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Grading Bryan Ruiz's Fulham Debut And Martin Jol's Strategic Changes

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It was clear from the start of Fulham's 1-1 draw against Blackburn Rovers on Sunday that Bryan Ruiz was out to distinguish himself, perhaps to show that he was worth the vast sum Fulham paid for him at the transfer deadline.

If the one half of soccer Ruiz played was any indication, he most definitely was not worth it.

Thankfully it wasn't an indication, merely an introduction. Not the best of introductions mind you, just the first chapter of a story that could (and should) get better as Fulham adapts to the strategic wrinkles Martin Jol began to introduce on Sunday.

From his first touch, Ruiz looked determined to take on and defeat defenders on the dribble. But, as Rich Allen at Craven Cottage Newsround described, Ruiz looked like a "deer in headlights" at times and had trouble coping with consistent two-man pressing, something I imagine he rarely had to deal with in the far more open Dutch Eredivise.

Finding it impossible to snake through Blackburn's five-man midfield, helmed impressively by David Hoilett, Ruiz fell back positionally and tended to operate in safe spots. It was at this point that we began to see an odd dichotomy in Ruiz's passing.

Ruiz's numbers looked decent, but the execution was awkward. Of the six passes Ruiz misplayed, four were of the very simple variety. I recall watching Ruiz attempt to send a short, quick pass to Danny Murphy and other midfielders, but just managing to put too much pace on the ball and getting it all wrong. Nervy, nervy times.

And yet Ruiz still managed to play some pretty through balls up the right flank to the active and engaging Damien Duff, providing some encouragement at least.

Speaking of Duff, his frequency in attack on the right flank was funny simply because it was a total change from the start of the match. Total change into Total Football? Perhaps.

When jotting notes down during the match, I took a moment to write out the positioning of the players involved in Fulham's first meaningful attacking movement. In a line, I have written:

Riise - Duff - Dempsey - Ruiz (Not noted, but assuredly spearheading the movement, was Bobby Zamora.)

The positioning lead color commentator Stuart Robinson to point out that Duff was given a central position by Jol, but I assumed that he was tucked in to give John-Arne Riise room to join the rush. Minutes later, Ruiz was found playing behind Zamora, with Clint Dempsey out on the left and Duff wide right.

When Moussa Dembele was introduced for Ruiz at the start of the second half, more of the same was seen. Frequent position swapping, Dempsey and Dembele popping up anywhere and everywhere, Duff given room to rampage, Riise becoming more adventurous, and more effective in the process.

It was all very positive and attack-minded and allowed Fulham to effectively dominate the field. It simply lacked a cutting edge.

The vision I couldn't get out of my mind after the match was Jol wanting to progress to a very Dutch 4-3-3. The options available at Fulham would seem to indicate that this could be done effectively once the team adjusts.

You have few forwards capable of scoring goals but plenty of midfielders who are. Duff and the two-footed Dempsey have both shown capable of playing on either side of the field and Dembele is at least effective on the right side. Having the ability to allow, say, Dempsey to operate on the left and Duff on the right would give Jol players who could cut in and take shots on a dominant foot.

Zamora, one of the finest center forwards in the Premiership, could flourish in such a role within this sort of formation.

Midfield, meanwhile, possesses the requisite midfielders to clog centrally and distribute effectively, Danny Murphy in possession and Steve Sidwell and Dickson Etuhu in steel. Youngster Pajtim Kasami, as he develops, would add options as well. Or, Murphy could join one of the two in a less advanced, more distributive role and allow Dempsey or Dembele to operate as an attacking central midfield. There are a wealth of options.

This is all merely theory, but it's clear things are afoot on the training pitch. It may take time for the team to buy into Jol's plans, but once they do, the resulting displays could bring some attractive, and maybe even effective, displays to the Craven Cottage.