Jack and Loz at the Cottage - Blog 262

Date: 4th November 2023

Opposition: Manchester United

Score: 0-1

Weather: sunshine after rain

Atmosphere: disappointment after expectation

MOTM (football): in an increasingly predictable side, Alex Iwobi offers a spark of difference - creativity, energy and confidence. When he has the ball he looks like he can do something significant with it; when he doesn’t have the ball, he always wants it. He’s becoming more integrated and more influential with every game to the point where he’s now one of the first names on the team sheet

MOTM (non-football): Neeskens Kebano is surely one of everyone’s favourite Fulham players and on Saturday he bounced back into Craven Cottage liked he’d never been away. To play with a smile on your face, to leave with grace and good wishes and to return as a very welcome guest is something few modern-day footballers achieve

Very late lunch: Bills

This was a trip to Craven Cottage with unusual beginnings. It started with a well-ordered, good-humoured, impactful walk through Bishops Park in support of the Affordable Fulham campaign (more on that later) and with some moving moments of remembrance. It also started with Fulham, incredibly and fatefully, being expected to get something from the game.

These expectations, generated by the media, were largely dismissed by Fulham fans. Of course, Man U have been on a bad run and their bald and peevish manager was desperate for a lifeline, but we’ve been here so many times before - if you need a reversal of fortune, Fulham will supply it. And we were here again.

This was not a high quality match. It was two less than proficient mid-table sides slugging it out with some rough and ready football. There were multiple mistakes, play was disjointed and sloppy, and there was even some Championship style head tennis and hoofing.

Man U had the ball in the back of net early on but after an interminable VAR check the goal was ruled out for an offside in the build-up. Fortunately, Fulham heeded the wake-up call and defended well for almost (and what a lot of work that small word is doing) the rest of the match. It has to be said, Man U largely made that easy for us and we reciprocated with some of the wildest shooting ever seen in the Premier League. 18 shots, 2 on target. You’ve got to wonder if our attackers bother practising.

Not only is their technique lacking, but so are their decision making powers. We’re used to a side which faffs around at the back. Now we’ve got one which faffs around at the front. Andreas, Willian and Harry can all score goals but they have developed a fear of shooting so they pass the ball around the box until one of them gives it away. Due to the players’ effort and commitment (which can’t be criticised) we won lots of corners and free kicks but, despite some excellent deliveries from Andreas, wasted them all.

As noted above, Iwobi offers something different and he makes life for defenders challenging but his shooting was the most wayward of all.

We’ve mentioned predictability already and this is becoming a problem. The repetitive passing out from the back is so easy to read that it’s risky every time, despite Bassey’s increased assurance and awareness. Given that our attacks aren’t clever, tricky or surprising you’ve got to wonder if the flip side to having an identity is that the way you play becomes so obvious that it’s ineffective.

The second half was better than the first both in terms of entertainment and Fulham attacking threat. There were Some Moments of frantic action, scintillating build-up and dangerous balls into the box but there was still no end product.

Marco made some good subs (Bobby and Tom), an essential sub (Vini when Muniz was injured) and then some bad subs. Lukić wasn’t needed and shoving Raùl on out of position weakened the formation and almost certainly contributed to Man U’s goal.

Which brings us to the panic and disarray of the 89th minute and the return of the Triangle Doom. We’re not going to apportion blame but suffice to say, Man U piled on the pressure and we had 3 chances to clear the ball and scuffed all of them.

A draw would have been a fair result but the disappointing loss didn’t happen because we conceded a goal to a team desperate to score one. And it didn’t happen because Marco went all-in for a win in the dying moments by throwing on the wrong subs.

We all know what the problem is. We can’t score goals. Marco said this week that his strikers aren’t first, second and third choices. This is because all of them would be most managers’ last choices if he had anyone else to choose from. To be fair, Muniz has improved exponentially this season. He holds the ball up well, he harries the defence and he gets in good positions. He may one day be a genuine Premier League striker but he’s not there yet.

Of course, it doesn’t help that whoever the striker is, he isn’t getting good service from the wingers. But we used to have a striker who didn’t need good service, who could create a goal out of literally nothing. And who did it time and time again.

God, how we hate him and miss him in equal measure.

Random musings:-

- The falling poppies graphic while the Last Post played was lovely

- Andreas has celebrated Marco’s new contract by getting his hair coloured silva

- The mysterious Mr Bishop arrived at the ground then left again

- We somehow ended up with 6 yellow cards

- What was it with Harry Maguire and the standing count? If you feel sick or dizzy or confused as to why you still play for England step off the pitch!

- If only Kebano had been available to take the free kick which Harry sent into the Hammy End.

Affordable Fulham:-

We are proud to support the Affordable Fulham campaign led by the Fulham Supporters Trust and the Fulham Lillies. The walk to the ground was better organised than the team’s defence and it was heartening to see no less than 7,000 yellow cards saying “Please don’t price us out” held up during the 18th minute of the match to protest that an 18% increase in ticket prices is unreasonable. The owners will not be able to say that only an insignificant number of fans feel aggrieved; coverage in the media (and Marco’s helpful comments in his press conference) will inform them that this is a genuine concern widespread in the fanbase and it’s not going away.

You only had to see the reaction in P4 when Man U scored to know that Fulham fans are being priced out of our own ground and tickets are going to the highest bidder. This is obviously unsustainable. We have gone from initiatives like Kids for a Quid to the most expensive tickets in the country. The Club talks a lot about the Fulham Family and we’re all proud to be a part of it. But if prices carry on spiralling, the family is going to fall apart.

To finish on a football note, at the moment we’re just about keeping our heads above water and, as long as we can scrape together enough goals to beat the teams around and below us, we’ll survive. To do more than that we have to rely on the fact that Marco won’t have signed a new contract without the promise of lots of money to spend. Hopefully the striker he has his eye on is ready, willing and able to join us in January and will kick-start a push up the table.

If not, then it’s going to be a very long, hard, nail-biting season.