Fulham 1 - 4 Manchester City

Where to begin with this disaster? Manchester City exposed every single one of Fulham’s weaknesses, and then they exposed some things that nobody even thought were weaknesses that apparently are.  Fulham’s defense had been a positive until this match.  Let’s break this one down.

The scapegoats:

Damien Duff – Completely ineffective on the defense, his disaster of a clear led to Man City’s 2nd goal.  Hughes agreed, taking him out after half, but it was too late by then.  This was surprising to me because he has been playing relatively well along with the rest of the defense until this match.  Let’s hope this is a one-time thing.

Carlos Salcido – A horrible flop led to the opening goal for City in just the 6th minute.  Instead of trying to challenge Tevez and get the ball out of the box, he flopped and tried to get a call, failed, and left Tevez one-on-one with Schwarzer with what basically amounted to a penalty kick, no chance for Schwarzer.  The rest of his play was rusty at best, in his first match back in a while, being out with an MCL injury.  He made some head-scratching passes and some pretty poor challenges.

Dickson Etuhu – The scapegoat of the 2nd half, he also had some serious clearing issues.  Practically whiffing on the clear in the 2nd half, he ended up assisting Tevez’s 2nd goal (Man City’s 4th).  Hughes also recognized he was ineffective and subbed in Kamara, but it was also too late by then.

The positives:

Mark Schwarzer – The keeper has been unreal in his last few matches, cementing what I believe is a no-brainer to resign him if he agrees to return at the end of his contract.  Every opportunity he’s had he’s made.  It’s funny to say the keeper is a positive after a 4-1 loss, but every goal he had absolutely no chance on, with the defense failing so badly.  He made a great save one-on-one with Tevez, and another beautiful diving stop on a relatively poor shot by Kolarov.  He’s been strong recently.

Zoltan Gera – Not the prettiest shot that ended up being deflected by Dempsey for Fulham’s only score, but he’s been making opportunities on the attack in his little bit of playing time, something that nobody else on the attack can really lay claim to recently.  Fulham haven’t scored a meaningful goal since Hangeland’s header in stoppage time to draw Aston Villa 4 whole matches ago.  With Andrew Johnson not looking 100% and in my opinion completely ineffective, I may start Gera once or twice if I were Hughes until Zamora gets back.  I believe Gera’s earned it.

Brede Hangeland – Despite the defense’s complete disaster today, Hangeland continues to play well.  He’s been a force when challenging, and seems to always get a head on the ball off corners.  One of the only aggressive defenders Fulham has right now.

Defining moment:

You may be surprised to see I’m not picking a goal here.  The moment I’m going with is in the 53rd minute, Fulham was finally mounting some semblance of an attack to open the 2nd half.  With chance after chance at a shot, not one person wanted to take the shot.  Everyone kept passing the ball, or looking at their teammates for someone else to get the ball.  Dempsey, Salcido, Etuhu, and AJ all had touches they gave up to another member of the team.  This was shocking to me.  Nobody wanted to step up, nobody wanted to be the one to put the team on their back.  It was a frustrating moment for the attack, something there has been plenty of in the past few matches.

What we learned:

A lot.  Man City have exposed a ton of weaknesses on this team.  There are 3 big ones that stand out to me.  Two we’ve known for a while now, and the other is completely new, and a bit worrisome.  The first is the inability of the attack to finish.  They get their fair share of opportunities, but whiffs, poor shots, and an inability to contend with challenges have plagued the offense.  The second is the poor passing decision-making.  We’ve seen it constantly in the last few matches, every time Fulham get the ball, they seem to always give it right back, relying on their strong defense rather than making good opportunities on the attack end.  The one, however, that worries me the most, is the sudden inability of the defense to clear.  Etuhu, Salcido, and Duff all completely whiffed or came close to it, directly leading to Man City scores, and in Etuhu and Duff’s cases, actually assisted scores.  This is troubling to say the least.

I’d try to look for more statistical analysis of this match, but I know I would rather not dwell on this disaster and I’m sure you probably don’t either. I know being 4th from the bottom on the table is tough to look at, but I wouldn’t worry at this point.  This team is NOT as bad as those around, and especially below, them.  Best thing to do at this point is move on to Birmingham.

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