Fulham traveled to the Etihad Saturday for a match that ended in an uncontested manner. Manchester City were to too much for Jol’s side, despite giving up the majority of possession. The Citizens always looked as though they were more likely to take all three points, and a fantastic individual performance from David Silva sealed those points.
Aguero was benched in favour of Dzeko. Dzeko currently is one of the most frequent scores in the Premier League, and this show of favor is no doubt in part inspired by his flying form in front of goal.
For Fulham, there was no sign of John Arne Riise. Perhaps increased transfer speculation has a grain of truth to it, as Jol seems more keen on giving starts to Richardson over the Norwegian.
Fulham took the possession, but Manchester City deservedly took all of the points at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday. The dividing line between the the two sides was each’s defensive performance. Fulham, for all their ball retention, failed to quell Manchester City’s counter attacking opportunities while the Blues’ capably restricted Fulham’s looks at goal.
Sometimes statistics tell stories with clarity and sometimes the plot requires a bit of digging to unearth. For this match, the narrative of the match is clearly written in the shot tally. Fulham had only 2 shots, all of which were off target.
While Fulham seized a 54.6% share of possession, they failed to create enough tangible opportunities in front of goal. They created just one chance in open play.
Conversely, The Citizens’ two goals came out of the 17 chances that they created in open play. Looking at the possession statistic of 45.4% – Manchester City only had possession for 40.86 minutes – therefore they created 17 chances in that time. It works out that Manchester City created a chance every 2.4 minutes whilst in possession of the ball – unbelievable.
Both sides fielded similar formations. In essence, both teams played a 4-2-3-1. Two deep-lying midfielders anchored three attacking midfielders. The line between attacking midfielder and striker is somewhat muddled in the case of Tevez and Ruiz, but both tended to fall deeper into midfield than their striker partner.
David Silva: Man of the Match
Both goals were scored by the Spaniard, so there was little doubt who would be taking the plaudits for individual performance at the end of the match.
Silva started the match on the left wing, with Tevez taking position in Silva’s natural attacking midfield role. This allowed Silva and Clichy to overload Riether. Silva could then drive into central positions if there was space and created strong attacking possibilities. Simply put, Manchester City were able to place enough numbers in attack quickly enough to disrupt any of Fulham’s.
Silva had more touches on the ball than any other player with 79 ball touches. On top of this, he attempted and completed more passes than any other Manchester City player. Out of his 60 attempted passes, he completed 55, making his completion rate an impressive 92%
These passes created more opportunities for Manchester City than any other. Silva created a total of 6 chances, 5 of which were in open play.
In terms of attacking, Silva was restrained with the chances that he took. He only took three shots, each of which were strong opportunities that have a strong possibility of resulting in a goal. In fact, he very well should have had a hat trick after being played in 1 v 1 against Schwarzer.
All in all, this was an impressively holistic attacking performance by Silva. He created chances for others without sacrificing possession frequently and scored goals himself.
Fulham’s Accurate Passing
Fulham supporters can take some degree of solace in their side’s ability to pass with regular accuracy. This no doubt helped them retain possession throughout the match, and despite a lack of creativity, Fulham did manage to keep the ball when they wanted to
This was helped on by consistent passing from their two central midfielders, Sidwell and Karagounis. Both midfielders managed to spread the ball wide consistently and accurately. Additionally, they respectively achieve 3 and 4 penalty area entries with their passing. The issue was not the performance Fulham’s central midfielders; the issue was that Clichy and Zabaleta both stymied their attacks from width effectively and consistently.
Even aside from the central midfielders, Fulham’s players were impressive in their passing game. Five different players manage a completion rate over 90%.
Manchester City’s Defensive Width
David Silva was the attacking star of City’s performance, but the players that guaranteed three points were Clichy and Zabaleta.
Both fullbacks won over 50% of their ground duels and the majority of their tackles. In the case of Clichy, his tackling rate was 100% successful.
The upshot of their defensive performance was that Fulham were pushed into a narrower style of play, limiting their chances of creating attack from width. From the outset, Fulham’s central midfielders sought to spread the ball wide. Karagounis only passed forward 13% of the time, while 75% of his passing was directed left or right.
There is not much in this match that is not clearly written on the surface of the statistics. While Fulham managed to take possession, they never managed to create any chances to score. This must have been a tremendously dull day for Joe Hart who never made a single save.
Fulham couldn’t attack down the flanks to effect due to the impressive performances of both Zabaleta and Clichy, and they lacked creativity through the center. Without that creativity, it was immensely difficult for them to find scoring chances. Their chances of launching any successful counter attacks were limited, because they had the ball more frequently than Manchester City.
This is the curse of ball retention; it is only effective when you have the penetrative passing necessary to creating scoring chances. Otherwise, the chances of creating a counter attack are slimmed. Fulham lacked a plan B, and Manchester Cit’s plan A overloaded their defense.