Rich has some analysis up on yesterday’s game and how the boys are progressing.
As ever, it’s interesting stuff. The look at Dickson Etuhu alludes to something I was getting at the discussion of our defensive discipline earlier. Etuhu’s performance yesterday showed why we bought him but also why people have concerns about him being a long-term fixture. There were some alarming lapses in concentration mixed in with his ball winning and some alarmingly poor decision making. The post-match discussion in the pub centred around whether we’d someone who could offer us more in terms of distribution if Fulham are going to go continental next year – or even if we’re looking to hold onto what we’ve got. Leon Andreasen scored twice (here and here) for Hannover at the weekend, but it’s pretty unlikely that we’ll see him back.
Etuhu was far from the only culprit yesterday – it was a pretty listless performance. Clint ran around like a maniac but his effectiveness decreased as the game went on. It’s probably the effect of his busy international schedule, which well also mean he’ll have a later pre-season start date than his colleagues. The skipper even had an off day – there were more misplaced passes than I remember seeing in the last few games – and Paul Konchesky’s positioning continues to be a worry.
Nick continued his push for Fredrik Stoor, too, and it might not be wholly without merit as Pantsil was a little hit and miss yesterday. There were a couple of impetuous clearances, one that was sliced straight out of play into the Johnny Haynes Stand, although another swing of his right boot fell nicely for AJ and a minute later the ball was in the Stoke net.
People were getting on Gera’s back from the get go but I thought he had a decent game given that he must have had a pretty late call into the team. He’s obviously devoid of confidence at the moment – even the goal against United didn’t prevent him from having to represent Hungary from the bench the week after – and you’d want someone of his quality to take on his man a little more. But he’s a willing runner, can pick a pass and didn’t wilt in the face of some roughouse tactics. He might not have had an auspicious start to his Fulham career but there’s no doubting his ability.
I suspect Murphy’s partly knackered, and partly just not as effective against teams like Stoke. He remains pure class, but at this stage in the season it’d be a surprise if he wasn’t a bit tired. He’s been excellent though, on balance.
Etuhu’s distribution has been excellent though, if not always ambitious:
Danny Murphy 1915 78,2%
Simon Davies 1190 76,2%
Clint Dempsey 910 78,0%
Dickson Etuhu 675 84,1%
Zoltan Gera 651 80,0%
(Number, percentage accurage)
That’s simply very, very good, and it’s no longer because he’s only taking the easy pass. He often does, but that in itself isn’t a crime. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do, and while people remember the lapses, the metronomic rhythm and surprising accuracy is more important. It’s easy to say that he’s not doing anything difficult out there, but I would disagree with that. If we need better distribution in the team it’s not from Dickson’s role.
As for Gera, I really can’t see why people would be on his back. He did okay when he was playing and did very well yesterday. Chopper, myself and the usually very harsh Mick Roots in the Observer all independently singled him out; he had a fine game.
I think Dickson’s range of passing could improve as he could his selection – sending the ball forward a bit more as opposed to sideways or backwards. There’s a bit of a worry that he could be found out against the better sides. I wasn’t having a pop at him but he’s not at the same level as some of the more exalted holding players.
I’ve got respect for Rich’s statistics but I can’t agree that some of Etuhu’s mistakes wouldn’t matter. Against a better side his loss of concentration outside the box in the first half would have been punished. Such sloppiness is very dangerous.
Martin – yes, but he did it once or twice, which is not ideal but is the first we’ve seen for some time. It hasn’t been a habit so there’s no reason to assume that it’s a feature of his game.
Dan – that was my point though, he’s passing forwards much, much more than he was earlier in the season. Did David Batty ever do much with the ball at his feet? Claude Makalele? I agree he’s not remotely at the same level as the top players, but given the grief he got in his first few games I think his recent (match fit) performances have been excellent and very encouraging. You have to wonder if Hodgson can really make something of him, as all the ingredients are there. And if not, well he’s already shown that he’s a more than adequate player to have around.
Not disputing your points it was just an observation of my own that he remains a ‘safety first’ type player. I’d agree that his performances have been greatly improved – it’s a point I’ve made myself – but games like Saturday’s against Chelsea will be an altogether tougher test that what he faced this weekend.
Batty was a honest, hardworking stalwart but it galled me that he reached international leve, much less taking a penalty in a crucial shoot-out. I reckon that Makele is/was more comfortable on the ball than Dickson (that’s not to say our man can’t improve) and actually initiated a lot more attacks at both Real and Chelsea than people gave him credit for.
Indeed, but all of our players will face a tougher test. Dickson isn’t a weak link anymore.
Noo, I think a case could be made that Batty was the most underrated player of the 90s. He was a holding player before they were invented, ahead of his time and one of those mysterious players who strangely seem to keep on winning.
I wouldn’t call Etuhu a weak link, but I’d love to have
seen what Andreasen would have done with a run in this side.
Don’t get wrong, I wouldn’t say Batty was a poor player by any means and he probably was underrated. I just think that, for the majority of the time when he was at the peak of his career, England had better options in midfield. Someone who rarely ever scored (and had never taken a penalty) was a baffling choice in Saint-Ettiene too.
Intriguingly, he’s one of the few professional players I’ve ever heard admit to not having any interest in football.
Fair enough, but I think Hodgson must have his reasons. He rarely played Andreasen and has given Etuhu plenty of games. Clearly Bullard’s departure has much to do with it, but Andreasen’s absence from the team last year coincided with our late run too, so perhaps Hodgson just decided that he lacked the discipline needed for the holding role and the skill required for the advanced role.
That’s funny re. Batty!