Since I’ve started to follow Fulham week in and week out we haven’t had a good start to a season. I would have been delighted with five points from our opening three games and fully satisfied with three. Now I’m standing here after two poor performances and one decent. To be fair the Europa League qualifiers haven’t been too convincing either. The weaker European oppositions could quite easily be overturned though, but the Premier League provides a very different challenge and, as enthusiastic as I am about my impending trips to Odense and Twente, I am worried by our start in the league.
However, there’s nothing worse than watching Fulham on a ‘laggy’ stream on the computer. The fact that it was 90 slow and boring minutes in Ukraine as well didn’t help. We had one shot on target and even if new-boy Kasami missed a sitter, Dnipro were much stronger and I could easily have seen another goal from the hosts. Under Hodgson these performances were quite common, with the difference that we rarely conceded, and didn’t even give away many chances. Jol needs to rethink, the way we’re playing now is just a diffuse mix of Hodgson’s passivity and Hughes aggressive style of play. We’re not pressing our opposition and forcing them to make errors in the build-up play and we’re letting them have too much space and time in our half.
If a defeat in Ukraine wasn’t enough, Jol, his players and approximately 500 supporters traveled up north to St James’ Park to record a one goal loss for the second time this week. Even if we couldn’t complete a late fight back, the players in the weird goldish/skincolourish shirts did at least make an effort worth to be mentioned compared to the previous four displays. If it was Newcastle that were poor or if it was a sign of some light at least I don’t know, but I left St James’s Park feeling that we did ok, even if ok wasn’t enough this time. Matthew Briggs, Fulham’s best performer by miles, must have spent several hours at the gym this summer because he’s now winning tackles like nobody else, a very welcome skill to add to his fine pace and brilliant technique. I must say that if he continues his fine start to the season, Briggs is someone we will definitely have to fight to hold on to. Not many good, young English left-backs out there, are there?
Finally, some words about the reserves yesterday (see Lork’s brilliant report here). Although Bolton were absolutely dreadful, the Fulham team showed pace, finesse and, above all else, clinical finishing. Alex Kacaniklic ran the Bolton back four ragged and often combined with the outstanding Marcelo Trotta, who perhaps had six or seven chances and scored five of them. It’s hard to properly evaluate both performances and potential when Bolton were so abject. I liked Tom Donegan though, a fighter and tackler who also can provide a good pass and score goals, as he showed with his sublime strike yesterday. A nice evening at Motspur Park and if the boys continue like this I hope we can see one or two in Jol’s first-team squad in the near future.