A Few Thoughts On The Day After Fulham's Scoreless Draw With Aston Villa

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Aaron Hughes of Fulham is challenged by Gabriel Agbonlahor of Aston Villa during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Aston Villa at Craven Cottage on August 13, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
  • Martin Jol may prefer Philippe Senderos over Aaron Hughes in central defense. There's no concrete proof of this yet (only time will provide that), and Senderos has referred to himself more as an "option" than an answer, but we've already seen Senderos earn a handful of starts in the Europa League, and now the Premier League, at this early stage of the season centrally, forcing Hughes wide. Whether that's simply because Jol feels Hughes is the best option at right back, because Senderos is preferred centrally or if Jol simply wants to keep a squad rotation going is a different story.

    What's interesting about Senderos is that he seems to be a player made more in the mold of Brede Hangeland than the relatively diminutive, cerebral Hughes. Strong and positionally aggressive, Senderos made it clear from the start that he able and more than willing to dribble up field in possession and attempt some aggressive passes. Sadly, he also seemed to go to ground fairly easily, something that irritated the erratic Gabriel Agbonlahor during the match.

    Though tucked in a bit, Hughes played a passable game out wide while receiving support from midfield to deal with the pace of Agbonlahor. What seemed to hurt Fulham's backline was Hughes' tendency to fall back a little while Senderos was eager to step up. A few lanes were there to exploit but Villa and Darren Bent were unable to do so. There's really no way to be disappointed with Fulham's play at the back yesterday - Mark Schwarzer was rarely tested - but it's something worth keeping an eye on.
  • John Arne Riise probably had the best chance for on the afternoon Fulham in the 10th minute of the match, when Danny Murphy played him clear into the box with a heady through ball. Riise's shot went high, but it was an excellent example of what to expect of him out wide this season. His aggressive runs provide a luxury from the back that Fulham has not enjoyed for some time, perhaps ever.

    Riise was especially potent in the second half once Fulham gained some positional fluidity and Damien Duff found himself on the left flank with some frequency. When you add in Riise's potent left boot, marauding tendencies, and dangerous long throws, you have a player who should make a very distinct impact in attack this season, especially as the squad learns to read his runs. The question will be how his game matches up against the heavyweights of the Premier League and whether Fulham's midfield can provide enough cover when Riise's forays go astray.
  • Andy Johnson looked sharp. He wasn't be behind the pace of the game and the move he made to cut inside of James Collins and unleash a quick shot in the first half produced one of Fulham's finer individual efforts on the afternoon and required a strong save from Shay Given.
  • Speaking of Given, watching him flourish between the pipes for the Villans on Saturday served as a firm reminder of what a shame it was to have him wallowing on the bench for Manchester City last year. He's strong, agile and a decisive presence in the box. Where Villa's squad may not seem overwhelming this year, the quality and reliability of Given alone will do wonders to shore up the squad's already solid, if unspectacular, defense.
  • But, as a Fulham fan, it's hard not to be disappointed by yesterday's result. While neither side really exhibited the cutting edge required to take the match, Fulham controlled much of the proceedings. The Cottagers out-shot Aston Villa 15-7 including a 5-1 advantage in shots on target.

    Possession, meanwhile, was also in Fulham's favor at 54 to 46 percent. When you factor in that Villa had an advantage in possession, according to ESPN's gameday presentation, of 58-42 by the 27th minute mark of the match, it shows how much Fulham truly bossed the second half without reward.
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