Yeah so we won six nil. I still haven’t drifted back down from my state of elevated nirvana which explains my laid back manner if you were wondering. But this is a result we won’t forget for a long, long time; and one we won’t let the QPR fans forget either. I still have my concerns. It is too easy for opposing players to find space in dangerous positions and between the lines and our closing down and marking in defensive positions isn’t great, QPR could have scored one or two today. But we could have scored ten, our attacking play was that good. And if that’s the cost of a style which brings us performances like we saw today, well, I think that’s a price worth paying.
Schwarzer – 7, couldn’t kick so Baird and Riise split duties depending on where the goal or deep free kick was taken from and players were reluctant to pass back to him. However this meant his distribution was always short and it was good actually. In a perverse way it meant we played well from deep. In terms of saves, he made a couple of good ones but wasn’t really tested other than a Faurlin free kick which deflected off Campbell in the opposite direction to which Schwarzer was moving and he adjusted really well to go down low. Again his handling was superb. He seems to catch everything that goes towards him. In so many ways that’s such an underrated attribute; not only does it mean there are no second balls to contest but your team regains possession. That is his level of ability, he didn’t have to stretch himself particuarly for crosses or saves today.
Hangeland – 7, his composure on the ball and passing was fantastic. So wonderful when we can play it from the back like we did today. Seems to have cut down on those raking, usually overhit, balls to Riise over on the left too. In terms of defensive play, well Bothroyd didn’t have a sniff other than one chance which Hangeland threw his head at in a very brave clearance but he was guilty of leaving Mackie alone towards the end of the match; luckily he slipped as he shot.
Baird – 7.5, like Hangeland had a really good game with his passing and I gave him the extra .5 for his really quite good goal kicks, which can’t go unmentioned because a successful goal kick greatly improves our chances of picking up the ball in a dangerous position (maybe it should be a regular thing?). Don’t think he was particuarly tested defensively, so a quiet game like that usually implies a pretty good one.
Grygera – 7, didn’t get forward as much as I thought he would, but he played an important role in making sure we weren’t exposed when Riise bombed forward. Tidy in possession and made a few good interceptions and tackles. Really has been a pleasant suprise from the summer transfer window.
Riise – 8, this is the kind of performance we expected from him. Got forward so much, and I know it’s a cliche, but it was literally like Riise was an auxillary left winger. With the width he provided Dempsey could come inside and cause havoc and we always had an outlet on the touchline. While he’s not blessed with pace he is very strong and has wonderful stamina. Although nothing came from his crosses they are dangerous and he has a bit of creativity to his play too. Perhaps this goes some way to explaining why our right back slot has been played by centre halves most of the season.
Murphy – 9, oh my giddy Aunt a player scored a penalty for us in a west London derby. The penalty itself was wonderfully cool, but for me his assist for AJ was even better. Fantastic speed of thought, he didn’t even point, he just spotted AJ’s run and played the perfect ball instantly. Other than that his passing was a joy to watch. Switched play from flank to flank at will and kept our momentum running like a well oiled machine with shot intelligent passes. Murphy at his best, as we know, is a brilliant player no matter how many years it is between a game and his date of birth, and today he was at his best. And this is after 80 odd minutes in Denmark 3 days earlier. Great stuff.
Sidwell – 8, picked up a yellow five minutes in after a tackle on Taarabt and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one that went ‘uh oh, he’s not going to survive the rest of the game’ but to be fair he kept his discipline really well and we didn’t see a thing from Taarabt in the other fourty minutes he played. I think that Sidwell was cautious with his tackling for the rest of the game so Faurlin et al. skipped around him a couple of times when close to the box, examples like that show the importance keeping your discipline, but credit to him for keeping composed. So while we didn’t see him make the tackles he normally would he was as important as Murphy in our possession. His long passing isn’t as good and we didn’t see any from him but he roamed around the pitch taking up good positions to collect the ball, as well as making a few good, aggressive runs up front.
Dembele – 8.5, he has his critics but we all know Dembele has a scary amount of ability. The ease at he can glide past players is sometimes jaw dropping, honestly. His problem comes with his tendency to hold onto the ball for too long or not make the right attacking option. You couldn’t accuse him of that today. Dembele commited players and played good passes, sometimes out wide to Riise (the two combine really well like that very often actually), sometimes good subtle flicks to dummy QPR players and when he had the opportunity he shot. He has a good ball striking technique and it came off today for AJ’s first after just 80 odd seconds, and I don’t think it’ll be long until he scores his first. He must, however, keep up performances like this. He played this well against City so we know he can do it against the best, he just needs to do it consistently.Worked tremendously hard too.
Dempsey – 9, missed a good chance in the first half and almost scored in the second with an audacious effort, but took his goal when it came very well with a good bit of anticipation and a neat finish, and lest we forget played in Zamora superbly to return the favour for the England man. Overally his display was full of confidence; like Dembele tracked back really well and made some good defensive interceptions and tackles, but going forward his close control and passing were really neat and nice to see. His instinct of scoring goals and getting into dangerous positions from deep is so important to our attacking play so nice to see him get a goal that he deserved.
Zamora – 9, this display showed all the signs of a training ground contretemps. Full of ill discipline, lazy running an- oh… Alright I’m being a bit mean there but the media tend to blow things like that out of all proportion, and to sensationalise to the fact that the headline ran ‘Zamora seals Fulham exit’ was ridiculous. His performance did all the talking anyway. Wonderful strength to hold off defenders and delicate touches to lay the ball off accurately to team mates in the final third. His composure on the ball is admirable, and it unites a whole load of attacking play around the box. His two key assists came from firstly alert play, picking the ball up after a deflection (although he might have been offside) and firing the ball accurately across to Johnson and secondly from a lovely measured flick to Dempsey with the outside of his right foot. His goal was finished really well too, driven low into the opposite corner, again with his weaker foot and not much unlike his first goal for us against Bolton three years ago. I’m not really sure he has a weaker foot any more to be honest. I’ll stop using that phrase. Congratulations to him for getting into the England squad too.
Johnson – 9.5, now this, this is the player we all thought we signed for ten million pounds. Goal poacher extraordinaire with the work rate to match. Now, he has lost the pace that marked him out from being a good player to an England international and I’m not going to scream for a recall yet, but today he burned the QPR defenders numerous times, and all four of them (Young, Ferdinand, Orr and Hall) are no slouches themselves. The first two goals were just pure strikers instincts, to anticipate poor keepers handling and then to react to get into the perfect position to recieve a ball across goal. The third was a wonderful bit of movement, spotting a bit of space and taking advantage as both defenders next to him switched off to slot home with his body at an angle. Plus the perserverance and speed of thought he showed to win that penalty, many like which he won for Palace. Other than that he showed turns and subtlety of movement (by that I just mean feints or shifts with his body on the spot) I haven’t really seen from him before. And of course he got behind the defence a couple of times to fizz in crosses which were blocked. Came off to recieve a much deserved standing ovation. Very tempting to give him a 10 – but no one plays the perfect game.
Ruiz – 6, expected him to come on and I thought he’d get on a bit earlier. Good game for him to come in on and he had a couple of chances to show off his ability. Seemed to play right wing when he did but I don’t know why, to me he’s much more like a player who plays where Andy Johnson does but should be given the freedom to move wherever he likes, not much unlike Dembele; so both the off the shoulder role and behind the striker, since he has the skill, scoring instinct and speed to be able to do both. Went on a lovely mazy dribble when he beat 3 or so defenders while running at them which was neat although when in a good shooting position decided to beat one more man, snatched at a chance when he could fired it across goal but caused a bit of a nuisance and his eye for a pass is something to watch as he almost put Sa away with a lovely bit of technique. Hopefully he comes good sooner rather than later, but I know he will. Noticable though that our attacking pressure was relieved when AJ came off.
Etuhu – N/A, came on for Etuhu in what was a token sub I think, to give him a few minutes of fitness and Murphy a good reception. Had 7 minutes so couldn’t do much.
Sa – N/A, again didn’t do much but I do like his economical movement. He’s about as quick as Zamora by my reckoning but gets away from defenders really easily.