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Wednesday Fulham Stuff(28/11/12)...

Started by WhiteJC, November 28, 2012, 04:32:48 AM

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History won't hold back Martin Jol as he plans Euro mission

Martin Jol has declared his intention to drag Fulham back in contention for a place in Europe next season and harbours no fears about starting the task against Chelsea tonight even though his side's last victory at Stamford Bridge came 33 years ago.

Fulham make the short journey to their west London neighbours without a Premier League win in five games and having had their impressive early-season momentum punctured by successive defeats to Sunderland and Stoke.

Jol, especially frustrated by four stalemates in the five games before the set-back against Sunderland, said: "We have to get our winning streak back. Getting draws is not enough, because you only get one point, and we've had a lot of draws."

Victory over a Chelsea side also looking for their first win in six League fixtures and in the throes of reorganisation under interim manager Rafa Benitez would put Fulham back in touch with those clubs chasing a place in the Europa League, the competition in which they reached the final in 2010.

The Whites are also in the running for qualification through the Fair Play League, the means by which they made the Europa League under Mark Hughes.

In the latest table, yet to be updated following Brede Hangeland's red card against Sunderland, they lie second to Arsenal and Jol admitted he would have no objections to making Europe by that means even if it meant an early summer start to the season.

He said: "I always love to be in Europe, and if it is via the Fair Play table then it is okay by me. But I would like to be there on the normal basis. That is what I always try to do and most of the time I've done that over the last decade."

Jol (above) will remind his players tonight that whatever the history books may say, their recent record against Chelsea is solid. In open play last season — Fulham lost a League Cup tie on penalties at the Bridge — they drew all three clashes.

"We didn't manage to beat them," he said. "But in three games we had three draws, 1-1 all the time.

"Before the season, if people were to tell me we would draw against Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, I would probably take it.

"But now we need the points, Chelsea also need the win, so it should be an exciting match."


Four things we know about Fulham

After a 0-0 draw against Manchester City at home, Rafa Benitez's Chelsea once again face another firing squad in front of the home fans in the person of local rivals Fulham. A West London derby is always a rather nervy affair, but it will be the latest attempt for Benitez to attempt to win over supporters after the protests from the crowd on Sunday.

Whereas a draw to Manchester City was always on the cards given both teams relative form, a defeat to Fulham would be catastrophic for Benitez's campaign to acquit himself as the right man for the job.

However, this fixture shouldn't be taken lightly. After all, this is the Fulham side that very nearly turned over Arsenal just a few weeks ago in a 3-3 draw.

First thing to look at is how Benitez has changed Chelsea.
At first glance, it would appear that very little had been changed in the transition to Benitez ideas from Roberto Di Matteo's. However, the most notable was a bit more solidity in defence that wasn't always there under Di Matteo. The most interesting thing to me is still the correlation between the problems Di Matteo had at West Brom and the defensive issues that Chelsea had before their sacking. The argument could easily be made that at times, Chelsea played too open when they didn't need to and weren't able to coax defensive solidarity out when it was needed. You could say that Di Matteo's side defended well in the lead up to the Champions League win, but you could also say that he didn't have the ability to play three playmakers behind a striker either. While providing excitement, it also leaves you open, particularly if your deeper midfielders both like to get forward.

And there is our first major difference. In previous matches, John Mikel Obi was more than happy to supplement the attack by making forward runs of his own, regardless of whether space and shape dictated it or not. The first thing I noticed was that Mikel, and to an extent Ramires, played deeper to shield the center backs from 1 v 1 situations. It was a change that made the Blues less fluid in attack, but much more solid at the back.

The second thing was getting Eden Hazard and Juan Mata to stay wider and track the runs of the fullbacks. Against City, only Pablo Zabaleta really provided a threat from fullback, largely because City were often times playing three players on the right. Otherwise, both did a much better job defending, although at the expense of the attack.

Now on to Fulham. Martin Jol's done a fantastic job of resurrecting the career of Dimitar Berbatov.
I would venture to say a large part of Fulham's success this season has come down to the play of Berbatov. It's interesting because I think to get the best out of him, you have to take the big fish, small pond approach. He almost has to have the side constructed around him as the focal point of every attack. At Manchester United, I think the biggest problem was that he wasn't the focal point, thus his lack of work rate in winning the ball back and making repeated runs in channels was exposed.

What Jol seemingly has done is taken a similar approach to what Roma had done with Francesco Totti. You know that he's a luxury player who has great skills and finishing ability. You know that he can pick out passes. But you also know that his movement is very efficient and he's not going to track back 30 yards and win the ball if he loses it. However, if you construct the entire side so that his strike partner does a lot of off the ball work and his midfield works hard, he'll create you bags of chances that he'll either initiate, finish, or both.

That support system was lacking at United, where much of the play centered around the work rate of Wayne Rooney, but at Fulham, Jol has seemingly centered it around Berbatov.

To create the system for Berbatov, Jol has almost re-created a similar side to the 2006-2007 Tottenham side that tormented Chelsea.
When I looked at the Fulham setup, I started to realize the many parallels between the side that Jol had at Tottenham and the side he's constructed around Berbatov at Fulham. He has a striker who plays off Berbatov with skill. He has two hard-working central midfielders. He has one attacking fullback that balances a more defensive option on the other side. And he has a number of flair players that he can play on the flanks to create chances.

It was the combination of Robbie Keane and Berbatov that caused issues that season, along with the pace of Aaron Lennon on the right. While Fulham don't quite have anyone as pacey as Lennon, Alexander Kacaniklic and Kerim Frei have been viable options in wide areas, and Hugo Rodellega is also capable of playing out wide.

Beware of Bryan Ruiz.
With Fulham, Berbatov is obviously the main danger man, but Ruiz might be just as dangerous. If everything is played through Berbatov, Ruiz is the striker that plays as his shadow, providing the movement off the ball to create space for Berbatov, while also creating space for himself.

The other underrated part of Ruiz's game is that he will take on defenders. He's shown a willingness this season to drift into wider areas and run at a back line if needed. He also has that touch of flair that can open up a defence by himself. What would worry me from a Chelsea perspective is if David Luiz doesn't get the balance between staying tight and backing off right. He does have the ability to turn his man and can finish. The back line will have to keep him in front because if he gets behind them, he could be a big threat.


Emerson's International Recognition

Fulham Under-18 midfielder Emerson Hyndman has been rewarded for his fine form this season with a call-up the United States Under-17s squad for their upcoming Nike International Friendlies tournament.

Hyndman has been a key performer for Steve Wigley's side in the 2012/13 campaign and has not looked out of place in the Under-18 league, despite the fact that he does not turn 17 until April.

He's helped his Fulham team to second place in the Barclays U18 Premier League, with his personal highlight coming when he hit a hat-trick on the opening day in a 7-1 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers.

After winning the tournament last year, the United States U17s begin their defence of their International Friendlies against Brazil on Wednesday, before facing Turkey on Friday and Portugal on Sunday.


Benfica Midfielder Chase
Newspaper speculation, as we prepare to face Chelsea tonight, has us linked with the possible acquisition of an attacking midfielder.

Apparently, Fulham are interested in bringing the Benfica player - Nolito - to Craven Cottage.

The move, for the ex-Barcelona player, could happen in the forthcoming January transfer window and the fee could be something in the region of £5 million.

Nolito scored 11 times last season, a fine return for a midfield player, but has fallen from grace this season, thereby prompting the speculation that a move to the Premier League could well be on.

As for a potential rival for his signature, look no further than West Ham United with Sam Allardyce also rumoured to be interested in the player.

Read more:


Fulham helps youngsters find a job

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Fulham are helping young unemployed people gain valuable skills to empower them to find a job, as Leon Mann reports.

The "My Future Goal" project develops life skills, such as communication and team work, as well as giving participants work-related training.

Cottagers defender Aaron Hughes said the club had benefited from the scheme too, with some young people going on to work at Fulham.


Uefa consider merging Europa League with Champions League

A proposal to abolish the Europa League and double the size of the Champions League to 64 clubs is among a number of changes to European competitions being considered by Uefa.

The European governing body is pondering changes to both their club competitions and will make a decision in 2014.

Another proposal being looked at is to award Champions League qualification to the winners of the Europa League, and possibly even the runners-up too, in a bid to boost interest in the second-tier competition.

Uefa president Michel Platini confirmed the proposal for a 64-club Champions League is being looked at.

In an interview with French newspaper Ouest-France, he said: "There is an ongoing debate to determine what form the European competitions will take between 2015 and 2018. We talk, and we will make a decision in 2014. There is nothing decided yet."

A 64-club competition would see as many as seven English clubs and five Scottish teams entering at various stages of the qualifying rounds.

Platini also blasted Fifa president Sepp Blatter for dismissing his idea of extra officials behind the goal-line as being too expensive. Uefa are continuing with the five officials, and Platini said that the cost was minimal compared to goal-line technology.

He added: "I'll give you some numbers. Mr Blatter said that five officials is expensive. In our UEFA competitions, if you want to put in goal-line technology it costs us 32million Euros in the first year and 54million dollars over five years. Referees, it costs us 2.3 million.

"If you put in the goal-line, it is the gateway to video in football in general. I'm against it all."


Chelsea 3-0 U21s

Here are the goals as Fulham were beaten by Chelsea on Monday at their Cobham training ground.

Fulham Under-21s slipped to a disappointing 3-0 defeat against Chelsea Under-21s on Monday night.

Kit Symons' young side came unstuck against an in form Blues side that entered the game unbeaten in their last five outings and one buoyed by the presence of the watching Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and interim manager Rafael Benitez.

The hosts started well and threatened to break the early deadlock with Islam Feruz and Billy Clifford missing decent opportunities. Their pressure was rewarded however, when Nathan Ake opened the scoring with an impressive curled finish on 15 minutes.

Both Charles Banya and Omri Altman tested the Chelsea defence with some clever inter-play, however, it was the Blues that made the telling difference once more, when Feruz kept his cool to finish smartly beyond the reach of Jesse Joronen.

When Adam Phillip made it 3-0 just before the break, sliding in from Lewis Baker's cross, the striker gave Fulham a mountain to climb.

Joronen made a fine stop to deny Reece Mitchell on the hour mark before George Saville shot wide, while James Musa made an excellent tackle to deny a further chance for the Blues.

It was an undoubtedly difficult evening for Symons' charges, who face Liverpool at Motspur Park next Monday. While some billed this match as a dress rehearsal for the First Team's encounter at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening, Fulham will be hoping for a bit more luck in two days' time. 

Fulham U21: Joronen; Grimmer, Musa, Pritchard, Briggs; Brister, Minkwitz, Donegan, Banya; Altman, Islamovic. (Subs: Arthurworrey, Evans, Tankovic and G Williams)