Fulham 3 - West Bromwich Albion 0
Well what a proper Halloween horror show that was. The lineup, the referee, the system, the individual errors… we had it all.
The ‘trick’ played on us that Robinson was starting over Hugill only for it to be corrected kicked off what was to come.
I remember a period under DiMatteo when he came under pressure due to results and pissing around with the squad despite having one of the best in the league, and he woke up and started picking his best players in a system that suited them after that.
Big Val needs to do the same - I’m so bored of this 3-4-3 rubbish that we’re not good enough to play in and so obviously lacking the prolific target man to make it work.
Pretty much every team now does the same against us; win it back and then quickly switch it or clip it into the gap where an old fashioned fullback would be. As a result, even when we try and knock it about like we did today, we’re in constant jeopardy- last ditch challenges or SJ racing out.
Don’t get me wrong, despite how poorly we played we’d still have been in the game but for a couple of terrible decisions but we shouldn’t be in that position in the first place - playing right on the wire always.
First goal summed Grant up - a total liability on the ball and he had to do better.
Second goal was a terrible Snodgrass error but too many people got carried away with him individually last week instead of appreciating the change in tactics. Apart from very poor opposition, as good as he is on the ball, there is no way he has the legs to play in a 4 man midfield with 2 wingbacks.
No changes at half time (2-0 down and being overrun) we had a bit of a go but couldn’t really lay a glove on a leaky Fulham defence.
The subs and timings looked pre-determined again - We could’ve sacrificed a centre back, gone 4 at the back and kept Grant / Phillips on (they are at least a goal threat) but we got stretched more and more, received another bad call that could easily have been a deserved red and then with 10 men for a while I watched in disbelief as we kept the 3 at the back. I’m amazed we didn’t get another red and that Tosin stupidly earned one.
One to write-off quickly but it does feel like we’ve got a manager out of his depth - a bit of a blagger whose stock plan just seems to be ‘we can score any minute’ without any real explanation as to how. The one positive is we tried to keep the ball and might have scored a couple on another day.
I don’t know who made the final call on us not getting a striker of quality in but without one we are totally handicapped. Until the window comes we have to find a way of getting the best out of our squad and I still think that means going 4-2-3-1 with probably Grant up top, Robinson in the advanced midfield role and Phillips/Diagana in the wide positions. It should be enough to beat most teams and if we have an off day at least there are defensive numbers to grind out results. When was the last time we were so comprehensively beaten at this level?
Already feels like Fulham and Bournemouth will pull away from us if we don’t sort it out quickly.
Capital capitulation capitalised on by chasing pack
Two ex-Albion managers were in the stands to see second-placed Fulham host third-placed Albion, although it's doubtful whether either Clarke or Hodgson would have recognised all that much about their old club, whilst ex-Albion loan man Tosin Adarabioyo started for the home side.
For some reason, an Albion side that won 3-0 last time out was deemed to be in need of a change that brought it more back in line with the system and so Livermore returned to the centre of midfield alongside Snods.
Not quite sure how two passages of play within the first ten minutes fitted in with the "knock it long and press high" style either, but the first, an attempt to pass it out saw us conceding a corner solely through our own posession, whilst the second saw Johnstone tryng to shepherd a a ball, played in the vacant area outside his box, out for a goal-kick, only to get dispossessed by the attacker but fortunatley cleaned up by a (re)covering defender.
If anything, it was Fulham doing most of the pressing, with and without the ball, and when Grant failed to control a ball played into him inside his own half, a couple of slick Fulham passes saw Mitrovic end up goal-side of Bartley in our box and, whatever the ref thought he saw from his position behind the latter's ball-winning challenge, he saw enough to give a penalty, despite the Fulham man not even thinking to claim one. Mitrovic, as befits a striker who already had 15 goals this season, got up to show that he knows how to convert from the penalty spot, should he sucessfully claim one.
Shortly after a piece of Diangana-like dribbling had seen Fulham's left winger shoot over after getting past three Albion players into the right side of our box, Livermore did really well to finally steal the ball, during a press ,and advance but, when faced with a choice to make inside the Fulham box, chose to try and shoot through the legs of the defender right in front of him and didn't get it through those legs, nor get a lucky bounce off them.
Whilst the Albion weren't exactly turning up much heat in their attempts to get back level, Bartley's header straight at the keeper and a Clarke did at least suggest that their defenders might get then back into a game that Fulham seemed to be in control of, but sadly, with five minutes to go to the break, Snods decided that Mitrovic should be given another chance to convert from the penalty spot, and so passed the ball back to the Fulham striker as he stood there, and the, by-now, sixteen-goal-a-season striker duly obliged by scoring his seventeenth. In all fairness, Snodgrass did hold up his hand straight away to acknowledge the error: the mark of a seasoned professional.
I'd have thought being 2-0 down at half-time, after a half in which your front three had been pretty anonymous and there'd been little by way of any threat down the right might have seen a change, but there's a single plan that the Albion stick to these days and that plan involves a double substitution around the 55-minute mark, and clearly being 2-0 down and being outplayed isn't enough to change that plan, although when Townsend's driven cross in the first minute of the half couldn't be capitalised on by Hugill, you almost wondered if sticking with the same plan and same anonymous front three might just work out: almost.
Just before the inevitable double substitution happened, Clarke would try and emulates Snods in teeing up a Fulham player for a shot at goal but the player didn't really show much conviction and Johnstone could breath another sigh of relief.
Diangana for Phillips, and Robinson for Hugill so as to leave Grant doing something (apparently his six goals have come from just seven on target, which does make you wonder what he does the rest of the time he's out there?) somewhere over there on the left almost doesn't warrant a mention these days, and nor does any mention of Townsend actually doing something on the left, though in this instance he should get a mention for putting in a cross that Livermore, breaking into the box, could only direct over.
With about twenty to go, Fulham knocked a long ball over the top and Furlong, who'd been pretty quiet, with neither all that many forward runs nor long throws up to that point, had to run back to make a challenge from behind the Fulham player and although he got something on the ball, he also got something on the man running in on goal and, as a result, got a red.
It'll be interesting to see who gets to fill in for Furlong whilst he's out, as the options seem limited, with Reach not having looked to add much on his preferred side, whilst Snods, who, let's not forget, kept Phillips out of the wide right role under the failed fireman, won't exactly be offering much of the pace, drive or long throws that Furlong brings to that area. Maybe we might even get to see Phillips playing behind Diangana on the right so as to maintain a system that demands Grant to be somewhere over on the left?
But,as they might say in Barnsley, that's'll grist f't'mill f't'next game.
The remainder of this one saw Grant's potent, in-form, six-in-six goalscoring threat strangley sacrificed for Molumby and a midfield shuffle; Mitrovic claiming his hat-trick, and Tosin getting a red for a studs-up challange on Diangana that seemed totally out of place in a game that the home side were pretty much coasting home in, whilst Albion merely attempted to limit any further damage, which they did, although results later that afternoon would do some damage as two or three sides belows us won to become "sides around us".
I heard a stat in the commentary that suggested that West Brom haven't won at Fulham since 1967, but why any weight of history should have given rise to such a woeful performance, let alone one under the instruction of a manager not even born then, has me worring about our future history.
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