For years Fulham seemed to struggle to find a settled right-back. Ever since the days of Steve Finnan, quite a number of players played there and sometimes players have been played out of their owned favourite position to play there. But I believe that Jol has found an absolute gem in Sascha Riether. The German has been, for me, Fulham most consistent player this season. There is no denying that our defence this season hasn’t been as water tight as in previous seasons but the addition of Riether has certainly been a positive one. He is committed, vocal (I can sometimes hear his voice above the fans when I’m watching the games on TV), he can tackle and those over lapping runs to assist the attack have caused many a defence a problem.
As regular readers will know, I am a keen hockey player. I played right-back for seven full years during my school days and the positions are played very similarly across the two sports. In hockey, the ball is very rarely lifted above everybody’s head so this is similar to the way Fulham play as Jol’s footballing philosophy is to play the ball along the ground. From my time as a right-back, I was aware that my coach wanted me to support the attack as much as a could as long as I remembered that my primary objective was to defend. This is where positioning comes into the picture. Being caught out of position as a defender can be devastating. How many times have we seen it in the league, a stray pass or a badly played offside trap leaving the goal right open for an on coming striker? This is one of Riether’s greatest strengths, he is rarely caught out of position despite the amount of work he does up the field. Riise is less adapt at this, but Riether, time and time again, is in the right place to push an attacker out wide or make an important block even after having to track back after a marauding run forward.
Another strength in Riether’s play is his consistent passing. Sometimes defenders panic and just punt the ball forward but for Riether this really is a last resort. He likes to play the ball out of danger by passing the ball across short distances and then making himself available for the return pass. A lot of this obviously comes down to other players as well, such as Duff and Ruiz, who regularly play close to Riether but it tells me that the communication that Riether has with his team mates is very good. He always seems to be talking to someone and this sort of presence on the pitch is important. Berbatov gets a lot of praise for this, as we can always see him barking orders at the other players so I think it’s about time that the likes of Riether also get some praise. I can’t express enough just how important communication is on any sports field!
Another thing I noticed while researching Riether was that he doesn’t seem to have ever had a red card! This season alone he has only picked up two yellow cards so this tells me that his tackling is good and is fair a vast majority of the time. Very reassuring for a right-back!
Our one problem with Riether is that we only have him on loan. I think that in the summer, the first person I hope to see sign permanently will be Sascha Riether, the best right-back Fulham have had in years! Let’s hope he keeps putting in the performances throughout the rest of the season.