Glad to hear you're okay Don. That's good advice, btw, moreso as folks get older.
On to Fulham and the Good, the Baird and the Ugly.
I was encouraged to see us take a more attacking approach on the day, especially given some of the uninspired efforts we'd put forth in the Prem lately. It was also apparent early that Spurs weren't on their game. We had a lot of shots, we generated countless turnovers by pressuring Spurs back four and Dembele had one of the best matches I've seen from him. He was fantastic defensively.
While we had a ton of shots, I didn't think many of our chances were dangerous, especially in the 1st half. We shot from outside the box most of the time and they were either comfortably saved by Friedel or deflected out for corners. The threat level of our shots went up in the 2nd half and we were unlucky not to score or get a penalty from that flurry that resulted in Walker hugging the ball. However, we probably got away with one on the other end on the Sidwell tackle right on the edge of the box.
I agree with Don about King and Zamora. He owned Bob in the middle and we were unlucky to catch him healthy and in form. However we adjusted in the 2nd half and Bob started taking up a position out wide which gave him some room to maneuver and gave us some much needed width. It seemed like the quality of our chances improved once we made that adjustment.
The other issue we had offensively is the same one that has plagued the club since I've followed them. We don't have enough strike options. In the first half, King was in Zamora's back pocket and effectively took him out of play. That left Dempsey in the box alone most of the time. Despite playing a good game, Dembele just isn't a striker. He retreats too deep and doesn't get into the box. He's getting better about taking shots from outside, but that's a low percentage option. In the 2nd half, once Bob moved out wide, we were usually left with Dempsey and Sidwell in the box. Obviously on set pieces that wasn't the case, but from the run of play we're playing ourselves into situations where the opposition have too much of a numbers advantage in front of net.
On the defensive end we find ourselves undermanned at cb due to injuries. I've thought Baird was struggling there for several weeks, especially on balls in the air, but today was really not his day. I don't fault the first goal that deflected off of him. It was blasted and was going in anyway. But on the 2nd goal he retreated too much and then got skinned and he was largely responsible for the 3rd. If he leaves his spot to close down behind Brede, he can't let that cutback get by him. It did and Kelly and Schwarzer were defenseless to stop Defoe from there.
That's not to put it all on Baird. The other half of that equation was Grygera. For my money, Kelly has been the better rb whenever he's played. He has better pace and recovery, he gets forward more often (and further) and he supplies better crosses. But the biggest difference, especially on this day, is that he doesn't get suckered as much when teams play triangles to get by him. Grygera got torched by that on a number of occassions and let Bale or Lennon get loose down the sideline. On both of their goals, Grygera was chasing the play from behind. Once Grygera left injured, Kelly shut that down for the most part. Oddly Duff, who's usually good at providing cover for his rb's, wasn't today.
Going back to the offensive situation. The way Dembele is playing his position offensively, it's essentially rendering one of the cm's irrelevant, imo. I think we'd almost be better off going with just one and adding an extra striker (AJ or Ruiz). His passing still leaves a bit to be desired for that role, but his defensive work continues to improve. I think we could get away with it and get better chances as a result.
All in all, I thought we were unfortunate not to get a point out of that one. But I was encouraged by how we opened up our play offensively. Hopefully that continues on the other side of the int'l break, unlike last time.