Author Topic: Jack and Loz in the Cup - Blog 69  (Read 1819 times)

Offline Friendsoffulham

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Jack and Loz in the Cup - Blog 69
« on: January 07, 2018, 05:11:29 PM »
Date: 6th January 2018

Opposition: Southampton

Score: 0-1

Weather: cold but dry

Atmosphere: more coffee cup recycling debate than cup fever

Opposition fans: a brilliant turn out from the Saints fans but they seemed quite cupfused, singing "we are staying up" as if it was a league game and they'd won 3 points

MOTM (football): in our team of players with Premier League credentials (Ojo,Piazon, Kalas, Norwood) and Premier League aspirations (Ryan Sessegnon in MANY years time and, according to the transfer rumours, Ryan Fredericks) only one player showed Premier League class: this was a terrific performance from Tim Ream and we really appreciated his lap of applause at the end of the match

MOTM (non-football): Neeskens Kebano has a smart new red Mohican and some smart new red football boots

Pub: the OSP is still closed so we followed several recommendations (for which many thanks) and had a very pleasant time at the Blue Boat. Meeting and exchanging views with one of our readers was an added bonus (and thanks very much for the drinks!)

We haven't followed the Premier League since Fulham were frog marched out of it by cheesemonger Felix Magath in 2014. We sneak a look at the table occasionally to see what might have been but this is a particularly dull year with Manchester City having bought and paid for the title already and the other big, boring clubs squabbling over the minor places. Kudos to Burnley for keeping them honest.

Our FA Cup third round opponents were Southampton, currently languishing towards the bottom of the Premier League, not that there is any shame in that. Fulham meanwhile are very much looking up the Championship table so we were expecting a possible cupset, or at least a close match from which we might learn some interesting things.

It was certainly a close game and not one of the most entertaining we've seen at Craven Cottage this season, or indeed this week. After some initial uncertainly the Fulham players learned to adapt to the rhythm and pace of Southampton's game but treated them with too much respect, allowing them time and space on the ball rather than closing them down quickly. What we learnt was that we are not far off Premier standard - we are one chance-taking, clinical-finishing striker away from that match finishing 1-1. Add a game-reading, box-controlling centre back as well and it finishes 1-0. What we were really missing is what we already have: there was a big Tom Cairney shaped hole in the middle of the pitch and nobody, not Stefjo or Norwood or the two of them combined could fill it.

Southampton were businesslike but not fantastic, reflective of their position in the League. They were a bit more threatening in attack and a bit more controlling in defence. Our decision making in front of goal was poor and so was theirs. There was no gulf in ability, style or effectiveness but where they really made a difference was in the swiftness of transition between defence and attack. But, as we've already said, we didn't have Tom Cairney.

Other than Tim Ream there were no stand out Fulham performers, although Stefjo worked very hard, particularly after KMac went off and Stefan had to play box to box midfielder, creative midfielder and defensive midfielder all at the same time. Kebano and Kamara both looked lively when they came on and Fonte, despite the criticism he endures, looked keen and hungry and made some good runs into the box.

It was good to see Piazon play a full 90 minutes but he looked tired towards the end and we would have taken him off in place of Fonte. Button did no worse and no better than Bettinelli would have done while Norwood was spectacularly inconsistent even by his own standards. If he could play the ball as well in open play as he can from a free kick or corner he would be a fantastic player. But he can't.

We liked Slav's attacking sub policy on the whole but Ojo was disappointing when he came on and we would have given both Kebano and Kamara longer to try to make their mark. Overall this feels like an opportunity missed with the team just not raising their game the extra notch needed to take a confidence boosting Premier League scalp.

Random musings:-

- Southampton FC are called the Saints. Northampton rugby club are also called the Saints. This is pleasing but mystifying

- we have seen some appalling gamesmanship at the Cottage last season and this so we have to give credit to the Southampton players for their professionalism. No time wasting, no rolling around on the floor, no nipping of anyone's ankles, they just got on with the game.

- we've also seen some appalling refereeing at the Cottage so credit too to Mr Oliver who let the game flow and took no nonsense from anyone

- Oliver Norwood seems to have ensured his place in the team by using the imitation is the sincerest form of flattery technique. Where have we seen that beard before.....?

- we're not going to comment on the off pitch shenanigans around transfer dealings but our advice to Slav and Tony Khan is to book a meeting room at Motspur Park, order coffee (deep, dark double espresso for Slav, a modern and trendy flat white for Tony) request not to be interrupted, settle their differences in time for lunch and buy a striker in the afternoon.

So there was no cupset and not even a replay (although did we really need one?) This is an honourable exit from the cup, unlike those of our closest "rivals" who lost to lower league teams. We can comfort ourselves with the knowledge that, even if we had progressed, at some point we would have been knocked out by Man City. Fulham must now concentrate on the league, the transfer window and, most immediately, Middlesbrough away.