Swansea City v Fulham – FA Cup 5th Round on Saturday, 14th February 2009
I have watched Fulham twice (courtesy of Sky) since the draw was made and think we have a very good chance in this one. In fact, I would say that I will go into this one with more optimism than I did against Pompey. That day we had to be on our game all over the pitch for 90 minutes but Fulham don’t appear to offer the same level of threat and their set up seems to play into our hands. If true there are real grounds for optimism.
Forecast – I genuinely believe we will progress to the 6th round of the FA Cup for the first time in 45 years.
I may come to regret those words – but if I do, it will only be fleeting, as the cup is surely just the cream on top of the jam piled high on our scone this season. I know some may argue that the cup is actually the jam on top of the cream piled high on our scone this season, but to do so would not just be argumentative, but would also be wrong. Jam first, cream on top – there is no other way!
Enough talk of cakes already, we all know that our bread and butter is the Championship and that the potential rewards of the play-offs or even promotion are much more than the cup could deliver. But, for the time being, the cup can provide a much needed and unbudgeted windfall, and so long as we keep winning, it further boosts our standing and confidence in the football hierarchy.
So, I guess it’s fair to say that for us supporters, the Directors and Management, and the players this will be a big occasion. Fulham too will not treat it lightly as they must have at least one eye on going further as this is their only chance of winning a trophy this season, and for many a long season too.
But as always, it’s one game at a time. So, what are our chances?
They have been able to watch us three times. Against Preston and Ipswich at home, and against Southampton away. They will have been alerted in no uncertain terms by the two home performances which, although perhaps not hitting the full heights of our ability, would have been enough to make them sit up and take notice. The trip to Southampton might just have shown them a way to unsettle us and so I half expect them to come to rough us up and stop us playing. What a compliment that would be! But I won’t be happy at all if they clog us, as the game at Watford on the Tuesday after is equally important to our season.
So, here are my assorted scouting comments, written in the full knowledge that it is I, and not the Senor, who can say quite honestly, “I know nothing”.
They have been playing a very standard 4-4-2 and their starting line-up could be:
Pantsil Hughes Hangerland Konchesky
Davies Etuhu Murphy Dempsey
A. Johnson Zamora
They have scored only three away goals in the Premiership all season!
They have lost Bullard from their midfield which has weakened them considerably. They have taken Giles Barnes from Derby on loan but he is cup-tied and so cannot play against us. The ball goes through Murphy almost all the time and he plays it simple but can have it taken off him. Etuhu is a straightforward player in the OTJ mould but unlike OTJ he looks a potential weak link! I really fancy Leon and Allen and Gomez to get amongst them and dominate.
When they played Sunderland recently the midfield was very open and Murphy and Etuhu looked like they had never been introduced to each other.
Dominating possession in this area of the pitch is our strength and this could be key.
Both Davies and particularly Dempsey come in and play narrow to give support to the central two. This does tend to expose their full backs a bit and our way of playing with Dyer and Gower hugging the touchlines will stretch them and ask questions.
When attacking Davies and Dempsey do wander. Dempsey, particularly when the game enters its chaotic stage in the final quarter, can appear in the hole behind the front two and he looks dangerous. He is good on the ball and looks not unlike Gomez in many ways. Just not so good – obviously! Although this can be dangerous it can though leave them exposed to quick breaks as they do lose their shape and are sometimes slow to regain it.
Johnson and Zamora play a high line with Zamora on the shoulder and Johnson more likely to drop in behind. Zamora is lazy and hardly puts in a challenge but Johnson does get behind the ball a bit more. Their play can be pretty unsubtle with balls hit long from full-backs, from the wide midfielders, and even from the keeper’s hands looking for Zamora’s head. Johnson is always in close attendance looking to profit from the scraps and can be a good finisher if shown a sight of goal. Zamora tends to move left (towards Rangel) to receive cross field long balls from Davies.
This style of play is summed up by a comment by Roy Hodgson after the 1-0 defeat to Sunderland. “We had the ball in and around their goal enough times to get something from this match”.
Both full-backs have pace but both tend to boot it away rather than keeping it and playing it out. Their first instinct is not to get forward and overlap although they do when a break seems on. Pantsil looks the better going forward but the poorer defender. Kanchesky tends to ‘show the outside’ which will be an invitation for Dyer to get at him I think.
The centre backs look as susceptible to our strengths as Campbell and Distin did. Hangerland is a giant and we won’t win anything in the air. When did we last hit it there? So short corners will be order of the day. Both Hughes and particularly Hangerland lack a bit of pace so getting Dyer inside and running behind them (as he did at Pompey for his goal) will terrify them.
The back four do not keep the straightest of lines. Hangerland sometimes drops a bit, probably because of lack of pace, and this opens the channels to a well timed run. They do tend to defend their box quite narrowly which means long crosses beyond the full-backs could be profitable.
They send the big guys up for corners and set pieces. Then launch it in. They do have a tendency to push off the ball to create space for others. Something to ask the Ref to keep an eye out for.
And what does all that mean to us?
Play our normal game. Fulham are our dream Premiership team to play against. Keep the ball. Defend set pieces. Should be enough.
Forecast – Home Win.