October 31, 2010
A strange game at Old Trafford – largely even, with a frustratingly simple first goal conceded, and a ridiculous second, which should have been ruled out twice over.
Firstly, Kaboul does exactly what he did last week and gives away a free-kick in a foolish position. This week it’s even more ridiculous, as he has dived in to a challenge when United weren’t really making progress and got himself a yellow card.
As we line up to mark zonally (and notably without Crouch, who is an excellent screen), Nani whips in a beautiful cross.
The nearest man to Vidic is Assou-Ekotto – a mismatch if ever there was one. Vidic meets the ball, flicks it goalwards, and it sails into the corner.
So a couple of issues – firstly, the silly challenge from Kaboul, and secondly, the weird decision not to stick one of the centre backs on Vidic, who has a history of scoring headed goals.
Wes Brown flicks a ball over the top, into space for Nani to run into.
Nani gets away – Kaboul seems to clip his heels, which knocks him off his stride. He goes down late, due to the nature of the challenge and, for me, it probably is a penalty.
Believing that he will get a penalty for the foul, Nani grabs hold of the ball.
With the penalty not given, Gomes picks up the ball and throws it forward, ready to take the resulting free-kick (for handball). However, the referee has not blown his whistle – there is no free-kick! Gomes should know to play to the whistle.
Nani can’t believe his luck. He just walks up to the ball…
…and prods it past Gomes, before celebrating like he has scored the goal to clinch the Champions League.
A number of issues here too, and I’ll preface this by saying that I generally do quite like Mark Clattenberg as a referee, and I hope that this is just a very bad day at the office for him.
1. In my opinion, Nani probably should have had a penalty – Kaboul did clip his heels.
2. With no penalty given, the linesman should flag for handball (which he later seems to indicate that he has seen). The play should be stopped, Nani should be booked for deliberate handball, and Spurs should have a free kick.
3. Clatternberg seems to suggest to the linesman that he had seen the handball and played the advantage – I am a fan of not stopping play for the sake of it, and this is all well and good until Spurs clearly don’t have an advantage; when Nani touches the ball, Clattenberg should simply blow his whistle, and allow us to take the free kick, as would happen in the attacking third (a player is fouled, play goes on, the advantage clearly isn’t as advantageous as it seems, play is brought back).
4. Nani showing that level of bad sportsmanship and then celebrating in such a manner is in exceptionally poor taste.
5. Gomes cost us with his naivety.
We have history with Clattenberg and his assistants – of course the famous “goal that never was” was not his fault, as he could not see from his position, but it is somewhat unfortunate that he is involved in a controversial decision again.
Like I say, I personally think it should have been a penalty anyway, so I won’t moan too much…
October 25, 2010
A tight game at White Hart Lane, where Everton, lacking the attacking threat of both Fellaini and Arteta, nullified Spurs’ attacking options well. Heitinga was deployed in a virtual man-to-man marking role on van der Vaart, Seamus Coleman doubled-up well on Gareth Bale, and Leighton Baines handled Lennon exceptionally (see the below Chalkboard to see how often he got in behind him). It was left to Luka Modric to be the creative spark for Spurs, and he nearly came up with a goal, drawing a good save from Howard, and skidding one shot just wide in the second half. The chance of the match fell to Peter Crouch – a header 6 yards out on the stroke of half-time was planted straight into Tim Howard’s grateful hands.
Question marks have been raised about whether Everton’s free-kick should have been awarded, but I’m not sure that the referee could have done anything else.
Gomes barely even moves – he is well beaten by a great strike.
Spurs did well to get back on level terms so quickly, and it was a shame that we couldn’t find a winner after an industrious second half performance – the result was probably a fair reflection though, and it is by no means a bad result, especially after a tough test in midweek.
One brief comment on the team selection – I was disappointed that Crouch started up front, and he did nothing to change that opinion, despite getting an assist. His finishing (the header and the two chances with his feet) show the sort of form he’s in – in my opinion this was the sort of game were Pavlyuchenko may have been a better option. Whilst he offers less of a presence, his movement helps to create space for our other attacking players, and his goal record is far superior to Crouch’s. It will be interesting to see what line-up Redknapp opts for next week.
October 23, 2010
What a bizarre night Wednesday was! My only realistic hope going into the game was that we didn’t get thrashed. 15 minutes in, and it looked like we would be but, credit to Redknapp and the players, they put in a decent shift in the second half, and pulled it back to a respectable score. Of course, they owed much of that to Gareth Bale, who put in a phenomenal second half showing.
The sad thing about the game was that we didn’t give ourselves a chance. Before we could get to grips with the quality of the team that we were up against, we were 1-0 down.
Before I go into my interpretation of what went wrong for the goals, it may be useful to show the formations that the two sides were playing, if only to appreciate the fluidity of the Inter team.
At half-time on ITV, Gareth Southgate singled out Jenas as being almost solely responsible for this goal. Many will disagree, but for me Jenas should take less than 50% of the blame..
Zanetti picks the ball up in midfield, and Jenas gets close to him. Notice Coutinho’s position on their left at this point, and likewise Hutton’s starting position. Lennon has an eye on Chivu.
Zanetti finds Coutinho, and Hutton goes out to meet him. Zanetti has also tempted Jenas into thinking he can get at the ball, meaning that his momentum has carried him beyond Zanetti. Zanetti is already looking to exploit this. Lennon has a great view of what’s unfolding from his position, and Bassong is tight to Eto’o. NB: Come back to this image once you have seen the first image from the fourth goal.
Hutton follows Coutinho as if he’s a man-marker, leaving a gaping hole on our right-hand side. In my opinion, Hutton should be passing Zanetti on to Huddlestone at this point, and, holding his position (i.e. handing over responsibility, and retreating). Jenas and Lennon between them can still do something to plug the gap on the right from here. Also notice Eto’o; he has done nothing clever – he has simply run off Bassong, who is ball-watching, and is now in acres of space between our midfield and defence.
Coutinho’s pass finds Eto’o, who is in acres of space due to Bassong switching off, and is in turn is looking to feed the ball into our right-back area. Jenas has been caught in two minds – tracking Zanetti or keeping an eye on Snjeider, who is also lurking. This is what Gareth Southgate hammered him for, but for me the issue wouldn’t have been there had Hutton passed Coutinho on. Even so, Jenas must take some responsibility for not tracking him – as must Lennon.
I have a sneaky suspicion that Eto’o was actually looking to play Coutinho in, but I could be selling him short. It works out as a perfectly weighted pass for Zanetti, who just has Gomes to beat from a difficult angle.
Some will say I’m harsh, but Gomes for me doesn’t do enough. He’s come out to close off the angle (rightly), but for me he doesn’t make himself big enough.
He’s ridiculously close to the ball, but doesn’t extend his arm, and it curls beyond him, pretty much into the centre of the goal.
So for me, the majority of the blame has to go to Hutton, who shows a real lack of positional discipline, but it was collectively bad defending, with mistakes from Jenas, Bassong, Gomes and arguably Lennon.
Four minutes later, and it’s effectively game over.
Sneijder has the ball in the middle of the pitch. Our defence has got itself into a real mess. Bassong has stepped up, whilst Gallas and Assou-Ekotto have dropped off. Assou-Ekotto is far too wide – he should be a lot closer to Bassong, so that Sneijder doesn’t have the opportunity to play the ball inside him.
The pass is beautifully executed, and Biabany is through, having caught Assou-Ekotto napping.
Gomes is late out – he has made the decision to come, but having done so, he has to get something on the ball. Rather than going hands first towards the ball, he goes with his feet.
Eto’o strikes the ball into the top of the net – Cudicini guesses right, but still can’t get close enough.
From bad to worse! Just three minutes after the penalty, and they kill us off.
Totally shell-shocked, we seem to be enjoying watching Inter pop the ball around, and don’t get close enough to make a challenge. They make over 20 passes, and Maicon has got himself forward, faced up by Bale.
Maicon threads a ball with the outside of his right to Stankovic. He has cleverly got himself between Jenas and Huddlestone, and is well aware of Eto’o's position – Gallas is quite tight to him.
You really need to watch the video to appreciate what happens next – Stankovic plays a first time one-two with Eto’o – the pass is so nicely cushioned back to Stankovic.
Stankovic finds himself with the space to take an early shot from the edge of the box, with both of our centre backs hopelessly standing off.
It’s relatively well placed, but Cudicini presumably wasn’t expecting it – he barely moves.
Surely worth a dive, Carlo?! I can only think that he was wrong-footed.
Eto’o's second goal is yet another where one of our players has been caught out by some clever movement; this time Gallas.
Coutinho has the ball, and cuts in from the left again – this time tracked by Lennon, with Hutton holding position on the right (so they did learn one lesson from the first goal!). Is Gallas being tempted by the ball, or trying to play offside? Either way, he’s not goal-side – Eto’o is on his shoulder.
When the ball is played, Eto’o is comfortably onside, and Gallas has no chance of getting back at him.
Gallas has often relied on his pace as a defender, but Eto’o is so fast – you just can’t defend like this against him, you have to be goal-side, or 100% sure that you can play off-side. He is an experienced player, and should know better.
Once in, Eto’o doesn’t have a great deal of the goal to aim at, and Cudicini actually does quite well to narrow the angle. I would have expected Eto’o to either curl this into the far post, or lift it over Cudicini, but he actually goes for the near post.
October 17, 2010
A fantastic three points yesterday – I said in my Preview article that I felt confident going into the game, despite our recent lack of wins at Craven Cottage, and I was pleased to see Redknapp a) go with Pavlyuchenko, and b) make a very positive half-time substitution, bringing on Lennon for Sandro, and shifting Modric inside; he was poor in the first half, and much improved in the second as a result of this switch.
It was a fairly even affair, with Spurs dominating early on, before Fulham came back into it. In the second half, Spurs had more control of the game, especially after Murphy went off injured. However, despite our control, we could easily have conceded on a number of occasions – mainly from set pieces, but also when Kamara swept over, and when Dempsey got beyond Gallas, but was adjudged to have fouled him.
Gallas hasn’t had the best of starts to his Spurs career – at fault for West Brom’s goal at the Hawthorns, and at fault again yesterday. He looks so comfortable on the ball, and seems to cruise through matches, but tends to make some baffling defensive decisions. The goal was one such case, but the incident where Dempsey fouled him was another prime example – Dempsey needn’t have done so, Gallas was beaten.
Simon Davies picks up the ball in the middle of the park – Sandro has pushed forward, following the ball rather than closing off the angle for the pass.
Our defence is holding a high line, but Davies clips a ball forward to Dempsey – Hutton has tracked him, but is neither goal side, nor tight enough to him to be able to influence him. Notice Kamara making the run off him.
King comes back to help Hutton out, and between them they force him wide. Gallas is struggling to keep up with Kamara.
It looks like the situation is under control – Gallas is relatively well positioned for a cross, and King should be able to block any potential shot. There is no support arriving from midfield.
As Dempsey swivels, Gallas takes a big stride towards goal – why he does this is anyone’s guess, I presume he’s trying to block any potential shot.
Unfortunately it just leaves Kamara able to slot home from close range.
A really bizarre decision from Gallas in my opinion.
October 15, 2010
Manchester United – 2-2.
Port Vale – 6-0.
Wolves – 2-1.
Everton – 0-0.
In fact, they have only lost once this season – 2-0 away at Stoke in the Carling Cup, where they conceded two headed goals from set pieces. This could suggest that Crouch is worth a start.
The draw with Manchester United was a particularly impressive result, but they arguably should have won the game – Dickson Etuhu had two good chances, as he burst forward from midfield with some regularity – and Bobby Zamora put in a superb all round performance.
Obviously Fulham will be without Zamora on Saturday, and will also be missing Etuhu and Duff (who always seems to play well against us), although Moussa Dembele, the dangerous young Belgian forward, will return. Their line-up is not easy to predict, as they have a number of injuries, and Hughes hasn’t yet been able to settle on a best eleven, but it could be along the lines of:
For those having a bet, a draw does seem to be the most likely result on paper, for a number of reasons:
- We haven’t won a league game at Craven Cottage since March 2002.
- Twice last season we went there and drew 0-0.
- Hughes has drawn 14 of his last 18 games as a manager, with Manchester City and Fulham.
However, I can’t help but feel quite confident about the game and I think we have enough quality and creativity to break down a well-organised Fulham side, and score at least once.
The movement of our attacking players will be vital – if Crouch starts, and we try to seek him out with long balls, then we will be playing into Fulham’s hands – Hangeland is excellent at dealing with these type of passes, and in my opinion it is key that we mix up our play. Neither Hughes nor Hangeland are blessed with tremendous pace, and Hangeland in particular is not so good on the turn. For that reason I would like to see Jenas start, with specific instruction to run in behind the Fulham centre backs as often as possible. With Lennon doing well as an impact sub, we could start with van der Vaart on the right, and both Crouch and Pavlyuchenko up front – however, I tend to think that Redknapp will go with Crouch as a lone forward, and van der Vaart in a free role again, and that could even allow him to start Jenas from the right (interchanging with van der Vaart), whilst sticking with the tried and tested Huddlestone and Modric combination in the middle.
Crouch performed poorly for England in midweek, and Redknapp wrote in his Sun column that he wasn’t used as he should be; he highlighted that Capello should have asked his players to aim high balls towards him. The problem with Crouch is that when he plays well, he undoubtedly adds more to the team (the two assists against Villa for example), but is still arguably less of a consistent goal threat than, say, Pavlyuchenko. When Crouch plays poorly (see West Ham game), he’s neither a goal threat, nor a help to the team. On the other hand, Pavlyuchenko frequently adds little, but scores – Young Boys was a prime example, but he did this many times last year.
I would personally prefer to use Pavlyuchenko, with van der Vaart behind him this week, as Fulham’s centre backs tend to struggle against good movement, rather than old-fashioned centre forwards, and this is something that Pavlyuchenko can offer. Having said that, if our wingers play well, then Crouch’s presence in the air could be vital (see Zonal Marking’s excellent article on Crouch from earlier today).
Defensively, it looks as though there will be yet more changes, which are surely the reason behind our lack of clean sheets this season. Huddlestone and Bassong didn’t fill me with confidence as a centre back pairing against Villa and, with Kaboul, Gallas and King all seemingly overcoming injury, I would imagine that at least one of them will play, probably partnering Bassong. There will be an interesting decision at right-back, where Hutton has done well on the whole in recent weeks, but is weak defensively. Corluka has acknowledged his poor form (personally I think he is also suffering from Lennon’s lacklustre showings ), and Kaboul will also be pushing for a start.