Wolves had been unable to keep a clean sheet in their last nine games, Martin Jol was unbeaten as Fulham manager and we’d come off the back of a solid performance in the Europa League last Thursday evening so we had every right to feel confident when we travelled to the Black Country to face Wolves. But it wouldn’t be Fulham if we always did what was expected of us. Its very Fulhamish to do the unexpected, to balls things up when all is seemingly good, but somehow making it to a European cup final when we should have, by all rights, have dropped out of the competition long ago, or to visit a team we could take three points off, play awfully and shrink back to the Cottage like a salted slug
Do you know what, I’m not entirely sure what formation we employed for most of the match and I don’t think I was the only one? The players either didn’t seem to know or just couldn’t be bothered with them. How a team could go from having the best defence outside of the top five one season to having one that looks like a slight gust of wind could turn them is anybody’s guess. Though Baird being dropped from the side altogether and the breaking up of the Hughes-Hangeland central pairing, moving the Norn Iron international to right back position probably didn’t help though. Up front wasn’t a whole lot better either. Without Zamora in the side the whole team seemed a little devoid of ideas and a little uncomfortable with the new look five in midfield system too.
At times it appeared we had four at the back while at others it appeared Hughes, Hangeland and Senderos were operating as a three man back line, with JA Riise pushing up to join the midfield. The central positions seemed quite fluid in numbers too with Riise joining when he felt the need and Depsey and Kasami dropping back into it too leaving AJ all alone up top. Despite the hoardes of white shirts there it all seemed a little light weight and easy for Wolves to get past. Things improved after the break with Etuhu making room for Sidwell and some of them actually making challenges, but the damage had been done by then. Just three months after Wolves kept their place in the Premier League on the final day they managed to take an important three points off of us without having to break out of third gear and even managed to sit to of the league for a time after the final whistle. Thie first time this’d happened in 38 years.
Despite us not being at the races, bar a six minute spell at the start of the second half, the stats show an evenly matched game. In terms of passing moves completed, total shots, shots on target and tackles completed were all pretty much level pegging throughout. If it is Tiredness from the early start in the Europa games you’ have to worry about what the team’ll be like should the reach Jols target of reaching the group stages.
Before Sunday gone, in every season we had faced Wolves in the Premier League we had shared a 2-1 score line and a draw. That run has now, obviously, been broken. Newcastle United are next up for the Whites and coming back from a long European trip to the Ukraine to make our longest domestic trip of the season wont be an easy task. Will Jol revert the side back to the more traditional formation and line up or will players have to be rested after the long journey?
Time will tell…