Man Of The Match.
You can pretty much figure out what type of game it was without seeing a single minute of it. Unfortunately I did see every single minute of it – thank you teh interweb, fuck you STV – and you’d be right.
A lot of huff, quite a bit of puff and another game on the fixture list.
‘Arry, team selection wise, with his hands tied due to injuries and him buying/recalling cup tied players, meant he had only 13 recognisable first teamers at his disposal. One of them carrying a niggle, Defoe, the other not had much first team action of late, Gudjohnsen. So we got a starting XI and formation many had wanted to see for some time. Benoit Assou-Ekotto at left-back, Bale in front of him as a left winger and Modric moved into the central playmaker role.
A number of factors meant it didn’t really work. Firstly the location, The Cottage, nice little cosy ground – were there any home fans? All I could hear were Spurs chants throughout – it’s tight, not ideal for wide wing play and the pitch isn’t the best. But then so many aren’t after the winter we’ve had, just look at Wembley. And then there was the opposition and their ambition, or lack of it. First half all they wanted to do is defend and defend deep.
So poor old Bale generally had two players marking him, the opposing fullback and right sided midfielder. That’s when he was luck, obviously Woy had been watching the recent Spurs games and targeted the Welsh player as Spurs best this year. So there was times when he had to combat up to five players, giving him very little chance of getting to the byline for a cross, or even passing it off for a one-two, or even passing it inside. But he stuck to his game and as an attacking outlet was the best player on the park .
Modric didn’t work either but again the situation created the problems, as Spurs ended up playing in front of an almost flat back nine. So we can’t say it’ll never work but when mentioning ‘Arry picking this setup in past posts I commented about how Bale may be better off bombing forward from fullback with Modric moving inside from a nominal left sided position, pulling defenders in and thus creating the space for Bale to flourish. But against a more attacking side, on a more suitable pitch who knows.
Another thing that didn’t work on the day was the partnership…well pairing of Crouch and Pavlyuchenko up front. A lot of comments about why did Spurs by this Crouch and not the one that played for England midweek. Well one major difference between the two was the service they received. On Wednesday Crouch had the ball played to his feet, the lack of Rio Ferdinand on the pitch meant the aimless hoofs up the park were cut down. They weren’t on Saturday evening. Far too many came in from deep and with Fulham’s defence well drilled to combat such an approach it really had no chance of coming off. So you can’t say Crouch and Pav don’t work, both are better with the ball at their feet, so again the right approach play and a less stifling defence it could work perfectly.
So Wilson won the day…oh helped by Gomes and another cracking save, from Gera, to keep a clean sheet and Corluka’s inability to strike the winning goal in the final minute – a winner for Fulham.
Still one win away from Wembley, for the semi-final against Pompey. So the media might actually want us to win the replay so they can have the Pompey versus all their exes stories in the semi, where of course they’ll want us to lose.