first goal came. After a good spell of passing, Nicky Shorey fired an excellent diagonal ball onto the head of David Elm, who cushioned the ball into the path of Murphy in the Burnley area. Murphy held off a challenge form a Burnley defender and calmly slotted home. Murphy’s composure in front of goal is a part of his game that I feel has been underrated by Fulham fans (incl. myself) because he doesnt make as many forward runs as he used to, but as with his penalties he seems to have ice running through his veins.

Unfortunately for Burnley fans, the goal was an unfair one. Elm had strayed a good half yard offside before setting up the goal. Fulham’s luck was in and this featured again in the second goal. With Burnley’s Cort struggling with what appeared to be a hip injury, Bobby Zamora capitalised by cutting inside when one-on-one with the defender and firing low and hard at the bottom corner. Jensen did well to parry but Elm pounced on the rebound to record his first goal for Fulham. 2-0, game over. Zamora did appear to be offside in the buildup but the linesman missed the call yet again. Lets hope Fulham have not used up all the luck in one game.

Half time came and went and it wasn’t long before Fulham were 3 up. Zamora was fouled on the edge of the area and took the free kick, passing the ball into the bottom left hand corner of the goal leaving Jensen stretching. A malaise seemed to come over all the players at this point, Fulham realising the game was won and Burnley that it was lost. Fulham began to save energy for the weekend encounter with Notts County and it wasn’t long before Roy rung the changes with Okaka, Greening and Riise replacing Zamora, Simon Davies and Duff. Fulham looked dangerous on the break with Okaka’s pace and Riise recognised this fact, threading a good ball through for Okaka to run on to. Unfortunately Okaka’s shot was a rather tame effort with his right foot when he could have used his left, leading me to assume that maybe he is not so confident on his left side.

As the final whistle blew it was refreshing to know that the three points had been earned off the back of an excellent team performance. I fear for Burnley in the premier league as we were able to control the game all to easily, and as one Burnley fan put it on an internet forum “look like Brazil”.  From here Fulham have an interesting FA Cup encounter with Notts County at the weekend, and I fully expect to see the regulars rested. I have a feeling that Roy may start with Elm and Okaka up top with Riise on the wing which should be both entertaining and enlightening. Whatever happens, at least it now appears that Fulham have confirmed their place in the premier league for at least on more season, and I hope Burnley can do the same.

Bolton 0-0 Fulham: Fortunate, Fortunate Fulham

February 7, 2010

This match will certainly not feature in the pantheon of footballing history but it was a good result nonetheless.  Bobby Zamora joined the ranks of the injured with a 48hr flu virus meaning the Fulham frontline looked especially weak.  Whilst David Elm put in a good performance up top, showing off his excellent first touch, Erik Nevland easily had his worst game in a Fulham shirt.  I don’t usually question the wisdom of Roy Hodgson, but if I had the choice between a 32 yr old 5’9″ poacher or a 6’1″ powerhouse to play against Bolton I would certainly choose the latter. I would hope that this signals the end of Nevland as a starter, but I doubt it.

The game itself was scrappy. Bolton were certainly not scintillating but Fulham had decided that a point was enough, and they did not want to go for any more. Jonathan Greening nipped at the heels of any Bolton player who got near him, producing a large number of niggly fouls that went largely unpunished, creating an disjointed performance from the hosts. Bolton seemed happy to hoof it long to Davies (who had an excellent match) and go from there.  Schwarzer was the Fulham saviour, pulling off several excellent saves and generally controlling the box. When a Kevin Davies flick led to Mark Davies firing hard and low from around the penalty spot I was sure that it was all over for Fulham, only for Schwazer to get down and block with his legs and send the ball spinning up and off the bar to safety. His second super-human save was arguably better. As Chung-Yong Lee burst into the Fulham penalty area, Schwarzer stuck out an arm and diverted the ball away from goal and Lee to be cleared by Baird.

Fulham brought on Chris Smalling and Okaka up front for Elm and the ineffective Nevaland. I spent the remainder of the match daydreaming about a possible Smalling goal ( I think he has one in him before he leaves Fulham) and enjoyed Okakas energy and willingness to run at the opponents defence, one of which resulted in a free kick in a dangerous position (a la Dio Kamara against Villa in the great escape season). In truth Bolton should have won, first when Elmander was one on one with Schwarzer but contrived to screw it wide, and then more legitimately when Davies put the ball in the back of the net, only to have it ruled out for a push only Mark Clattenburg could see.

I get the feeling this was a big point for a squad that is being stretched to its limit, a bit of luck came Fulham’s way and is greatly received. If Fulham can continue their fine home form against Burnley on Tuesday night this will have been a great few weeks and should allow us the luxury of focusing on the various cup competitions we are still competing in.

The Misunderstanding of Jonathan Greening

December 9, 2009

Taking a moment to sidestep the Zamora debate, lets look at Jonathan Greening. Well not just him, but Fulham’s signings under Hodgson.

It is a Football fans duty to be impulsive, this is what creates atmosphere at grounds, makes people lose it when their team scores and makes football (and sport in general) so goddam interesting. However, acting on impulse is not something that should be done when it comes to transfers. In the words of Lloyd Grossman, ‘Lets look at the evidence’:

Jonathan Greening— He has come in for some stick lately from the Fulham faithful. For me this is a case of misunderstanding. I don’t think many Fulham fans would claim to have extensively followed the career of Greening. As Rich has shown over at CCN his role in the team passing wise,  is not that of  a Danny Murphy player, but like his role at West Brom, a recycler of the ball. However when he was pursued and then purchased by Roy, many (myself included) thought he was to be a cover for DM. He is cover, but not like for like cover. Despite Fulham having an excellent run of form with him in the team he is being dismissed as a waste of money. For me this is impulsive. He is settling into a team in the place of the captain- of course he is not going to have the same impact. What he has done is be solid and passed well (ie. not giving away the ball). The other reason he is misunderstood is because of the formation that Fulham play. Whilst watching the Sunderland game at the weekend the commentator kept banging on about how Duff and Dempsey cutting inside was confusing the Sunderland defence. This got me thinking. I think that at the moment, with Fulham’s major creator and influential captain out of the picture Roy is playing a fluid 4-4-2 formation that almost ends up 4-2-2-2. Duff and Dempsey are taking the creative strain both out wide and in the middle, changing Greening’s role and almost forcing him to sit deeper. This coupled with Roy’s instructions to maintain shape in the middle and not go running off like a Jimmy Bullard limits what Greening can do. Impulsively, on first glance, he looks sluggish and nervous. I believe he is fulfilling his role almost to perfection. He could add a few more forward passes down the middle into his repertoire but he is doing fine.

Dickson Etuhu— Again, many Fulham fans impulsively labelled him ‘rubbish’ early doors.  Rumours of his nickname at Sunderland ‘Two touch Etuhu’ spread and he came in for a lot of criticism. But after a bedding in period and some of Roy’s tried and trusted training, he became first choice to partner Murphy. His goal at Man City appeared to win over the rest of his critics and now people miss his presence in the midfield.

Chris Baird–Possibly the best example of impulsive criticism. When he arrived he had just been voted player of the year at Southampton. Within a few weeks he was being derided as Fulham’s worst ever signing. Impulsively we took one look at him, playing at right back, and thought we understood what he was all about. When Roy did not ship him out with the other dead wood, we should have cottoned on. Fast forward to this year and he has become central to recent success. His performances in the Europa league alongside Smalling have been excellent. His deputising in the centre of midfield crucial. Yes he cannot play right back, but a little more digging shows that he is a good utility player who is a perfect fit for Fulham; he will sit on the bench and not complain, but has the confidence to come in and stake a claim for a permanent place in the team.

Bobby Zamora— I didn’t want to mention him but oh well. Similar pattern to above, but he is still divisive. Impulsively we saw a striker who could not finish the most simple of chances. But with time we came to recognise his overall contribution to the team, why Roy stuck with him and his consistently high work rate. Personally, I love the guy. I have even started to warm to his mistakes and inability to be a consistent finisher. If his form keeps up I will happily jump on the ‘Bobby for England’ bandwagon.

Basically all I have said is that Football fans are by their nature impulsive and therefore are too quick to judge something that is a bit more nuanced than first believed. I have been liable to be impulsive as the next fan, especially in the case of Baird, but I am trying to take a more holistic and relaxed approach to my support of Fulham. As the transfer window pulls into view we should bear this impulsiveness in mind as new signings come and bed in to Fulham FC, especially if they are slow starters.