Alright so I’ve managed to catch 3 reserve games this summer and we’ve lost in all of them (1-0 to AFC Wimbledon, 2-1 to Walton Casuals and 3-1 to Wigan Reserves). So I don’t know whether to start being worried or not. I’ll try and catch Bolton in a couple of weeks when we host them at Motspur Park and see if there’s an improvement. The side put out against Wigan was, with the exception of Somogyi, very young, 16-19 year olds, the majority of which featured in Fulham’s stunning U18 success last season when they beat the likes of Chelsea, Southampton, Palace and Arsenal to the League title so there is definately talent there, and they’re still young so I don’t want to be too harsh. Nevertheless, here are the impressions I got from the reserve game against Wigan
Summer signing Casper Somogyi was in goal ahead of Academy graduate Bettinelli. It looks like he might be third choice this season, having been restricted to Reserve appearances and Neil Etheridge being preferred on the bench in front of him. He seems pretty decent, good shot stopper, sharp off his line and communicates with his defense well despite not speaking great English. Somogyi very rarely came for crosses though, which is a bit of a worry especially in a League where high balls into the box are fairly common.
The centre backs infront of him were Josh Passley and Stephen Arthurworrey, two first year Academy scholars which I think makes them 16-17. They coped fairly well actually, Passley better than Arthurworrey probably who struggled with Rugg’s pace in the right channel. They both like to pass the ball out of defence and again Passley was probably the better of the two when it came to that, one point in the second half in particular when he turned a Wigan forward in his own box and passed the ball was very impressive. Both made some decent tackles and interceptions, and Arthurworrey is absolutely massive, built like an ox, so we have two promising defenders there. At left back was Alex Smith who impresses me more every time I see him. He really does play like an orthodox winger, he gets forward so often and he’s comfortable enough on the ball to cross, dribble and pass like one too. Not to mention he’s pretty quick and doesn’t forgoe his defensive duties either. He looks like one to watch for sure, although he’s almost 20 now so maybe a loan deal would be good for him and with Briggs who plays in exactly the same position as him seemingly far further up the pecking order Smith might struggle to get into the team. On the other side was Jack Dean who struggled all game really. Didn’t get forward much and the left winger for Wigan seemed to have the better of him, so it wasn’t a suprise to see him go off soon after the hour.
In central midfield was Josh Pritchard and Alex Brister. I didn’t realise Pritchard had been converted to a centre midfield so I wanted to keep an eye on him and he’s alright actually. Played a couple of very nice long range passes so certainly has the range of passing required, gets around the pitch a bit but didn’t really burst forward and sometimes gave the ball away way too easily. Brister played very much the same (and the fact that he moved to right back in the second half goes to show both players are similar), both struggled really to contain the Wigan midfield in the first half but I think that was a tactical error more than a comment on their ability. I was suprised not to see Donegan so maybe he’s on the bench for tonight’s Europa League game.
Alex Kacaniklic played the entirity of the first half on the left. After scoring he was kept fairly quiet other than a cross from the byline for Dalla Valle. In the second half he switched over the the right in a more advanced right midfield position but again didn’t have too much an impact on the game, although he kept possession well. He does demonstrate good dribbling and technique though at times, and once he switched back over to the left he seemed more comfortable, one mazy run in particular ending with a nice clipped pass, so I think that on the left is definately where he needs to be. Karim Frei is a name that has people talking so I watched him particuarly closer but like Kacaniklic he didn’t really get into the game much. A couple of times he threatened to make in impact but didn’t really do anything by the standards he set himself. In the second half though he really did start to show why he’s rated so highly. He glides past players so easily, and with the freedom offered by playing behind the striker he could drop deep and into space to make his runs. I think that, like Clint, he wont work on his ‘natural side’ (Frei’s right footed) because he wants space to run into, whether its cutting in from the left or in the pockets of space in the midfield. Not alot of end product though but he was our most threatening player by far and I’m genuinely excited.
Upfront was Trotta and Dalla Valle again, a Zamora-Johnson type partnership in a sense. Dalla Valle I never quite know how to judge. He’s apparently a good goal scorer so when he doesn’t have a chance (like on Tuesday) and contributes little else, I don’t really know what to say. I suppose his off the ball running is pretty sharp and his touch is decent, definately plays on the shoulder of the defender more often than not, but a quiet game before he was supped on 75 minutes. Alongside him was the enigma Trotta. I wonder if he’s having a crisis of confidence or something because he’s struggling to do the simple things well. I mentioned a one on one which was a clear goal scoring chance, plus a couple of chances he missed at Walton Casuals. There was what appeared to be a simple slide rule pass which would have set Kacaniklic away in the box but he didn’t get that right as well as a couple of other things. Thing is, we know he’s talented, as well as scoring a few in the last couple of years he has shown good overall play, so I hope he rediscovers the form that made him so highly rated in the first place.
Off the bench came Cauley Woodrow, Courtney Harris and winger Bettache. Of the three, Woodrow is the most high profile, having cost a hefty sum from Luton. He is certainly versatile, having seen him played in three positions in two games, upfront, right midfield and as a second striker. I think it’s at second striker where he’ll make his position because of his good touch and awareness; I think his best attributes are wasted right upfront and he probably wont attack a player as much as a wide man should. In his 25 minute cameo he didn’t do anything spectacular in a sense but played well and showed ability. Harris came on at the same time, and seems to be in the same place relative to the reserves as he was two and a half years ago when I saw him come off the bench against Chelsea. He’s a decent player, used to play out on the winger so his close control is good for a central midfield and he is mobile too, not an exceptional range of passing but cycles the ball well. I’d like to see him burst forward more often though and use that pace to make dangerous late runs into the box. The final sub was Mahrez Bettache, a second year scholar who played 15 minutes. I didn’t know what to expect at all, going from his stature I’d thought he’d be a quick dangerous winger but he didn’t run at his full back at all and made very little impression, so I don’t really have much to say about him.
Anyway those are my thoughts on the game and I look forward to see Fulham reserves play Bolton in a couple of weeks time!