Posts Tagged ‘Stefano Okaka’

Fulham 1-2 Man City

March 21, 2010

In the context of Fulham’s season, games do not get any more irrelevant than this.  Two pieces of good counter attacking football meant that Man City were 2-0 up and cruising before half time.  Man City looked like they wanted it more and much like against Wolves earlier in the season Fulham did not start playing until the 70th minute.  Fulham dominated the closing stages and were rewarded a very generous penalty by Stuart Probert when Barry was adjudged to handle the ball in the area. Murphy calmly slotted the ball away and it looked like Fulham might salvage something from the game. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. The best chance fell to Stefano Okaka who fired wide with only the keeper to beat and Dempsey arriving late in the area. Perhaps this will go some way to silencing the critics of Hodgson who believe that Okaka should have more of a prominent role. When the TV camera cut to an irate Hodgson after the miss, it perhaps gave us a slight insight into why he doesn’t think Okaka is quite ready yet.

More worryingly for Fulham was the form of Danny Murhpy. He looked off the pace all game, with pretty much everything he attempted bar the penalty, failing to come off. Murphy has been outstanding in general for Fulham, but it might be time to be seriously looking for a replacement this summer.

Up next is the important match against Spurs in the FA  Cup quarter-final replay. After the highs of Juventus, I fancy Fulham to at least give it a go at White Hart Lane. At least Zamora and Gera should be relatively fresh as they were both brought off during the course of the Man City game.

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A New Place for Statistics

March 8, 2010

I stumbled across an interesting new stats website today called TransferMarkt. It documents all kinds of interesting stats, from players to managers, clubs to league.

TransferMarkt gives some interesting player values, and a good summary of transfers and how much they cost. Supposedly Fulham paid £155,750 for the loan of Okaka, not that I have any idea how they worked that out (wages?).

It is an easy way to waste some serious time!

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.

Relief: Fulham 1-0 Portsmouth

February 4, 2010

Going into this game, Fulham had one of the worst form records in the league having lost the last five games. Roy Hodgson’s threadbare squad was being pushed to the limit and even with a few deadline day additions there was a great deal of nervousness from the fans prior to kickoff. Were Fulham going to be dragged into a relegation battle? For many, this match was going to be a litmus test.

Fulham passed the test, but certainly not with flying colours. The first 45 minutes were a very nervy affair, with wave after wave of Portsmouth attack being repelled by the now restored duo of Brede Hangeland and Aaron Hughes. Fulham could not get hold of the ball and Portsmouth went close on several occasions, most notably with Piquionne firing at Schwarzer from a tight angle after “beating” the offside trap.  O’Hara and Prince Boateng ( Both of whom I would love to see at the cottage in the summer) peppered the Fulham goal from range and the atmosphere in the ground was tense; it felt like it was going to be a long night.

However, Fulham gradually got themselves back into the match with Okaka missing a glaring opportunity to head Fulham in front from point blank range. Better passing returned and once half time rolled around you fancied Fulham to get something from the match. The second half was really all Fulham.  Kelly was hauled off by Hodgson, having had a pretty awful game, and Kagisho Dikacoi brought on with Baird moving to right back. I feel for Kelly, he was really trying but nothing was coming off. With the added steel of KD in the midfield, Murphy came to the fore and was able to get his passing game back up to nearer his usual high standards. With the time ticking away, Fulham got the goal they needed.  Belhadj dwelled on the ball and Duff was there to challenge, fire a low hard cross across the face of goal which was deflected into the path of Greening who passed it into a practically unguarded net. Fulham got a bit nervy as they tried to maintain their one goal lead, but in the end there was little to worry about and a crucial win was in the bag.

Observations:

Duff– What a match he had. For some reason this was the first time I could really appreciate what he brings to the team. He was everywhere and by far the most dangerous Fulham player on the pitch.  He has been an excellent signing and he looks to be really enjoying his football despite looking like the worlds angriest Irishman whenever the camera focused on his face.

Shorey– Fantastic debut by the left back. Composed both in defence and attack with some solid crossing mixed in, it looks like we have the ideal replacement for Konch. I don’t know what Martin O’Neill did to him at villa but hopefully he will continue to regain his form with us.

Okaka– Soild debut from the youngster. He didn’t know the definition of giving up last night, preferring to charge around the pitch and run with the ball whenever possible. Once he gets acclimatized to the English game fully (there were a few examples of him going to ground a bit easily and looking for the foul) he will be a huge benefit to the team. I like the idea of him and Zamora softening up the oppo defense before Nevland is unleashed in the last 20mins to work some magic.

Baird/Dikacoi– Baird was very good last night. He started in central mid before moving to right back. He is simply a player transformed. I think he will now get a run at right back (his forward runs were hilarious last night as he overlapped Duff; he seemed to be absolutely busting a gut, and his crossing good too). Dikacoi impressed me yet again. I think that his presence really allows Murphy to concentrate on being the playmaker, much like Etuhu. He has really long legs and when he goes into tackles always either disrupts the other player or steals the ball. Against Bolton on saturday his presence could be crucial.

January Transfer Roundup: Three is the Magic Number

February 1, 2010

So, according to the Fulham website, business has ended in terms of transfers. Time to look at who has been brought in.

1) Stefano Okaka: This one has been on the back burner throughout January, and whilst I was not holding my breath, there is little surprise that this has come to pass. It appears to be a six month loan deal, although both player and agent are making noises that it may be extended for another year if things go well. This seems to be good business for Fulham, who get a proven (well, sort of) Serie A player with lots of potential. After watching his farewell goal for Roma against Siena, I feel that we may have a replacement for the creative yet inconsistent Kamara. I hope Roy puts him in the starting line up against Pompey (heres to hoping) as he will help to freshen up a jaded squad.

2) Nicky Shorey: Finally, the left back we were all hoping for. Whilst he is unlikely to set the world alight, it is great to get some cover for Konch in a position that we really needed. I assume he will definitely go into the starting line-up for Wednesday’s game with Kelly moving back to the right and the usual suspects returning in the centre. This move gives us the stability that we have been craving at the back at what is probably a very reasonable price. Whilst there have been some doubts over his ability due to the fact villa were very reluctant to play him, I have a feeling that he may be a ‘Roy’ player who, after a bit of training and guidance, will slot in and do a good job.

3) Christopher Buchtmann: Unexpected but gratefully received. One of the players that Malcolm Elias brought to Liverpool, Buchtmann looks to have a bright future after being named one of Uefa’s top ten stars of the future in May 2009. Certainly he looks quite the prospect when you watch the Uefa U17 champs highlights. Add to this that Liverpool fans are, for the most part, pissing blood over this and we seem to have ourselves one for the future. It is great to see some investment in youth and there are further rumours that we offered £1m for Dalle Valle, the finnish striker, also. One to keep and eye on.

Overall, I would say this has been a successful window for Fulham who have brought in a small number of players and avoided any panic buys (read James Beattie). I look forward to seeing all three of them in action over the upcoming weeks, months and years.

A rundown of the player who have left will come after the deadline has passed.

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.