Friday, November 6, 2009

From our own correspondent in London

Tilford Zebras player Tommy Fotak is currently in England. He watched the recent Fulham versus Liverpool game and sent these observations from Craven Cottage:

The day started well, with a full English Italian style from a local deli, washed down with the first nice coffee I've managed to find in London - no easy task. A quick walk through a market lane, a somewhat less quick train ride south, a pint at The Flute and Whistle before the twenty-minute walk to the ground.

Walking to Craven Cottage from Putney in autumn is simply stunning. Autumn leaves were falling like rain as we walked through the leafy common after having crossed the Thames, Liverpool supporters in full song singing one of their odes to Torres.

We queue, enter the ground and take our seats. We were sitting in the ‘home fans’ section as I was attending with season ticket-holders, one of whom is a former University player in Liam Monaco.

The game has already commenced by the time we are seated, but I take a moment to look around and take in the entire ground. I am immediately struck by its ability to express a relationship between contemporary times and a period from the past. I openly describe it as a 'cute little ground', much to the amusement of the man on my left.

The first thing I notice is the sound of the ball. The leather - if it is, indeed, still leather, or some other compound - sounds so soft, even when struck with ferocity. Degen and Kuyt are combining well down the right. Insua is attacking down the left, but doesn't seem to be able to get combination play happening with Benayoun, in part because the Israeli is incapable of playing one-touch football. Every time he gets the ball, he has to hold it at feet for a couple of touches in the hope there is someone to beat. Liverpool, after a sluggish start, are beginning to show some promise and are beginning to shade it in terms of possession.

I start to monitor Torres rather than the location of the ball to see what I can learn from him. What strikes me as interesting is his lack of movement off the ball. He's not jogging around trying to stretch the defence. He ambles into positions and waits, and then, as he anticipates that the ball may enter an area that he can impact, he explodes away leaving his marker for dead. So there is movement, but it is short, explosive bursts rather than constant. Liverpool conjure a chance down the right and Benayoun smacks the crossbar. Before people have a chance to digest the nearness of that attempt, Fulham have gone one up. Zamora had already been causing problems for the Liverpool defence. He may miss a host of chances, but his work-rate is high and his physical presence is causing several headaches. He is tall, strong, quick and skilful. If only he could finish! Farther forward than a striker, you could see, but even he could not miss this chance. Insua is somewhat at fault. From his position, he was the only one that could see and act on Zamora’s movement, but inexperience showed.

Conceding appears to urge Liverpool on and they begin to play some of their best stuff for the half. They equalise through yet another well-taken Torres chance. He could have had two by this stage.

Half time, and my observations so far are:

Mascherano is the best destroyer in the world at the moment. Brilliant tackling. The timing of some of them was exquisite.

Lucas is far better than people give him credit for.

Voronin is absolute rubbish - utter rubbish, and incredibly short.

Carragher is struggling with Zamora.

I’ve always rated Clint Dempsey but have a new level of respect for him now. He is incredibly intelligent.

Kuyt works hard, really, really hard. He runs and runs and runs. I am amazed by it.

We take the opportunity to stretch our legs and Liam and Chris want to show me a feature of Craven Cottage. Most grounds back on to estates, whether they be industrial or housing, but Craven Cottage sits on the Thames, so you can order your beer and relax by looking over London’s iconic river. We head back to our seats. As I sit, I notice a guy that I think is former New Town Eagle team mate Damien O'Brien. I have since confirmed that it was him.

The second half gets underway with not much changing. As the sun begins to set and the artificial light takes over, the tempo of the game increases and a fever envelops the stands as energy seems to close inward with the darkness. Zamora continues to cause headaches for the Liverpool defence. They really cannot deal with him and I am fearful that it will cost us again soon. I can’t remember the exact order of events from here, but Benitez withdraws Torres for Babel - why not Voronin?

Fulham have a shout for a penalty as Carragher appears to impede Zamora. From my angle, the ref got it right. Carragher was near enough to the ball to be deemed to have control of it and Zamora has his hands all over Carragher’s body. Still, the fear grows and persists that Zamora will win this day.

Mascherano continues to defy with his tackles. Lucas starts to enter a five-minute patch of complete rubbish. He is a lot better than given credit for, and I for one now quite rate him, but when he is bad, he is utter rubbish, and in this period he gave the ball away far too frequently.

Degen off. No complaints. Dempsey is too smart and too good. Zamora skins a defender, and his cross is palmed beyond the back post by Reina. It comes back in. A cheeky back-heel by Nevland and it’s 2-1 for Fulham. The crowd where we are go mental. Chris, my friend, apologises for being so happy. Zamora causes more problems for the out-of-sorts and seemingly inferior Carragher.

Red card. Carragher off. Again, no complaints. I’m actually surprised he lasted as long as he did because Zamora has had the better of him all day.

Liverpool attack down their right but Fulham clear. The ball deflects off a Liverpool player as Kuyt gives chase. He slides to prevent Fulham getting a throw-in but only succeeds in passing the ball to the advancing Dempsey, who collects it, moves forward, and exchanges clever passes with Nevland before coolly finishing into the net at the near post - wonderful and deserved goal.

Reina is furious with Kuyt, who has already retreated to the half-way line, but appreciates deep down that Kuyt was trying. Perhaps, when down to nine men and exposed to a potential counter, it’s better to let the ball go out and allow your players to get back behind it. I’m sure he’ll be reminded of that by Benitez during the week.

94th minute. Full-time. Fulham supporters are elated, and they should be. Hodgson has this side ticking over nicely. Other teams will come to Craven Cottage and struggle. Arsenal were very lucky. In Dempsey, they have an absolute gem. He is such a clever player. His timing and decision making in terms of when to go forward are exquisite. His nose for a pass is amazing and he has on-ball skill and the ability to beat a man or two and he has shown that he can score too.

Fulham deserve their win. Liverpool need to find a spark soon or their season will be over before they have a chance to throw it away at Christmas.


Anonymous said...

mascherano best destroyer? michael essien best dm in the world, easily. all round game, can play in any position on the pitch besides up front (or can he). lethal on both feet. ferocious shot. ultra smart in the tackle. clutch. each to their own, I guess.

simo said...

agree essien probably best all round midfielder in the world, also lampard better than gerrard, terry better than carragher, drogba better than torres. Basically that is why liverpool aren't doing well, not enough quality players and no depth. Also fat man benitezs man management skills should come into serious question, apparently he hasn't been talking to his injured player which are torres, gerrard, johnson and aqualini and look what he has done to babel poor man management or what?

R U Serious Ref said...

Well writen Tom. Not sure I agree with your MAscherano call but Torres is the BEST striker going around @ the moment. Way better than Drogba & Gerrard is the next level above Lampard. I do not rate Lucas @ all & Veronin would not get a game @ Newcastle. Carragher may be past it, hope not cos I love the bloke, & Degan I'm still sure about. Questions should be being asked to Benitez to see if he really rates winning the league over the Chamions league although we look like winning none of them this season. YNWA

Anonymous said...

Lampard scores more goals than Gerrard. They are basically the same player, Lampard is more box to box than Gerrard in my opinion (Fat's defensive capabilities are vastly underrated) but I feel Gerrard is a better 'no.10' than what Fat is. I'm a blues supporter and I couldn't pick between them, they are nearly identical which is why I believe they don't quite click playing in the guts for England.

As for Liverpool, hate them - but to be fair they've been absolutely drilled by injuries, 11 out or something rediculous like that. As for Torres and Drogba, it's too hard to compare. Didier is stronger, Torres is a tad sharper. Although they are very similar, at the same time they are completely different. If Torres can stay healthy he is only going to get better, whereas Drogba is in the best form of his career at the moment.

simo said...

Regarding drogba vs torres, i would personally take drogba year after year time after time, torres' main strength is his finishing and his speed, drogba has strength, he is quite speedy, is great in the air and is not a bad finisher. The reason I would rate drogba above torres is that torres can only really play well in one system when the team is built around him, an example of this would be his 'relationship' with robbie keane. Drogba on the other hand can play as a lone striker and with other strikers, this may be a little controversial but I would go as far to state that drogba is more of a team player than torres.
Also I believe Loserpool should stick with fat man as at this moment it doesn't look like they can come back, which gives me great delight in watching.

Bruno said...

Drogba is possibly best striker in world at the moment , he creates chances for other players more than what Torres does.

R U Serious Ref said...

Simo. "Torres' main strenght is his finishing & his speed". Ummm. I think most managers would take in a heart beat. As for the best striker going around I may have been a little bit biased as I'm a REDS fan but I rate Henry as one of the best strikers of the last 5 or so years. Not many strikers will drop deep in midfield or out wide. He is great to watch when he runs at oppositions players. Scored some great goals & still scores them when he plays. I think moving to Barca was a bit of a dumb move cos @ Arsenal he was king of the world. Messi & Ronaldhino are great players too but Henty just looked as if he was going to do something great each time he had the ball. My opinion only

Anonymous said...

It reads like a day out with S club 7

simo said...

R U Serious Ref, i would agree with you there on Henry, at his prime nobody could touch him, maybe ronaldinho? It was a disgrace that Crapavarro (Canavarro) won FIFA player and Ballon D'or instead of him in 2006. I believe his problem when transitioning to barcelona's style of play was that he wasn't the top dog in the attack, now he has become more of a team player, now its basically setting up chances for ibra and messi. When on the last 5 years, henry, ronaldo, shevchenko (don't laugh), Rivaldo, Van-Nisterooy even veri and owen were all great strikers, how time catchs up with us. Now it is the drogba's, rooney's, ibrahimovic's, torres', eto's turn.

Unknown said...

Hi Tommy

I watched QPR against Leicester City last week and they were very disappointing.

It would be good to catch up for a pint if you are still in London. Call me on 07985416280.

Cheers Jed

Tommy said...

Chalky, I have to concur that there is a very strong case for Essien, he is one of, if not the most complete player in the world at the moment. The Mascherano statement is one of opinion only and I welcome alternative views.

Personally I feel that Essien's versatility works against him in terms of getting the recognition he deserves, I also feel that Mascherano lacking in these physical attributes is superior in the position of defensive midfielder. He can't use strength and speed when timing and positioning let him down like Essien. I also think that Essien has more cover in and around him.

I've yet to see Chelsea in the flesh but watching the pint sized Argentinian do his thing was simply incredible.

As for the Drogba/Torres debate, clearly being a Liverpool supporter I'd pick Torres, being a general football fan I would pick him again, Drogba will never remove the bitter taste of those hideous dives across his time in England nor that performance after the whistle in the loss to Barca last year.

Regarding Gerrard v Lampard, this is tougher, personally I don't feel they are identical, I do feel they both add many similar capabilities, I guess the best way to put forth my opinion is as follows; Gerrard is my Aston Martin and Lampard my Jaguar.

BTW how sweet was Chelsea's last goal last week?

@R U Serious, thank you for the compliment. I was a bit unsure about Lucas but he was very good last week, I have a feeling he's one of those behind the scenes type players, hopefully he can eliminate his rubbish patches because for the other 85 minutes I was well impressed.

As for Carragher I'm not sure if he's labouring under injury and is persisting out of bravery, but something is wrong, he's a shadow of last year.

@Jed, I'm up north this weekend but back down in London on Monday onwards, I shall call in the next few days to tee something up. I have a soft spot for the hoops, it's a long story but when I was choosing a side to support it was between them and Liverpool, I was ultimately swayed by my ever sage grandfather towards the side on the Mersey.

simo said...

Tommy, unlike you I have seen Chelsea in the flesh, various times and when watching essien and drogba it is a truly amazing privilege to watch these two, especially watching drogba in the season he scored 33 goals. Also essien completely marked gerrard out of the game in the ucl first leg last year, i have yet to seen mascherano do this to lampard. About drogbas outburst after the semi-final, as a die hard blues fan i can understand why he reacted that way, the ref was a complete joke he made poor decisions for both sides.
I agree with your statement that gerrard and lampard are completely different players, in my opinion gerrard is more of a highlights player these days, while lampard works incredibly hard as a box to box midfielder, i would agree with the aston martin, jaguar statement in some ways but i would say lampard is an aston and gerrard is a jaguar due to gerrards movement, i have never seen such an ugly runner as gerrard, with his arms flailing about, but this is just my opinion.
Also even though voronin was a free signing for liverpool he has been extremely expensive for them.

Anonymous said...

I meant to say that was a very well written article.. never knew craven cottage was such an interesting venue. I always think of all those lost balls in the drink from the kick and run days of johnny haynes and terry venables. I would say gattuso would be hard to beat as a destroyer and iniesta is by far the best midfielder in the world As best forward I reckon Ibrahimovic takes it ahead of torres, eto and the drogba. Guys there is a World of football outside the premiership where great players play. How many top class Brazillians play in England? Since Brazil are perennially in the top 3 best teams in the world rankings, you would think the best competition in the world would be littered with brazillians. I don't think there are many of the top 10 best playing in the UK. Essien is nowhere near as good as Iniesta

simo said...

madmcglone, essien and inestia, two completely different players, although inestia is a fine player i have seen him get bullied out of games, would rather essien but this is a chelsea supporter talking.
If you look at the premier league it is the best league in terms of quality, Italian to slow, Spanish close but not close enough, i mean look at the teams like man city, tottenham, everton, aston villa and sunderland, in both those leagues only 4 or 5 could be classified as better than those, I would go as far to say that more than 40% of the 10 best players in the world play in the premier league.
There are also many Brazilians playing in the premier league i'll name them for you: Alex, Anderson, Aurelio, Beletti, Denilson, Fabio, Geovanni, Gomes, Jo, Lucas, Rafael and Robinho. Reasons that many Brazilians do not maybe play in the premier league may be work permits and maybe they can't adapt to the speed of the game. Also i wouldn't judge a league on international teams as the teams and the standards of international football is inferior to club football

Anonymous said...

Only robinho is worthy of a mention there as a true top class brazillian. Everton were humped 7-0 aggregate by Benfica and Villa were knocked out of Europe by Rapid Vienna who were beaten 5-1 and 3-0 by Hapoel. I think the premiership is good but apart from Arsenal, there is no team who play quality football like Barca. I don't think that the pace of the game in England is ferocious but the Player's first touch of seria A and the primera league is better. Look at the way barca made Man U look 2nd rate just by keeping the ball.

Anonymous said...

Meant to say, I do think the pace in England is ferocious. I should proofread these things before posting

simo said...

madmcglone, good points there, english clubs have dominated the pinnacle of football, the champions league. Barcelona are a great team but they were almost undone by chelsea, although barca had something like 60 to 65% of possession, they had one shot which they scored from, although it is good to see good football, football at the highest level is a results game, this is why arsenal haven't won anything for a while, they simply don't have the winning mentality that man united and chelsea have, they are not afraid to play ugly to win.

Anonymous said...

Been watching Chelski since Ancelotti came in mcglone? Excellent movement.

Bruno said...

good to see Liverpool r trying to destroy Torres by playing him injured.

I bet Spain would be happy with this.

R U Serious Ref said...

Bruno. It is Spain that are also playing him with injuries so both could be doing harm to a great striker. As for Gerrard & Lampard. Me being a REDS fan will always pick Gerrard. I guess th reason for this is because I have seen him play out wide, England & club, and from what he was like when he 1st came onto the senior scene he has developde 10 fold. He is a great leader as I'm sure would be but Gerrard being the captain just always seems to play well and above. If only England could work out a system that would allow them both to play their natural game.
As for Best league. I have been watching a few games of the Italian 1st Div & F#*K ME. What a boring load of shit. They can't even get anyone to turn up to watch except in Milan & Juve games. Maybe Clive Palmer owns a few of these clubs. It just stop start and the acting just drives me insane. More action happens in a Gridiron game. In fact I would put the Germen Dundesleiga in front of it.
Spanish league I do like but only when the tops teams play each other. I like the way Barca play, one of the beats teams in the world as far as style and enjoyment go. Arsenal too, but there is a bit to much of the diving going on & it just spoils the game for me. Not as stop start as Italian but it's still there.
So it's still the Premier league for me. There seems to be a lot more of an even league although we have seen some good floggin so far this season. I realise there are very few decent Brazilians playing in it but the main one, Robinho. how wonderful is he to watch when he is fully fit, but they seem to do well in the Premier league. Maybe he will be the pioneer for more to come over.
Once again. My opinion.

Just a side note. It's nice to see that this has been a good conversation that has not had anyone having a go @ anyone else or bad mouthing someone & it's also nice to not have to read anything about C.S. Keep up the good work boys

R U Serious Ref said...

Sorry. I was supposed to put the word Lampard in this sentance on my last post.

He is a great leader as I'm sure Lampard would be but Gerrard being the captain

Anonymous said...

Chalky, yeah I've watched chelsea. They have an uber team. Could win it all. I don't think their pattern of play has changed much since the special one was there I
reckon hiddink did a bit of work tweaking areas of weakness, the brazilian guy manufactured. Though they've lost against soft teams good luck tonight I love seeing fergie lose. Wonder who he will blame if man u does lose?

Walter said...

Drogba, who is on more than 100,000 quid a week, has said his challenge this year is to beat Torres in the individual goalscoring race.

Drogba is family man these days and he donates some of his earnings to African charities. He says he listens to his sons. His 10-year-old son, who is already a Chelsea junior blue and is showing considerable talent, was appalled at his dad's behaviour after the loss to Barcelona last year. Drogba senior has modified his behaviour as a result of his son's feelings.

Tonight's game against Manchester United will be interesting because of the history between Drogba and Vidic. Vidic has been elbowed in the face twice by Drogba (in 2006 and 2008) and lost a tooth as a result of the 2008 incident; Vidic has been slapped in the face by Drogba.

The sparks may well fly tonight, but perhaps Drogba has indeed reformed.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough mate. I'd have to disagree slightly, considering we played a 4-3-3 with wingers and now it's mainly a 4-4-2 diamond with two dedicated strikers. I used to be very critical of the way we played. Being a Chelsea supporter, it's refreshing to see some real skill and beautiful football coming into our game, not just being able to grind out results and get 1-0 wins as per the Mourinho era.

simo said...

I personally would rather see us win 1-0 with Jose and win the league than play great football but not winning anything.

Anonymous said...

've left my door open and in walks a bush turkey. He/she went into my room then at the sight of me tried franticallly to get out of the closed window, almost tearing me apart with it's huge talons It took me a good 10 minutes getting the thing out, this is with a pulsating hangover. I'm still shaken 2 hours on.