The View From South Texas -- FFC v. Newcastle

Discussion in 'Fulham FC News and Notes' started by HatterDon, Aug 5, 2016.

  1. HatterDon

    HatterDon Moderator

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2006
    Location:
    Peoples Republic of South Texas
    Ninety Minutes, Clean Sheet, Three Points

    The headline says it all, really. Fulham opened the Championship season against the odds-on favorite to bounce right back up into the Premier League. And, although the Toon huffed and puffed, they never looked like disrupting the flow of Fulham’s new-look football.

    The starting lineup included: (a) four players I’d never seen before, (b) three players I’d seen play before – but not for Fulham, and (c) four players I knew fairly well – three of whom I was thrilled to see in the starting lineup.

    There’s a couple of things I noticed right away that made me smile. First of all, Fulham are playing wide – for the first time in a long time. FFC were spreading the opponent’s defense, attacking down the wings, and defending confidently along the touch lines. Second of all, this Fulham have pace – pace to burn really. How fast? When Christensen came on, he looked the slowest player in White.

    As the game progressed, I saw something else – something missing at Craven Cottage for a very, very long time indeed. Everyone seemed to know his role. The defenders looked a unit when under attack. The midfield linked well with the defense and the attackers. The attackers were numerous and blended nicely with the midfield. There seems to be a PLAN at the Cottage, and I like that regardless of the result.

    Like our last four or five matches against the Barcodes, this one went 1-0 to the home team. There will be moans about the refereeing. There will be poorly spelled rants on northern websites about being cheated out of three penalties. Actually, I saw one that, in the Premier League, might have drawn a spot kick, but the rest? Including ours? Naw, not so much.

    The referee did make a difference in the match, but he mostly did it by NOT blowing his whistle. Players rolled around on the ground, miming “He bumped into me and look what happened.” Mr. Hooper’s mimed response, “Welcome to the Championship, pretty boy.

    Fulham, captained by the brilliant Tom Cairney, completely controlled the first half – as dominating performance as you’ll see. Newcastle was credited with only one shot, a weak lob to the wall on a free kick, and none on goal. Fulham had two shots on goal, one a glorious header by Matt Smith that decided the match in the 45th minute. The Toon defense had overcoated him very well for much of the half, but he could have done two 360s before scoring so free was he when it counted.

    The second half tactics were different. Joka figured, “You’re behind, you have to attack. We’ll defend, but watch your ass.” I didn’t care for it much, but I did like it when it turned into the Denis Odoi Show. Boy, is he fun to watch. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone turn away from a pass so he could pass it … off his back … to himself! He had a brilliant match at right back, despite the very early yellow card.

    Who else impressed these old eyes? Aluko, Ayite, Madl, and McDonald all played very very well. Our pair of aces have goals in them to complement those bagged by Woodrow and Smith. Speaking of Smith, well, his goal was well taken, and he should be celebrating his assist right now for Aluko converting his brilliant header into our second. The thing is, though, except for those two moments he looked slow, lumbering, ineffective, and not much help to our attack. Of course, I’ve never been all that impressed with him, so there might be some South Texas bias at work.

    How do I think we’ll fare over the season? Well, it’s really going to be hard to say after watching this. There were a couple of starters on there today – Malone and Button – that we might not see for a while. Having said that, though. Joka has a plan. He has players committed to that plan. His plan features pace, tenacious defense, and width. I think we’re going to be a lot more fun to watch this season.HatterDon’s Man of the Match: Tom Cairney.
     
    #1
  2. BarryWhite

    BarryWhite Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2011
    Location:
    Newburgh, IN
    Thanks Don! It's nice to get a View again.
     
    #2
  3. AggieMatt

    AggieMatt Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2008
    Location:
    Alamo City, Texas
    Good View, Don. Nothing there to really disagree with. The only thing would probably be that I thought we were too tentative for most of the first half and didn't get enough guys in the box, except when we hit on the counter. That's probably just opening game jitters and coming together though b/c it wasn't an issue in the 2nd half at all.

    I expected to see Smith in the middle with Aluko and Ayite on the wings but that didn't really happen. Ayite played much deeper than I'd expected, and often on the same side as Aluko, in the opening half. We were very fluid with moving players around up front and mixing up the Toon marking assignments, I thought. Aluko really impressed in the first half but I thought he faded in the 2nd. Ayite was the real eye opener for me though. He was high energy and full of pace throughout the match. In the first half he was disruptive of their attack in our end and suprisingly effective defensively. In the second, he attacked with pace, skill and creativity and wasn't afraid to take players on. Between the two A's, we've got some really nice weapons going forward.

    Now if we can just get a striker. As you said, Smith had a goal and probably should have had an assist (or another goal). But absent those 2 headers, he'd have been on the side of a milk carton tomorrow. Maybe we're spoiled from McBride and Zamora, but Smith isn't a starting striker in my book. He's a useful option off the bench, but he's just too one dimensional and he doesn't even do that dimension particularly well. Hopefully some of that McCormack money can be put toward a more versatile and effective striker. Speaking of milk cartons, where you at Dwight Gayle? I've seen him play a number of times, on some really overmatched sides, and don't remember him being taken out of a game so effectively.

    Completely agree on playing like a team and with a plan. I thought Kevin McDonald was very good. He was strong and composed on the ball, filled the gaps with the cb's well and was physical and seemed to command the back. He looks like the cdm we've been missing for a long time. There weren't all of the free runs through the center of our box that have been so common the last couple of years. Madl was really impressive as well. Kallas a little less so, but still a strong performance.

    And then there's Odoi. I was actually a little familiar with him but he still impressed. He's going to be an adventure defensively b/c he's so aggressive in getting forward. Newcastle were able to get behind us and play in over the top several times. Fortunately their touch let them down and Button came up with a big save. Once they get a little more familiar, with McDonald reading the game so well and filling the middle, Kallas should do better getting over to cover for Odoi when he gets caught upfield. It's well worth the risk though b/c that dude is something. Pace, skill, fearless. My only concern is his ability to stay healthy if he's going to keep faking guys out so bad and getting clattered like that.

    No arguments with Cairney as MOTM. He was very busy and effective. I'd have probably gone with McDonald just b/c while Cairney ran the show on the offensive end, McDonald ran it on the back end and Newcastle had more of the ball and we did keep a clean sheet. You could make a case for half of the starting XI though.

    I think this is the most optimistic I've felt about Fulham in 3 years. Now let's see if we can string some good performances together. Based on the effort and teamwork I saw today, I think we can. We do need a little more firepower though and could probably use another upgrade in the midfield as well as depth on the wing.
     
    #3
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2016
    encorespanish and nevzter like this.
  4. jumpkutz

    jumpkutz Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2011
    Location:
    Louisville, KY
    Oh how I've missed TVFST! Well done my friend! And I'll respectfully disagree with the right honorable gentleman about Mr. Smith. Most Bristol supporters will as well. Yeah, he ain't gonna be confused with Messi or Vardy, but you can't teach a guy to be 6'6" and this capable.
     
    #4
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