Fulham’s recent victory over Arsenal can be used as a yardstick for the second half of the club’s campaign.
Fulham’s recent dramatic victory over Arsenal at Craven Cottage can be used as a yardstick for the second half of the West London club’s campaign.
Their 2-1 win against the North London outfit saw Martin Jol’s side attack with an intoxicating combination of patience and poise, but at times urgency, as the Cottagers smelt blood when their opponents were reduced to ten men with just over ten minutes remaining.
Steve Sidwell set up an enthralling finale, heading home an equaliser in the 85th minute, before Bobby Zamora plucked the ball out of the sky to strike a controlled volley into the back of the net to secure victory with the final kick of the game.
Attacking flair and a persistence to control possession is the footballing philosophy that Fulham’s Dutch manager has tried to impose since taking the reins at the club in the summer.
This mantra has been tough for the Cottagers to uphold so far this season having played so many games – 14 in the Europa League – in addition to Premier League and domestic cup competitions.
Fulham were knocked out of European action in mid-December, and many eyebrows were raised when Martin Jol spoke of the positives to be taken from their last-gasp exit at the hands of unheralded Odense.
However the former Spurs boss was probably relieved to lift the fixture congestion that has disrupted the natural flow and progression the side are making under his tenure.
What is most intriguing about Jol’s Fulham is how the team seem to line up with an abundance of attackers, relying on the stability of Danny Murphy, sometimes accompanied by Sidwell, in central midfield.
Jol regularly fields four or five attack minded players – even against the bigger teams in the league – a tactic that reaped spectacular dividends against Arsenal.
Purists have been purring over the close control and sublime left-foot of Belgian Moussa Dembele, whilst £10m summer signing Bryan Ruiz is starting to make his mark, usually with his signature selection of deft chips, on English football.
Clint Dempsey continues to offer the profligacy of a centre-forward, epitomised by his weekend F.A. Cup hat-trick against Charlton, and Andrew Johnson has rediscovered the goal scoring touch that once made him one of the league’s most feared strikers.
Jol has stockpiled his squad with forwards, with the in-form Zamora finding chances in 2011 hard to come by. Orlando Sa has impressed in his brief outings so far this term, while Swiss teenager Kerim Frei has displayed the blistering pace and quick footwork of a potential superstar.
The problem in 2012 for Fulham will not be scoring goals, but how the manager can fit all the attacking abundance available to him into the starting eleven as they look to climb the table from their current 14th place position.
It is admirably refreshing to see a traditional mid-table side abandon principles of containment and defence, and seek to offer genuine attacking threat, which make Fulham an exciting prospect for the remainder of the campaign.