Jack and Loz Not at the Least Originally Named Stadium in the World - Blog 261

Date: 23 October 2023

Opposition: Tottenham Hotspur

Score: 2-0

MOTM: Tottenham fans spent 99 minutes booing Willian (if these people are adults they presumably don’t have jobs or families) but all this did was Spur him on to trouble their players with his hard-won experience and his evergreen skills. Even under duress in hostile territory, Willian is the classiest of acts

Dinner: Loz - veggie chill, Jack - macaroni cheese

Fulham are the only team to have beaten Spurs this season and this fact, coupled with a successful international break for most of our players might have made fans optimistic ahead of the trip to north London. But Fulham have an HR problem at the moment which makes positivity a scare commodity when playing top teams. Raùl, Bobby and Harry may all have scored for their countries last week but would they be able to replicate those feats with their feet against Spurs on Monday?

In Marco Silva’s endless game of Striker Roulette (or perhaps we should call it Man Up Front Roulette) the ball landed on Vini who started the game. He held the ball up well but did little else. Behind him, Andreas did even less. The midfield pairing of João and Lukić was probably intended to be more defensive than usual. So that went well.

Luckily, Bobby looked lively and Willian used his magic to create space and time around him. Spurs pressed relentlessly but for a while the Fulham back line bent and stretched to absorb the pressure. There were even a few fast counter attacks and some threatening corners. Joao’s bullet header was narrowly saved but we were rarely given enough time on the ball to play our intricate passing game or to build a decisive attack. We didn’t help ourselves by giving the ball away far too often, sometimes in vulnerable areas. Chances were snatched, decisions were rushed, panic was never far away.

Although Spurs were quite good, they only won the game because we gave them 2 goals. Literally just handed them over in a spirit of generosity. And it was the same goal each time!

In the absence of the injured Issa Diop, Calvin Bassey was a left footed centre back playing on the right. There are clues to his positional confusion in that sentence and he was ill-equipped for the role. Just as a tennis player will run around his backhand, Bassey tries to run around a right footed pass. And, under pressure, that doesn’t work. Whilst we don’t understand the media fawning over Angie, the man is a good manager and it would be safe to assume that he would have known about Bassey’s weakness ahead of the game. So why did Fulham persist with playing out from the back when Calvin and his clumsy right foot were being savaged by Spurs? In particular, why carry on doing it after it went horribly wrong for the first goal?

Marco spun the wheel at half time and brought on Raùl and Iwobi. Alex threw himself into the game and looked dangerous but didn’t score. On balance, Raùl probably edged it over Vini but didn’t score. Later, Harry Wilson, who scored twice against impressive Croatian opposition and whom we would have started came on, but didn’t score. Harrison and Tom came on too, but they didn’t score either.

In the meantime, we conceded the identikit goal but fought hard to ensure we didn’t concede any more.

In fact, Fulham finished the game strongly with Raùl, Tom and Harry all having shots saved or blocked. Most of the near misses came because players took too long to shoot or were too slow to realise why they had suddenly found themselves in the box with the ball and to make up their minds what to do with it, allowing the Spurs defence to catch up.

This was a frustrating game to watch, especially with Sky’s embarrassingly amateur commentary - one of the commentators was James Maddison’s dad and the other fancied him - but Fulham have become a frustrating team. You can see glimmers of potential, moments of a master strategy and tantalising images of what the team could do if the ball landed in the right slot on the wheel and the chips fell in the right places.

But in the meantime we gave away two easy goals and when we created chances of our own we couldn’t take them. We played some good football at times but made bad decisions all the time. And it feels like we might be on a losing streak.

Random musings: -

- If the Spurs fans hadn’t been booing Willian we wouldn’t have noticed they were there

- Spurs have some really bad tattoos. Richarlison looks like his neck has been attacked by a shark and the wound sewn up by someone wearing goalie gloves

- The ref had a good game despite the Spurs players surrounding him every time he had a decision to make. It’s nice to see someone appreciate João’s tackling technique for what it really is

- Going back to Bassey, is it unreasonable to expect a professional footballer to be able to kick a ball with both feet?

- Spurs started wasting time on 60 minutes when one of their players fancied a sit-down on the pitch. Later, their goalie was shown a yellow card

- They were cynical too - constantly giving away free kicks in their own half

- Our poor record in London derbies has resumed this season. We just can’t capitalise in the capital.

Despite the disappointment of the match and the result there’s no point in getting carried away. Two weeks ago we beat the team at the bottom of the league. On Monday, we lost to the team at the top of the league by the same goal difference. This is what mid table teams do.

And, as dull as it is after two incredibly exciting seasons, mid table is where we’re meant to be and, unless something spectacular happens in January, probably where we’ll end up.