A few people have mentioned to me that they think Danny Murphy’s in decline – in that his performances are much less impressive than last season – and that this probably should be his last season in a Fulham shirt. I think that’s very harsh, but what is clear that the opposition have worked out how to make us less of a threat: shut Murphy down.
Stoke did it very effectively at the Britannia in the New Year, but the most graphic demonstration comes from a comparison between Murphy’s return to the league side, against Manchester United at home in December, and Tuesday’s sorry display against Spurs:
Murphy had much more space to operate in against Manchester United, perhaps because we were at home and more adventurous. But he did get that opportunity against Tottenham. Palacios and Huddlestone hurried him and most of his passes are concentrated in the middle of the field, deprieving Fulham of any forward energy, something particularly important in the absence of Clint Dempsey and with a lone striker. He also wasn’t helped by having a nervy Dikgacoi alongside him rather than Chris Baird.
You can be sure Villa – probably through Petrov – will look to press Murphy again tomorrow. Fulham will need their captain to be a little more dynamic and his fellow midfielders to offer themselves more if their football is to be fluid enough to pass the test.