Tag Archives: Scott Parker

The View from South Texas — FFC v. Birmingham City [a bit late]

Mama Told Me Not to Bother …

… watching the replay of Fulham v. Birmingham City, but I just couldn’t resist the temptation to see the players we’ve acquired and fielded after the Newcastle match.

When I listened to the match on Saturday, I noted that Fulham dominated possession throughout – 67% of the first 45 minutes plus and 64% overall. Imagine my surprise then when I actually watched the match. By the first five minutes, City had established the pace of the match, gained control of it, and never really relinquished that control. With the exception of Cairney and McDonald, I thought each of our starters was outplayed by his opposite number. As a matter of fact, considering what I saw this afternoon [stateside afternoon], the most amazing thing is that we lost only 0-1.

Many of my fellow Fulham supporters will hate to hear this, but we really missed two players on Saturday – Scott Parker in the starting XI and Lasse Vigan Christensen off the bench. Parker’s absence allowed Brum to take control of the midfield, and without LVC we had no late pace to inject.

A plus side, for me, was Kebano who replaced Smith [our sacrificial lamb], taken off at half-time to help shore up the defense. Kebano looks fast, sharp, and nippy. He might have made a difference, but City has strength and assertiveness to accompany their discipline and skill.

Who disappointed for me? Well, Smith, for one. He is excellent as set pieces in the box, but really at nothing else, and I only remember him winning one header during his 45 minutes in any case. He clogs up the middle, doesn’t create space for his fellow attackers, and makes it easy for opposing defenders to cover him by basically not running. He continues to be a handy L1-level striker. I really hope I see Martin and Woodrow leading the attack against Burton Albion.

The major disappointment, of course, was Kalas. He was easily manhandled and provided the hospital ball that caused Madl to get his red card as the first half was dying. And then there was Button. After watching the match, I can’t understand how so many supporters thought he was our best player on the day. He was woefully slow in distribution, and his footwork [if you can call it that] almost cost us a couple of goals. Yes, he saved a penalty, but I thought he was substandard overall.

The bright side? We were playing a better side, had no control over the match, and still only lost by a single goal – a goal resulting from a penalty I think was unfairly assessed. If we turn this around on Tuesday, I won’t be all that concerned. I’ll feel better if Parker, Woodrow, and LVC are in the match day squad.

My MotM – Tom Cairney, the class of his class

The View From South Texas — Hull City v. Fulham FC

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to our 0-0 Result

Well, if anything positive was accomplished today, it would be that Scott Parker has wrapped up his Player of the Season award for 2013-14. Without him on the pitch, Fulham found it impossible to get the ball from defense to attack for the entire match. We’ll never know how Rodallega might have done in attack. We’ll never know how Kasami could have exploited the space created by Hugo drawing defenders to him. But we do know that there wasn’t a player on the pitch today who had the ability to make any move that threatened Hull CITY’s goal.

To be fair, it’s hard to blame the players for this one. Rene had obviously decided that the best result we could hope for was 0-0, and the first half was as drab and dire as a result. Hull City didn’t look all that threatening but, as I remarked in the FulhamUSA chatroom, the problem with a 0-0 strategy is that if you concede, Hull is damned difficult to score against. I’m looking back on that dire first half with the same longing that one might have for his first ever girlfriend. She may have been ugly at the time, but oh my god, what came after.

We conceded early in the second half, and that was that. The best then we could hope for was that Hull would pull back in defense and we could stalemate ourselves throughout the remaining second half. Instead, the Tigers engaged in what used to be known as “Jolly Stomping.” You have a completely defenseless opponent in the mud, and you don’t ever let him up. And the goals came predictably and regularly.

It’s perhaps unfair to single out players in a match like this, but only Kasami comes out of this with any positive marks. Stockdale wasn’t at fault for the first three, but the last couple were shocking. Amorebieta showed again that he doesn’t have the temperament nor the judgment to be a Premier League center half, and Bryan Ruiz well, he might have just said his farewell to us. Zverotic’s only contribution was showing us all how much we missed Riether.

And speaking of “missed,” Tom get-a-haircut Huddlestone showed what we missed when we allowed him to leave London and go to Hull. He was the best player in Yorkshire today. What could we be doing if we had his combination of grit, skill, and creativity.

So, the holiday glut of matches is the traditional separation of the contenders from the pretenders or, if you prefer, the men from the boys. We get to see just how deep the big boys are and how shallow the minnows are. We, my friends, are shallow boys, and two months of Clint Dempsey isn’t going to improve that. We need to buy well and extensively in January, and we need to relegate some of our pensioners to the shadows.

What’s next? Well, we’ve already got as many away wins as we did in Jol’s first season with us, so what we need to do now is get mean and grimy at home. Our next two league matches are against West Ham and Sunderland. These are REAL six pointers. If we win them both, we’ll be on 22 points from 21 matches and on our way to a struggling survival. If we don’t win them both, we’re in serious trouble, and we can’t count on our goal difference to see us to safety.

The View From South Texas — FFC v. Cardiff City

Uninspiring, Unsurprising, Unacceptable

Today, Fulham performed as poorly at home as I’ve seen since that cold November day that was Lawrie Sanchez’s last game as Fulham manager. On that day against a sub-par Newcastle, Fulham showed little effort and no cohesion. We saw that again today … at the Cottage … against Cardiff. Yes, we lost Scott Parker to injury within 5 minutes, and that certainly hurt us, but it doesn’t explain the overall lack of impetus, the impossible to detect game plan, nor does it explain the fact that our back four resembled a bunch of fit young gentlemen standing on an underground platform not looking at each other.

If you don’t want to read any further [and I certainly don’t blame you], just read this: Fulham faced the weakest side we’re likely to see at The Cottage this season and let them dictate the terms of the match for nearly all of the 90 minutes. According to the stats I saw, Fulham got off a massive nine shots against the VISITOR’s 22. Our corporate inability to capitalize on set pieces – a two-season plus feature of Martin Jol Sexy Football – was matched today by our defense of these same set pieces. Going into extra time it looked as if Fulham would collect possibly our luckiest point since the three at Sunderland on opening day. Cardiff are a good bet for relegation this season, and they could easily have beaten us by five or six. As my British friends like to end statements like these, you do the maths.

So, yes, Stephen Caulker scored an uncontested header off a corner to make it 1-0 in the 12th minute. Bryan Ruiz, on for Jol’s latest young sacrificial lamb Alex Kacaniklic, equalized with a “goal of the year” strike [aren’t all his goals stunning?] in the 45th minute – completely against the run of play. And Jordon Mutch, who looks a very promising youngster, curled in the winner deep into extra time. A very nice goal it was also. There’s the facts. Here’s some analysis.

Brede Hangeland had his worst performance in a Fulham shirt today. He didn’t mark, he didn’t jump, he didn’t run, he was the weakest link in a very poor back four today. When he fouled Cardiff’s goalkeeper in the second half, it turned out to be the only attack he foiled the entire match.

There was a point a minute or so into extra time when Fulham might have gotten the three points. For the only time all day, Kieran Richardson whipped in a good cross that zoomed across the face of goal completely ignored by Fulham attackers. The Fulham player most likely to have been sniffing around to convert that goal – Darren Bent – had been subbed off for Adel Taarabt.

Finally, at the risk of getting flagged for piling on – yes, yes, I know, a pointy football reference – I must admit that those who have criticized the decision to make Hangeland captain have a point. There have been plenty of times over the last several seasons where Fulham have gone on to the pitch lethargic and disconnected. What we had gotten use to seeing was a short, grouchy midfielder giving them what for and geeing them up. There’s only one Danny Murphy, and boy have we missed him since he left, and boy what could he have done for us today.

I didn’t stick around to see how the crowd reacted to Jol and the players after the match. I can only imagine that there were boos galore. I certainly know that they was well deserved. Fulham continue to be a side filled with talented players who are lacking only coherent leadership and coaching. I certainly hope that my next View from South Texas will be filled with references to Fulham’s new gaffer.
HatterDon’s Man of the Match: Are you kidding? Nobody!

The View From South Texas — FFC v. WBA

by HatterDon

Well, That Was More Like It

Both Martin Jol and Steve Clarke described today’s match as “must win.” So, naturally, it wound up a draw. Both sides worked hard and, although Fulham were certainly the more unlucky in front of goal, a draw was a fair result over the run of play.

Fulham fielded a side filled with potential scapegoats: Richardson, Ruiz, Berbatov, Sidwell, and Arch Scapegoat Senderos. West Brom decided to keep their main danger man on the sub’s bench and so the answer to the big question in the run-up to the match, “Who will have to mark Sinclair?” turned out to be “Clarke” – for at least the first hour or so. Victor Anichebe did feature and, for the first half, engaged in a very entertaining duel with Philippe Senderos.

Last season, Steve Clarke was the only manager in the Premier League who didn’t know that the way to stifle Fulham was to pressure our slow attackers and stop us from turning. As a result, we got six points from them that a better organized Albion might have kept for themselves. Today, Clarke’s side looked a bit more proactive, and there was a right battle up and down the pitch for 90+ minutes.

Fulham featured a starting XI that included Kacaniklic and Kasami, with both Ruiz and Berbatov in “creative attacking roles.” In other words, Fulham fielded a 4-6-0 at home. Unlike previous weeks however, Berbatov spent most of his time closer to the opposing keeper than to his own, and his presence, along with Kasami’s strength and aggression made Fulham a difficult side to contain. Special K was either thrilling or invisible throughout the match, but he was involved in most of the good things Fulham did in attack. In the 22nd minute, Fulham won a corner after a neat overlap by Richardson. Kacaniklic took the corner and with a leaping, twisting header, Senderos put the ball in Steve Sidwell’s reach, and the English midfielder’s poise in front of goal rewarded Fulham’s desperate supporters. 1-0 was a fair result, and it was heartening seeing the club immediately go for a second. Berbatov put the ball in the net twice more but was ruled offside on each occasion – one of them as close a call as you’re likely to see.

In the second half, Anichebe’s all out wrestling match with Senderos was interrupted when the Nigerian giant moved over to confront Hangeland. He easily rolled Fulham’s captain but fired a weak strike that Stockdale handled somewhat less than comfortably. That was the closest West Brom had come to a convincing chance. Everything changed, though, when West Brom brought on Sinclair and McAuley in the 63rd minute. Jol had just taken off a tiring Richardson for Amorebieta [the first ever Venezuelan in the Premier League according to the International Feed’s announcers], when Sinclair came on and immediately pressured our left back playing centre half.

From this point on, West Brom looked the team most likely. And so it was a surprise, really, when – on a top quality counter attack – several Fulham players contrived to get the ball to Bryan Ruiz’s feet inside the Albion penalty area. Ruiz collected himself and lofted a gorgeous ball that rebounded off the cross bar and out. Two seconds later, Fulham had the ball in the net courtesy of Rodallega [who had come in for Berbatov] but AGAIN the goal was disallowed for offside. I saw the replay three times; perhaps a fourth will convince me that SOMEBODY in Fulham colors was offside on that play. Never mind. Stockdale, after an uncertain performance, delivered a spectacular save and, after a scary looking injury for Fulham’s Costa Rican creator, the 90 minutes were well up.

Then came extra time – six minutes of it. West Brom were pouring it on and, after Fulham conceded a corner, Brunt found Gareth McAuley haring into the penalty area. The Albion sub beat Hangeland to the ball and headed past the Fulham defense into the net. The increased quality and creativity that West Brom showed after the double substitution of Sinclair and McAuley was rewarded.

Interestingly, after West Brom’s first goal of the season – two minutes into injury time of their FOURTH match – the visitors were the hungrier to get the decider. But that never came. Points shared, and it’s hard to argue that it’s an unfair result – even with the three disallowed Fulham “goals.”

Who looked good? Well, most everybody in white. Senderos had an excellent match in the main and mastered Anichebe. Riether did very well in defense and in attack. Ruiz was 75% wonderful and 25% rubbish. I still would like to see him in the role he plays for Costa Rica – a classic #10 pulling the strings – but that’s not going to happen. I thought Berbatov had his best match for us, and despite his tendency to wander into irrelevant positions, Kacaniklic gives us a dimension we have lacked without Dejagah in the side – someone who will turn upfield with pace and menace. Kasami was somewhat uneven, but with an attack that is as languid and passive as Fulham’s, he really needs to be up there – especially if we’re not going to play Taarabt. For Albion, the guy that caught my eye was Morgan Amalfitano. His play on the right nicely balances Brunt’s on the left. Once he’s gotten his Premiership legs, West Brom could give a lot of sides a lot of trouble.

Yes, Fulham dropped two points in injury time. Yes, we gave up the first goal Albion scored this season. Yes we still give up more shots on goal than any other Premier League side. But I still think today’s performance was “more like it.” We defended the fortress for the most part; we attacked early and often. We played with conviction and, occasionally, some pace. I was pleased to see the way we played the damn game, okay?

HatterDon’s Man of the Match is Scott Parker. I believe we have our Danny Murphy replacement, and – if we play in the manner we played today – I think he’ll be good enough to keep us out of trouble this year.

Who’s next? Who cares? Our home losing streak is over!


Jol be sorry…

We are only a few weeks in to the new season but there are already rumblings of discontent among the terraces at Fulham. What started with a couple of very average performances, despite an away win, was compounded by a distinct lack of transfer activity on deadline day.

How much of that can be attributed to Jol remains to be seen although I suspect it was not the only factor. Khan is shrewd in his spending and it wasn’t surprising that he was unwilling to fund another left back when we already have 3 at the club. Similarly he may have been wary about buying another midfielder when we have an excess of names vying for places, albeit perhaps not the players we want.

On the positive side were it not for a late winner at Newcastle at the weekend then 4 points from 2 away games and a home tie against Arsenal would have been considered a good start. We have regressed slightly from a few years ago but need to continue to be patient with Jol. Defensively we look solid and it’s no coincidence that the area we struggle in has the most new faces, across the midfield and final third.

It will take a few more games for us to find the right balance and consistency but we have the tools at our disposal. Yes Scott Parker is not the same player as Dembele was but who would be in our price range? The same fans who moan about replacing Dembele moaned about replacing Danny Murphy before, yet compliments in finding a player in Parker who does exactly that seem few and far between.

Many will disagree with me on Jol but who do you honestly believe is going to do a better job? The consensus appears to be Gus Poyet although I really can’t see why. We are not a club who can afford to take a chance on a manager who has no Premier League experience, let alone a manager who let’s not forget was dismissed from his last job for improper conduct.

Such is Jol’s reputation that he has managed to bring to the club, alongside Parker, Darren Bent who cited him as a major factor in his decision to join as did Stekelenburg. Who would Poyet be able to attract when compared to our current intake? Critics will say that the money available is what counts but Sanchez had money and only succeeded in turning us into Northern Ireland in the space of 8 months such was his abilities to attract players to the club.

Poyet is yet to be snapped up by any other club which to me speaks volumes. Jol may not be your cup of tea and we may well finish mid table again but I can’t see him getting us relegated. Let’s give him the season and make our decision then. Anyway after he wins the Cup in Brazil Mr Hodgson may fancy another spell at Craven Cottage……

The View From South Texas — Newcastle Utd v. Fulham FC

Easier to Predict than Rain in English Springtime

St. James Park on Saturday was host to two teams who prefer to wear black and white, two teams who have restless supporters and managers under the microscope, and two teams for whom “entertainment” is a word they know but have trouble associating with football. For 45 minutes those two teams – Newcastle United and Fulham FC – produced a first half of football that was dire enough to send this observer to get some eye drops to wash away the memory of it. Neither team showed any inclination to take over the game, and neither showed the skill or teamwork to accomplish it even if they had the inclination. Fulham did have a good 10 minutes or so there about halfway through the first 45, but the only real shot on goal was one from The Barcodes from great distance.

In the second half, one team came out with a different attitude and different tactics, and basically took control of the match with a scintillating display of attacking football. The team that DIDN’T was Fulham. And so Fulham lost 1-0. And I know there will be some who will say that it took a wonder goal to beat us, and they’ll be right. But it took some laughable finishing by Newcastle and a series of top quality saves from David Stockdale to keep us from losing by 5 or 6 – something that would have been more accurate a measure of the disparity between the two teams in the second half than the single goal on the score sheet.

So, basically, Pardew beat Jol because Pardew changed things up and Jol didn’t. Oh, you want details? Anaylsis? Okay, try this:

For some reason the only two players we’ve seen consistently aggressive in the opponent’s end of the pitch this season didn’t start today. Taarabt was on the bench and Kasami was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps the player who secured all three of our points this season is going out on loan or will be sold. Instead of either of these players, Jol started Bent up front with … with … ? Well, Berbatov was on the pitch, but instead of playing up front with Bent to bumfuzzle defenses, he retreated into his own half sharing space with Parker and Ruiz. Evidently, Martin Jol is the only football manager who doesn’t know that Bent needs a running partner. He does not create on his own. He does not hold up the ball and distribute. He’s a goal scorer who must play off the last defender’s shoulder and needs SOMEBODY FOR GOD’S SAKE to play in attack with him. So we started Bent and Berbatov, and neither were effective because Berbatov plays wherever Berbatov wants to play and, today, that was nowhere near Bent.

At half time, I thought that bringing Taarabt in for Berbatov might solve our attacking problems, but then I realized that Martin Jol Sexy Football doesn’t include attacking. Instead, when Taarabt finally made his entrance it was FOR Bent. Insane. By that time, Newcastle’s players had finally discovered that they could attack in numbers without serious worry of a reply by us. The only time Krul’s hair was ruffled in the entire 90 minutes was when Ruiz set up Taarabt for a screamer that Krul handled fairly easily.

How did we do individually? Well, the defense did well until the onslaught. Kacaniklic was okay. I thought Ruiz did well for large stretches [of course, I don’t expect Ruiz to be perfect constantly, so your mileage may vary]. I thought Parker was perhaps the best outfield player on the pitch for most of the game, and Stockdale? Well, more about him later.

So, we’re three matches in and three points in the bag. We’ve had one incredibly lucky win on the road, one ass whuppin’ at home, and have shown not the slightest bit of interest in trying to win an imminently winnable match on the road again. Throughout, we’ve shown little interest in attacking, have been slow, sideways, and predictable, have put all our eggs in the basket of a lazy player who’d rather berate his teammates than try to be one himself. In other words, we’re seeing more MJSF. How long can we continue to see a squad full of talented players go out and play this uninspiring and easily defended brand of SLOOOOOOOOOOOW football? I don’t know.

Who’s up next? I’m afraid to look. I watched the Man City v. Hull City match this morning, and I’ve now seen everyone this season except for Swansea, Norwich, and Palace. I have yet to see a team that doesn’t play better football than us, and that includes Cardiff and Hull. Monday is the end of the transfer period, and we’ve still got a few holes, but basically what is guaranteed to help our club the most is for the board to take to heart the following words – JOL OUT!

HatterDon’s Man of the Match – David Stockdale turned in the most complete performance from a Fulham goalkeeper I’ve seen since Mark Schwarzer’s first season with us. He was quick, agile, decisive, commanding, and distributed well with foot and arm. He made several stunning saves and had no chance to stop Newcastle’s goal. Honorable mention goes to Scott Parker who, with the right game plan and the players in the squad right now, could be the quarterback we need to finish 7th or 8th. With the leadership we have now, he’s even good enough to keep us in the Prem.


Deadline Day Build Up …

Following Jols pre game press conference prior to the weekends trip to Newcastle, many have already speculated that there will be little activity from Motspur Park in the coming days. There was a hint that he was looking at back up in the right back position with Benalouane from Parma being mentioned as someone under consideration although little else was mentioned in terms of activity. Of course no one really expected him to reveal the ins and outs of any future deals and sometimes it can be a little to easy to speculate when you only know half of the story.

Jol also said that there was a possibility of a few of the “fringe” players leaving in the next few days. We can all speculate who these may be although in my opinion it will most likely be Frei who departs for Turkey and Diarra who will leave the club having not been able to convince the coaching staff of is fitness and justification for a new contract.

Even if it is quiet for us over the next few days then we should be content that the club have acquired some excellent signings over the summer, and all for less than £10,000,000. Every football fan of every team up and down the country will tell you that their team is in desperate need of reinforcements somewhere within their respective squads and we at Fulham are no different. If however you had asked the same fans back in June if they would have been happy with the players that we have acquired to date then I suspect most would have bitten your hands off.

We all know that the so called “Dembele replacement” has still not been found and given the talent of the Belgian it isn’t a surprise that we have struggled to find someone in a similar guise. Both Scott Parker and Derek Boateng have added much needed depth to what was the weakest area of the squad although neither are naturally attacking minded. If there are no further midfield signings then it may be an indication that Jol has seen enough in Kasami to consider giving him the chance to establish himself , certainly until January.

Bryan Ruiz is yet to play in the league this season and while we all know that he is not up to playing central midfield,  illustrated by a truly woeful individual performance against Burton Albion mid week,  he will still be factored into the numbers by Jol and I suspect at some point be considered as an option for creativity in the middle.

If Berbatov and Bent are to play up top , whether as a pair or with the Bulgarian in behind , it will leave us with a lot of names to squeeze in to 4 midfield berths. Parker and Boateng could perhaps play in the middle but that leaves Kacaniklic, Dejagah, Ruiz, Taarabt, Duff, Sidwell, Mesca, Karagounis and Kasami all fighting for 2 places so is it really surprising that we are not still looking to add in this area?

The other area of major concern and is now more of a priority than anywhere else is at left back. The only player to eclipse Ruiz on Tuesday in terms of looking out of his depth against a League 2 club was John Arne Riise. Having given Walcott acres of space the game before, he afforded the same respect to Burton and a lack of any marking on his part gave them 2 goals. Kieran Richardson on his day is capable of being a solid option but given his hamstrings are about as reliable as Riise’s marking we really could do with another player there.

No one knows what Jol and Makintosh have going on behind the scenes and it would be rather stupid of them to show their hand at this stage in terms of requirements given that it would more than likely make us appear desperate and lead to the club being bent over the proverbial barrel for any given target. Anyone who remembers the transfer windows of the previous few seasons will know that the players we bring in on deadline day had not even been mentioned in the same breath as Fulham football club in the days preceding it. Perhaps this year more than the last few, there is less chance that we will see a last minute signing although unlike the years before we certainly have the capital available should the right player come around.

The View From South Texas — FFC v. Arsenal

Arsenal Win Swimmingly at The Cottage

Well, it took me about five minutes to identify what was falling from the skies in SW London this morning – it’s been a while since we’ve had any meaningful rain, you see – but once I did realize that November had made an early visit to England’s Green and Pleasant Land, I was able to see what was going to be the telling factor in the match. When playing in conditions like that, your keepers and back four are always going to be on unsure footing. Whichever team tried to unsettle the opposing defense early and often was likely to walk away with the three points. The Gunners attacked from the beginning; Fulham didn’t. Fulham lose 1-3 and can have no grumbles about it.

The thing is that our defense had played a well organized fluent match against Sunderland last weekend, while Arsenal had fallen apart against Villa. The Gunners also had a mid-week “must win” Champions League qualifier and some key defensive injuries and suspensions. With a shaken Sczcesny in goal and Bacary Sagna miscast as a central defender, the stage was set for Fulham to cause a little havoc, but with Dimitar Berbatov apparently unwilling to get into Arsenal’s penalty area, there was little or no pressure on Sagna throughout the match. Arsenal, on the other hand, attacked with width and depth and in waves. Making a series of quick crisp passes each time they appeared in or near the Fulham penalty area, it was inevitable that there would be openings. When Olivier Giroud scored in the 14th minute, it was pretty much all over. Lukas Podolski’s goal just before half time sealed the deal, and Arsenal were then happy to put as many players behind the ball as possible and play for the counter.

Fulham looked dangerous periodically – primarily through Adel Taarabt and Pajtim Kasami. Playing in a 4-5-1 with the “1” uninterested in playing the spearhead role, Kasami’s aggression and Taarabt’s ball skills kept Arsenal on their toes. This formation is toothless without a relentless front runner, and so – basically – Fulham were toothless all day. The Whites attacked, of course, but the thing is that the only threat they ever possessed was down the right wing with both Duff/Kacaniklic and Riether going forward. This left the back THREE pretty naked, and from a quick counter, Arsenal got their third and Podolski’s second in the 68th minute.

Fulham did find the net when Berbatov actually put pressure on the Arsenal defense and headed an excellent cross to a wide open Darren Bent. The Traveling Goal Circus tapped in and the score line looked a little more reasonable. Fulham pressed for another, but Arsenal always looked the more likely to add on. Final whistle, 1-3, come in out of the rain.

Not mentioned above was the return of John Arne Riise at LB. His impending exile was interrupted by squad injuries and Briggs’s excellent sub performance at Sunderland was discounted by his manager. Riise was excellent in defense, but useless going forward. I think Briggs is a better bet than our chubby Norwegian, but my opinion counts not at all. Stockdale did well. Arsenal’s first goal was pure bad luck and the others were hardly his fault. Riether played excellent defense on those occasions when he was actually in his penalty area, and looked the master of the right wing on Fulham’s rare attacks. Aaron Hughes played an excellent match with several timely interventions. Considering the conditions, I thought all our defenders did well.

Scott Parker also had a very promising match. Along with Riether, Kasami, and Taarabt, he would have been a contender for Man of the Match if such things were awarded after a 1-3 home defeat – which they ain’t. I suppose it’s hard to fault Berbatov for his play today. On the one hand, he was content to stay well out of the penalty area on Fulham’s rare attacks – and thus, did not trouble Arsenal’s makeshift and shell-shocked defensive 5 – but, on the other hand, this “tactic” of his seems to be just what his manager wants, so I guess you could say he executed well today.

My enjoyment of Fulham’s play under Martin Jol has become more aligned with how we play than how many points we win on the day. Martin Jol Sexy Football has still not won me over, but I must say that I was pleased to see us harrying Arsenal’s defenders when we lost possession. Kasami – certainly he wasn’t really the “second striker” today – was all over the pitch, pressuring, winning possession, starting counters. His performance would have been more fruitful had their been someone hanging on the last defender. There wasn’t. But we looked pretty good in the rain. We didn’t make a lot of serious mistakes, but we didn’t take a lot of chances either. Oh, and can we please find one player who can take a free kick?

Ah, what the hell, two matches = 3 points. Repeat that 19 times and you got 57. On the other hand, last season we lost more matches at home than on the road. So far this season, … well, it’s early days yet.

No HatterDon Man of the Match. Next up Burton Albion, and can we PLEASE try to get to Wembley? Please?