Zamora out

Poor Bobby has not had the luck recently. He had a few injury problems last year, leading up to a period at the end of the 2009-10 season when he could only play for about an hour in the Europa League games, and needed an operation in May that ruled him out of the World Cup.

A minor injury a couple of weeks ago meant he was again unable to play for England, and now at the weekend he suffered a broken leg with ligament damage. Latest reports suggest he won’t be back until early 2011.All from a silly tackle half an hour into the game against Wolves.

At the same time Andy Johnson is still recovering from his knee problems and won’t be available for some weeks. Luckily for Fulham, Dembele has been scoring goals, as Gera and Dempsey have not been on top form so far this season.

It was two second half goals from Dembele that meant that Fulham took their first win of the season after Wolves went ahead in the first half. It’s strange that Fulham are now one of only five unbeaten sides in the Premiership, while Roy Hodgson is already facing questions about how he’s managing Liverpool – a disappointing goalless game that needed quality goalkeeping to stop Birmingham City winning leaves the Reds in 13th place. After only four games, Liverpool are seven points behind the leaders Chelsea, which doesn’t suggest that Hodgson’s new team are going to be winning the Premiership this season.

Summer 2010 Transfers

On Tuesday the final deadline for buying and selling players in the Premiership passed, and yesterday the club had to name the 25 senior members of the squad (I believe that young players can also play if they are not in the list).

The only transfers on the day were the sale of Paul Konchesky to Liverpool, with part of the fee being made up with two youngsters, Lauri Dalla Valle and Alex Kacaniklic. Read the rest of this entry »

Blackpool 2-2 Fulham

A bit of a lucky escape that one – Blackpool were clearly trying to take the game and the occasion for them was pretty massive – the first top-flight home game for decades.

Zamora showed how important he was, and that’s a bit of a worry as much as it is a blessing. He took the first goal with aplomb, heading in a Dembele cross late in the first half. However, Bobby came off early with a problem in his thigh, and the team seemed to collapse as a result, conceding two goals in five minutes. It’s quite likely that he won’t be fit for the next England game on Friday, which is a cruel twist of fate. Read the rest of this entry »

Fulham 6-0 Port Vale

Last season, Fulham went out of the League Cup in the second round (the first game for most Premiership sides), having put out a team mainly of second-stringers against a full strength Man City at Eastlands. Understandably, with a game the previous week in Sofia and ahead of the visits of Arsenal and FC Basel, Hodgson was not going to risk tiring out the first team in such a game.

But this season there are no European distractions, and we know that we have a squad capable of a good cup run, so it was heartening to see the first team out last night. Read the rest of this entry »

Fulham 2-2 Man Utd

The first home game of the season was a pretty amazing affair. Fulham gave the visitors too much time and space at the beginning, and Scholes was able to use a little back-pass to put the ball into the goal after about 10 minutes. Fulham came back into it during the first half, with the best chance falling to Etuhu when he raced into the box to force van der Sar into two reaction saves.

The second half saw the best action, however, and the first Fulham equaliser was a thing of beauty. Read the rest of this entry »

Bolton 0 – 0 Fulham

Away to Bolton is never a thrilling prospect, and it being the first game of the new season there was a lot a caution from the Fulham team. To add to the air of restraint, young David Stockdale was in goal to cover for an injured Schwarzer. Stockdale had a good game, the beeb website described him as ‘outstanding’, which is certainly something we may need if Schwarzer is tempted by offers over the next few weeks.

Still, it is a point gained away from home. It the easy game at home to Man Utd next weekend. After that the next league game is away to Blackpool. After their demolition of Wigan today, the tangerines are currently top of the table. Erk!

Countdowns…

It’s only two days before the new Premiership season starts, and hopefully Fulham have had time to get over the turmoil of not having a permanent manager for several weeks. Mark Hughes will be pleased that the last friendly game went so well – a 5-1 win over Werder Bremen, meaning a third German team has been defeated by the Whites in a few months.

Zamora did get a run out for the second half of last night’s international, and while he didn’t score he was certainly a threat for England and contributed to a more pressing team. Kiraly, the Hungarian ‘keeper, was busy anyway.

Gera also had a good game, being involved in the play that led to Hungary’s opening goal (even if it the ball wasn’t actually over the line when Dawson hit the deflection from Jagielka clear). Now Zoltan and Bobby can work together and really create panic among defences.

There hasn’t been much in the way of transfer activity, with Steve Sidwell’s move from Villa being cancelled by Hughes. The only buy over the summer was Philip Senderos, who is out for at least 6 months following an injury and surgery. Still, there are a few weeks left and it was this time last year I was worried that we didn’t have the squad to carry a league and European campaign.

Zamora v Zoltan

While a lot of the focus on tonight’s game between England and Hungary has been about how much booing the World Cup flops will receive, more should perhaps be on the new faces in the squad.

Of course the main interest for Fulham fans will be whether Zamora gets to come on from the bench, after having been on the edge of contention at the end of a brilliant season but having to rule himself out of contention for South Africa in order to have surgery over the summer.

And in the international game since… err.. the USA-Ghana tie in the World Cup… there’ll be a Fulham player on each side. Zoltan Gera getting his first start for Hungary in months and the captain’s armband. So, I kind of want a high scoring game (with England’s goals coming in the second half thanks to a canny substitution). And of course no crunching tackles, what with the Premiership opener at Bolton on Saturday.

Sparky!

It’s been a frustrating summer for Fulham. Even before Rafa Benitez got the elbow from Liverpool, there were rumours that they were seeking to take Roy Hodgson to Anfield. Bizarrely, the Reds sacked Benitez and had to pay him off just before he took an offer elsewhere, which seems like a waste of a few million quid.

Anyway, it was sad to see Hodgson go (and had England not kept faith with Fabio Capello, it’s likely that he’d have been up for the national job), but in a way it was fairly heartening to see that it was with Fulham that he restored his reputation in England. He’s also promised not to be poaching players from the Cottage over the summer, which shows that he is still a decent bloke. He certainly likes a challenge, and Liverpool are going to present one. At least they know he can marshall a good run in the Europa Cup.

Of all the names that were being bandied about as a replacement, that of Mark Hughes did pique my interest. He got a raw deal at Man City, being shoved out by new owners to make way for Mancini despite doing pretty well with a team in transition. I also remember him from one of the best games of football I ever saw on TV: Chelsea v Liverpool in the FA Cup – (YouTube highlights) in which he came on as a sub for Chelsea with the score at 0-2, and inspired his team to win 4-2. Hughes scored the first of the comeback goals, and was on absolutely top form.

I don’t have much time for Sven Goran Ericksson. Alan Curbishley may have done well for Charlton, but he was part of the ruination of West Ham and didn’t rate players like Konchesky, Zamora or Painstil much. We have some ex-players who are managing lower league teams and could be ones to watch for the future, like Lee Clarke and Sean O’Driscoll, but it’s perhaps too big a step up. Martin Jol would have been a good choice, but alas, Ajax would not let him go.

So, I’m happy that we have found a decent manager. He won’t be the same as Hodgson, and I hope that supporters give him some time. I also hope that the players rally behind their new boss. With no European distractions, this is a season to make a big statement in the league, if we play it right.

Who to blame?

Obviously the game from yesterday was more than just disappointing. It’s certainly proof (as if English supporters didn’t already have enough evidence from the past few decades) that mere patriotic fervour and an unwillingness to brook dissent over our prospects is enough to win things.

Sure, grit and determination count, and so do pride and passion. But you need more than that – clearly.

I’ll start off with the disallowed goal. Sure, it should have been given. Maybe the use of video replay would have been better (although I personally don’t like it, and am not going to change my mind simply because it’s us who lose out this tim). But it happened and the team should have taken it as a sign that we can score again – the German keeper was not that good and could have been beaten by more of the same. Also, by the time of that debateable decision, we were losing because of two soft goals, and it’s those (and the two from the second half) that exposed England’s frailties.

The basic problem for all of the goals was the positioning and pace of the defenders. Primarily of the centre-backs Terry and Upson. For every goal at least one of them was in the wrong place and both of them were unable to make up the ground lost. The third goal was the most stupid of all. Sure, we were chasing, but we all know that Lampard was going to go for a shot, not a chip into the area, so there’s no point in having so many players all the way upfield. When the ball hit the wall, it was simple for the Germans to break.

Not that the defence was the only problem. The midfield seemed to be unable to create anything, and were too easily sucked into the centre of the pitch, leaving the wings free. At the start they were quite good at keeping possession, but as time wore on they became more ragged. Lampard had the best of the attacking play, and Barry wasn’t too bad at hanging back. Milner was under-used on his wing, but Gerrard was simply headless all through the game.

As for the forward line, Rooney has had a very poor tournament and yet has been kept in the starting line-up for every game. Defoe was closed down and didn’t have enough support.

The annoying thing is that the game was there for the taking. Germany could have been contained with decent defensive tactics, and there were certainly vulnerabilities exposed from their group games.

But why were we so awful? Was the manager to blame? Well, we’ve had three managers recently all with different styles and each time the same results. I’m not sure that a new man will make any difference. Not that Capello didn’t make mistakes, but he also had problems with the hand he was dealt.

The players, generally, are not all good enough. I think Terry is overrated, and Gerrard is past his prime. Indeed, too many were on the wrong side of 30, and some prone to injury that made them a liability (does King have any cartilige left?). Still most of them are able to play for top Premiership sides and in the Champions League, so it’s not like they are all muppets. However, too few have any experience of playing for clubs outside England. I think that’s more of a problem than having a lot of foreign players here. It’s not as if these guys are being kept out of their club sides, or that it can hurt to play alongside and against some of the players who will be representing their countries in major competitions. But if we had players who were among the other top European clubs, they would have more knowledge of different styles of play.

Is having a larger top division (20 clubs, as opposed to 16 or 18 as in most major countries), with two domestic cups alongside causing more fatigue? Is a lack of a break halfway through the season a factor? Do the players in contention for the national side spend enough time training and practicing together? Do we encourage players with tactical nous or just select the ‘stars’ from the top domestic sides and hope that there’s a brain between them?

I don’t think just getting a new manager in would solve the problems England have. Roy Hodgson has been discussed as a possible candidate, but there’s one thing that would make it hard for him: he did well at Fulham, and the various European clubs and national sides, because he had the time to build a system and drill players into it. That’s what Capello was trying to do, and it may be that his system wasn’t right, or the wrong players were picked, but I doubt he had the opportunity to really impose his views and instil them.

Anyway, at least we did better than France. 😦