All Fur Coat and No Knickers – Fulham Thoughts

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It’s the sort of phrase your Gran would use for the woman down the road who paints herself as a bit classy and then spends her Friday nights flirting with all the blokes down the club, but there’s no connection there with Saturday’s visitors, so why is that the phrase comes to mind, anytime I turn my thoughts to Fulham?

It could be that I’ve got a pre-conceived idea of the debauched lifestyles of the idle rich and they get dragged into it courtesy of their association with Harrods and their West End location, but more likely it’s my Grand-dad’s fault.  He used to joke about how Fulham’s away followings would fit in a Rolls Royce rather than a coach and laugh at the idea of them stood on the Shevington end, wrapped in their mink coats.

But that doesn’t bear any relation to any real Fulham fans that I know like Hugh Grant, oh erm, Keith Allen, oh erm, like that Richard off of that Pointless.

Hang on a minute though, because, whilst your Gran might as well be screaming “HARLOT!” when she says “all fur coat and no knickers”, my brain, possibly addled by Carry Ons, Confessions Ofs and all manner of 80s sit coms brings to mind a different image.  Instead of the local slapper, I get a picture of some Mrs Robinson type, with her fair share of experience, who knows her way around, is usually trying to keep her relationship going and most of all, can afford a fur coat to start off with.

Now that seems more like Fulham to me, if nothing else their side is filled full of players who’ve got plenty of nouse and experience, a team that knows its way around a football pitch and, although their team sheet doesn’t always get the juices flowing, they know how to keep their fans in the manner to which they have become accustomed.

Danny Murphy, Andy Johnson, Steve Sidwell, Chris Baird, Simon Davies, Bobby Zamora and Dickson Etuhu are never going to set any football fan’s world alight, but there’s bags of experience in there and every single one of them has, at some point been linked with Latics.  I’ll not go over just how much we couldn’t afford that experience, but we couldn’t, and instead just leave the thought hanging about just how much difference a couple of those players might make right now.

And how much difference they might have made on Saturday.

There’s definitely a couple of repeating theme in games between these two sides and worryingly they both come out in Fulham’s favour.  They’ve developed a knack of getting in the way of anything we throw at them, and more worryingly an ability to do just enough (and no more) to capitalise on our frustration.  Last year we went to their place and did well, only to be scythed part whenever Fulham felt like it, the year before I got the handy birthday present of a superb goalkeeping display from Mark Schwarzer.

This year it was more of the same as Latics dominated with possession, territory and chances only to fluff most of their lines, find Schwarzer or another Cottager in the way when they didn’t and ultimately left themselves open to a couple of sucker punches that left them reeling and pointless for the seventh game on the bounce.

On Saturday, I wasn’t sure whether I felt better or worse that this performance was a further improvement away from the (current) low point of that Bolton game.  Better because everyone put in 100%, better because we put Fulham on the back foot for much of the game, worse because it came to nothing and worse still that, even without individual mistakes, we can’t defend when asked to face our own goal.

Sat here today, after a weekend of too-ing and fro-ing, I’m fairly certain that I feel better.  It might be a product of my battered and delusional brain or all that Mexican food I’ve consumed since the game (another, longer, story involving a cancelled gathering of mates which means I’ll be eating chilli and fajitas for the next month, I’ve already drunk the beer and margaritas) but I never once, during the game, felt that we couldn’t get a goal.  Obviously the time came where one goal was worth nothing, but even with our players I felt that something was coming.

Ninininininininininin-nineteen.  That’s how many shots Latics managed on Saturday, apparently more than a quarter of what we’d seen in the previous nine games and more than either Chelsea or Arsenal managed in their 3-5 barnstormer.  Only Spurs and Swansea managed more, with City and Everton hitting the same mark.  All those sides, bar one hit three goals.  I’m not suggesting that we’ve got a rich vein of goal-scoring form sat around the corner, but keep that rate up and there have to be goals coming at some point.

But no matter what people keep telling you, scoring goals isn’t our only problem and possibly not even our biggest one.

It was a great relief that the goal that beat us up at Newcastle was, if not hard earned, from a touch of class because, the City game aside, it’s hard to think of a goal we’ve conceded this season that has been.  I might be some consolation that Saturday was reasonably clear from the individual errors that have blighted the season up until now, but the ease at which Fulham got around the back of our defence for the first and walked through the defence for the second was largely ridiculous.

Ok, you might want to excuse the second because, by that point, we were chasing the game, but that’s at least part of the point, isn’t it?

Latics are consistently finding themselves in positions where they have to chase the game.  It seems an obvious thing to say, but conceding goals early in games is, generally, not a good thing.  Ok, it gives you longer to get back into the game, but when your game plan relies on creating and using space allowing teams to sit back and clog their own halves is just no use.

People talk about us being too predictable, but it’s not that, we need people to try and play against us for our tactics to be most effective and if you give teams an excuse (like an early lead) then it’s very easy for them not to even try and then you’re relying on a slip up (but probably with plenty of cover around anyway) or a bit of luck.  Basically you’re relying on things that are outside of your control and unless you’re some kind of fetishist then that can’t be comfortable.

Now comes the bit where I blind you with a solution so blindingly logical that you’ll all rush off to your shiny new copies of Football Manager 2012 to give it a go…

… or it would be if I had one.  Simply put, I don’t think there is one and the only answer is hard work.  We’ve now shown signs that we can get through 90 minutes without a glaring mistake.  We’ve also shown signs that we can attack and create chances.  The next task is to blend the two and work on finishing a few of those chances off.

Both Saturday’s goals came from us getting over committed up front and having to chase players back.  I think that’s where the experience of, say, a Danny Murphy comes into play.  Not just in getting that balance right and conducting the pace of play but being able to keep control and have the piece of mind to keep other people’s heads when things aren’t necessarily g

oing right.

We don’t have a tough old bird of our own to show our you lads the ropes and without one you wonder whether they’ll ever work out when they need to get the stockings and suspenders out.

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