A few thoughts from the Birmingham game:
1. The Fulham midfield sits too deep. Like on Thursday, we ceded too much space to the opposition as Murphy and Etuhu especially were comfortable with holding a line well short of halfway. Whilst credit could be given to Shakhtar’s football on Thursday, Fulham were just a little too cautious to start with yesterday afternoon. It was noticeable that once we pushed up a good 10-20 yards in the second half the chances began to flow with greater regularity. No surprise that Danny Murphy became more influential after the break either.
2. Nicky Shorey is falliable. Birmingham was his worst game for Fulham by some distance (though that’s not to say he was terrible). Chris Baird might get the blame for the own goal but the Birmingham move began only after the left back misplaced a simple pass. He still got forward to great effect but Shorey will want to forget an uncertain defensive performance.
3. Just in case you hadn’t noticed, Chris Baird’s got plenty of character. He shrugged off the setback of heading Birmingham into an early lead by blocking a goalbound shot from Keith Fahey and then playing a raking ball behind the Blues defence for Simon Davies to latch onto. Baird never stopped showing for the ball or raiding forward. Very impressive as lesser players would have hid after such a calamatious opening.
4. Dickson Etuhu needs to improve and fast. Disappointing against Shahktar, Etuhu was jittery again yesterday. Too often, his first pass either went backwards or to a blue shirt and he seemed happy to sit off opponents rather than use his power to win back possession. As Rich mentions in the comments, he seemed to only play for around 70 minutes as well. If we had John Pantsil available, I’d bring Baird back into central midfield.
5. Damien Duff’s magic. Not just for his mazy runs and ability to take on defenders but for the high class of cross he can deliver with his right foot. Then there’s these spectacular goals we’re getting used to. The Irishman doesn’t seem to score a straightforward one – think Everton (at home), Manchester City (away), Bolton (home) and Stoke City (away). He’s such an asset to have in your team.
6. Never leave a Fulham game early. With 15 minutes to go, the stream of usual suspects scurried down the Hammersmith End steps for the exits. They (and Fabio Capello apparently) would have missed Bobby Zamora’s brilliant free-kick. Late goals are becoming a regular feature at the Cottage these days. We can only hope Bobby did enough to impress the England coach in the previous 89 minutes.