Fulham put up a good fight, particularly in the second half. A goal was certainly deserved. They played hard and were generally well-organised. But a fair result? Hardly. Both teams and managers know who was clearly the better side.
But here’s the thing—when one of your two major goal-scoring threats does good, but not great, with a flick and a header and sees both thwarted by fine saves, when he hits the post after having beaten that same keeper for a clinching goal, when your other threat misses a sitter, when one of your midfielders is put in all alone and nervously fires a nothing shot on goal when one touch and a look to the net would probably have enabled him to score easily, when another is denied by another superb save on a curler toward the far post, when still another, as he is want to do, bungles a run that saw him get within ten feet of goal—when all that happens, and your manager refuses to make a substitution right at the moment you could sense the momentum shifting—well that’s how you end up with a draw that should never have been.
Of course, there’s a problem with a lineup that features three midfielders who have little or no concept of how to attack or, if they do attack, how to finish. Where was Dele? Where was Gareth Bale? Where was Lamela until it was nearly too late? Still it did produce all the chances listed above, and the team wasn’t good enough.
The goal was produced by a tired defender surrendering the cross from the byline and no one marked the goal scorer. So despite whatever misgivings I had about the formation I don’t blame the manager. They should have scored more. They pressed hard and kept turning the ball over and creating chances for more than an hour. And then they stopped. And then Lamela, Dele, Bale or some combination of those three should have been inserted. Sissoko cant run both ways like he was forced to do all game. Ndombele needed to come off a bit sooner, despite all the effort he put into the game.
These killer draws—Newcastle (VAR), West Ham (miracle goal), Palace, Wolves and now Fulham—may cost us a top four position. They will certainly cost us any chance at a title challenge—which is fair. But they will not cost us trophies if this team can break the pattern and put games away. And that’s on the players and the manager.
As for any of the specific players, nobody played badly. Nobody played great. I want to look at the goal to see what Reguilon and others were doing. But it was a symptom of a bigger problem. We don’t have the quality or the stuff necessary to kill goals with a lead. It is so easy to simply blame the manager, but for me, most—not all of the time—it is his players letting him and us down as opposed to a failure of tactics.
Last night was a bit of both but ironically because I think he needed to make a substitute for defensive purposes more quickly.
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