Starting to get a little excited by the prospect of a massive game in Donetsk tomorrow. The task in front of Fulham seems a little daunting given the way Shakhtar passed so fluently at the Cottage last Thursday, but Roy Hodgson’s side have a pleasant knack of surprising us over the last couple of seasons so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be targeting a result at the Donbass Arena.
I was pleased to read Chris Baird extolling the virtues of a positive tactical approach this morning. For me, the worst thing we could would be to try and sit back and protect the narrowest of advantages. This would invite pressure from a Shakhtar side who will be intent on going forward anyway and could well be fatal. One of my criticisms of Hodgson’s pragmatic approach away from home has been that we don’t look to be positive early enough, spurning the opportunity to take the initiative in games that we could win.
Furthermore, Fulham have delivered their best away displays under Hodgson when we’ve needed to get something. Think Reading, Manchester City and Basel: when we throw caution to the wind and go for it, good things seem to happen. I’m not advocating a gung-ho approach tomorrow night, far from it. Crazily pushing everybody forward would be even more disastrous than the cautious option. But cancelling out Shakhtar’s away goal would put an entirely different complexion on the evening – and we stand the best chance of doing that by showing some attacking ambition.
Fulham should be encouraged by the shaky nature of Shakhtar’s defence. Their back four didn’t match the quality of their approach play and the goalkeeper wouldn’t inspired too much confidence either. Letting Zoltan Gera’s early shot creep in could yet prove to be a costly mistake. With Bobby Zamora in such dominant form, you’d think we could pose a few problems going forward.
That leads me onto my final question. How will Fulham line up? The 4-4-1-1 (as I see Gera gets forward in support of Zamora but starts from a slighty depeer position to press the opposition when they are in possession) has worked well for us lately, but the lone frontman could tend to get a bit isolated away from home. Would Hodgson be bold enough to go with two forwards to give us a bit of traction in the opposition penalty area? Or is there any need to change a system that has both Gera and Zamora firing at the moment?
Plenty to ponder.