Danny Murphy still holding off the years

LONDON ENGLAND - JANUARY 30: Danny Murphy of Fulham scores their first goal from the penalty spot during the FA Cup sponsored by E.ON 4th Round match between Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur at Craven Cottage on January 30 2011 in London England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

That he can be so integral to one of Fulham Football Club's greatest ever periods of success and yet still undergo regular, age-related denunciation is a somewhat baffling sentiment for our captain, Danny Murphy. He's a man that has witnessed and stimulated a dramatic relegation escape in 2008, Fulham's highest ever finish in 2009 and the infamous European antics of 2010. Past merits just don't cut it, though, when we witness Murphy misplacing balls and generally offering the team sporadic displays of weariness.

But sporadic is just the perfect word to describe Murphy's form of late, and while it's irritable to see the 33 year-old at his jaded worst, when he plays to the utmost limit of his wisdom-laced talent, he's a player who proves to be deceptively unstoppable and undoubtedly invaluable to Fulham's play under Martin Jol.

It can be mutually agreed that, perhaps, Murphy has seen better days. Regularly, despite his role as captain, he is rightfully withdrawn after only an hour of play, and even more regularly, he can scatter a pass so damningly that it makes you wonder whether his legs are actually linked to his head. But, it doesn't give us a right to make him a scapegoat when the tide turns against us, because, put simply, he remains one of our most influential, gifted and perceptive players.

His unfathomable vision sets him apart from most players in our squad and many in the Premier League. While his legs may be ageing and his stamina suffering, his creativity has seemingly bolstered no end, with the central midfielder often playing a ball that appears almost impossible, let alone foreseeable. He tops our assist chart, with seven in total, and it's little wonder when you consider the kind of intricately accurate passes he provides to the front line.

As Bobby Zamora quite astutely stated about the Fulham midfield; "They are all technically-gifted players, playing with them they are always going to open something up and carve defences to pieces."

'Carving defences to pieces' with the ball at the feet of someone ladled with extreme levels of close control, say, Moussa Dembele, is one thing, but doing it, and doing it consistently, with through balls that are so precise and penetrative is quite another. Using the Guardian chalkboards, we can see that Murphy made 64 passes in total against Arsenal, 52 of which were successful. What is even more meritorious, though, is the fact that every pass Murphy made in open play that was in or around the penalty area reached its target, bar two. And there are still those that believe Murphy detracts from our progress up the pitch?

This all bypasses the defensive shift that Murphy puts in. He's not quite a box-to-box midfielder, certainly not in the same ilk as Steve Sidwell at least, but he has an abundant awareness that balances out his forever-generating lack of stamina. While he cannot track back with the same enthusiasm of yesteryear, he can at least forecast and halt some of the oppositions deadliest moves.

It's still harsh for me to suggest he is deteriorating, though, as that just isn't true. If we compare his workload in our 2-1 win over Arsenal this season, to our 2-2 draw of last season, there are significant improvements to be noted. He made more than double the passes of last season, and even more than that found their destination. He lasted a similar amount of time on the field and all the while his defensive duties were less fatiguing.

This doesn't mean, of course, that Murphy is the resolution to all our problems, but it does give us one less thing to worry about. He may not last forever, but while he's around we may as well thank him for what he is - yet another unsung hero.

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