Well that wasn’t supposed to happen. Tiredness is going to be top of everyone’s list of excuses and indeed it’s tempting to give player ratings in terms of Slumberland products but injuries and tactics played a large part too.
Villas-Boas decided to put out a line-up that was almost Redknappesque in terms of its narrowness and players being played out of position. Some of the changes were injury forced; some were a product of the manager attempting to rectify weaknesses exposed in his previous efforts at covering for the absence of Aaron Lennon. Moving Assou-Ekotto into midfield was a gamble that didn’t pay off and revealed the manager’s lack of trust in Livermore and Holtby more than anything. The loaning out of Andros Townsend looks like a daft move at the moment.
The atmosphere off the field was flat from the start and on the field, what the side lacked in tempo in the first half they made up for in lethargy. The lack of width cramped the play and highlighted the limitations of certain players (Parker and Naughton); we barely mustered a shot before the break.
The lack of magic dust in Gareth’s pocket meant we didn’t have our normal escape clause; he wasn’t his normal barnstorming self. He went down awkwardly just before the interval and whilst he came out for the second half, he occasionally felt his lower limbs gingerly and rarely put on the afterburners; only the once in fact when he laid the equaliser on a plate for Defoe who, as he has been doing regularly recently, hit his shot straight at the keeper. He’d done the same earlier when he shot first time from Caulker’s (yes, Caulker’s) cut back. I suspect Wales will be lucky to see Bale this week, Walker and Dawson will probably withdraw from the England squad too.
Tom Carroll was one of the few who will have come away satisfied with his efforts, during his cameo he injected some of the dynamism and imagination that was desperately missing.
Fulham didn’t play particularly well, Berbatov was nowhere near as sublime as he can be (goal apart) and the rest just scurried and fought (Duff, Ruiz and Sidwell) or play acted and dived (Karagounis) to good effect though ultimately. Fulham’s level of support was once again a disgrace, why they can never fill their allocation is beyond me. Those that did make the journey up the District line enjoyed themselves, they were probably the only ones in N17 though.
To say it’s all very annoying is a major understatement. The pressure is most definitely on.
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