TEAM STYLESFulham played a 4-4-2 system. Dempsey frequently moved in field meaning Carlos Salcido made plenty runs forward run in-field on the ball and occupying the empty flank off it. Simon Davies played intelligently on the right. Etuhu and Murphy played in the deep regions in midfield with Etuhu quite conservative with his runs. Gera dropped deep to link midfield and attack while Andrew Johnson worked the channels and looked to get in behind the defence quite frequently. Fulham generally employed a zonal-marking system therefore Parker’s runs and Piquionne’s movement wide caused some trouble for Fulham all through the game.
Westham played a 4-4-2 with Kovac as anchorman and Parker ahead of him. Parker was given the freedom to make runs forward and diagonally. At the back, Westham employed a man marking system and one effect of this was Ben-Haim constant tracking Dempsey into the midfield in the first half. Piquionne and Carlton Cole played deep almost marking Etuhu and Murphy at times. Piquionne usually moved into channels. Stanislas mostly stayed wide and tracked back well. Sears on the other flank moved in-field often.
AS IT PLAYED OUT
The team’s styles set the play for the first half. Fulham were generally on top with Danny Murphy as the playmaker. All the Fulham players upfront were mobile and this meant Fulham were extremely fluid up-top. Westham responded by using their strikers to mark the Fulham midfielders. Pressing was minimal with both sides doing most of the pressing within their halves though Fulham pressed aggressively in the opposition half whenever ball was lost to allow defence to regroup then returned to keeping their shape. On the right, it was a situation of Dempsey’s inside movement opening up space for Salcido to occupy and he did fairly okay putting in some crosses and cutting in-field to shoot at goal as Sears had some trouble dealing with him. On the left, Stanislas ran at Paintsil and Gabbidon tried overlapping but Davies did a good job of marking him. Fulham responding to Westham’s wingplay by shifting one of their midfield two to help on the flank.
As it happened, all the goals in the first half came from wide areas. Poor defending by Westham allowed Aaron Hughes to score from a Simon Davies cross. For Westham’s first goal, Piquionne moved into the right channel with Aaron Hughes tracking him, this opened up a space in the centre of the defence which Etuhu slightly covered. A cross was put in and a mistake in Etuhu’s attempted interception was responsible for the conceded goal. Otherwise, Fulham were well set to deal with this situation. His miscontrolled interception directed the ball into Carlton Cole’s path and he made no mistake putting the ball past Scwarzer into the net. Another mistake from the Fulham defence resulted in a goal for Piquionne who dropped off the defenders to free himself and easily score from a cross.
THE DANNY MURPHY JOBWith Westham on top at the half, Grant clearly issued some intelligent instructions to his players. Carlton Cole was instructed to pick up Aaron Hughes. Cole clearly had a height advantage on Hughes. Piquionne was instructed to man mark Danny Murphy so the it became a 4-4-2 vs. a 4-2-3-1. I believe Piquionne’s man marking job on Danny Murphy was the key factor in deciding the game. Murphy’s influence on the game was greatly diminished. For some time, Fulham tried to go direct to no avail. Brede Hangeland then stepped up to provide the creativity as he was the one free man in defence. Hangeland created one chance for Andrew Johnson but he failed to capitalize on the opportunity. Fulham would have done better in this situation if Bobby Zamora had been around because of his ability to be an effective target man. Piquionne’s tracking of Danny Murphy also helped Westham in an attacking sense. He was able to create one good chance for Westham after he robbed Murphy of the ball.
THE REST OF THE GAME
Damien Duff came on to replace Clint Dempsey and he occupied the left wing initially producing a few crosses which the Westham defence dealt effectively with. He then shifted to the right after which Salcido began his overlapping runs once more. Credit has to go to Stanislas who tracked back well again to help Daniel Gabbidon cope better with Damien Duff.
ZONAL MARKING ISSUES FOR FULHAM
All through this, on the break, Parker’s runs were still proving a handful for the Fulham defence because there was no man on him. Sears inside movement also provided trouble for Fulham. He moved in-field once and almost scored a goal due to the fact that no one picked him up.
The fourth goal for Fulham came when Aaron Hughes under pressure from Piquionne failed to clear an up-field lump. His header fell into the path of Carlton Cole who converted his chance into a goal. In the final ten minutes, Fulham had lost the game effectively and Danny Murphy relieved of Piquionne’s man-marking (he was fatigued already and was subbed off) made a number of runs and had a number of good chances but could not finish them off. Danny Murphy always stayed on the edge of the area during corner kicks and the failure to pick him up caused some trouble for Westham and with better finishing and decision-making from Murphy, it might have been a different scoreline.
Fulham need a focal point for their attacks. Zamora was clearly this till he got injured Westham can take encouragement from a good performance (Barring some poor defending) and build on it. Sears and Stanislas are very bright young players and Scott Parker’s movement, the energy and willingness of Piquionne to work the channels and the raw talent of Carlton Cole are positives they can take from the performance.