Date: 10th December 2012.
Kick off: 8:00pm.
Referee: Lee Mason.
UK TV: None.
After an much needed win and a much needed change in tactics in our last Premiership game against Wigan, we now find ourselves facing Fulham away, a team who despite a recent lack of form can be very tricky customers on their own turf.
History and recent form.
Fulham’s season has been a bit like our own, hence we find ourselves only separated by goal difference in the Premiership. It couldn’t have started better for Martin Jol with a 5-0 victory over his ex assistant Chris Hughton’s new Norwich side. Fast forwarding to today though, Fulham fans have had to endure seven Premiership games without a win now, the last one coming on 20th October against Aston Villa. Meanwhile, a 3-0 victory over 10 man Wigan helped to lift Newcastle United’s spirits last week, though that was the first victory in six Premiership games for the Magpies.
|Premiership form this season (most recent first)|
|14th||Newcastle United||W|L|L|L|L|D|W|D|L|D|W|D|D|L|W||17 pts|
Moving on to previous encounters with the Cottagers (though not in the George Michael sense), you can see that we took a right old pasting in our last game at Craven Cottage, but more on that below. We haven’t had the best of times down there in general either. In our last six games at Craven Cottage with the home side, they have won five and we have won only once (back in 2007) with no draws.
|Fulham v Newcastle United – Last six meetings at Craven Cottage|
|21/01/12||Premier League||Fulham 5 (Murphy Pen 52, Dempsey 59, 65, 89, Zamora Pen 68), Newcastle United 2 (Guthrie 43, Ben Arfa 85)|
|02/02/11||Premier League||Fulham 1 (Duff 67), Newcastle United 0|
|09/11/08||Premier League||Fulham 2 (Johnson 23, Murphy Pen 66), Newcastle United 1 (Sh.Ameobi 57)|
|15/12/07||Premier League||Fulham 0, Newcastle United 1 (Barton Pen 90)|
|03/02/07||Premier League||Fulham 2 (Helguson 49, McBride 73), Newcastle United 1 (Martins 90)|
|14/01/06||Premier League||Fulham 1 (Malbranque 75), Newcastle United 0|
Tactics and suggested line-ups.
Jol is quite an attacking coach who seems to like alot of action coming in from the flanks, but his Fulham side can be a little vulnerable on the counter attack at present, and he has also struggled with the problem of creativity in midfield after the loss of some key players in that area. Firstly this was through players leaving the club, and secondly through an injury to one of Fulham’s current creative attacking threat, the attacking midfielder and forward, Brian Ruiz. One possible solution for Jol might use is moving creative forward Dimitar Berbatov back a bit behind a front striker in a 4-4-1-1 cum 4-2-3-1. It has been a common formation for Jol this season and using Berbatov behind another striker is something Jol himself has discussed, and done, in previous games this season.
Jol seems to have a better abilty to change games than Pardew if things get off to a bad start, as he showed to good effect when he turned things around in spectucular fashion in our last game with Fulham. We were certainly on top of things at half time against a very lacklustre Fulham, and we should have been leading by more than a single goal. The Fulham manager then introduced the muscle of Andrew Johnson to retake the midfield just before half time. It was the kind of masterstroke our own Silver Supremo never seems to manage if we go behind, and in the first half of the second half (if you know what I mean), the score proceeded to go from 0-1 to 4-1, eventually ending at 5-2 with Fulham seemingly were scoring at will until the game was out of reach for the visitors, and by the time the game was over, a Man of the Match performance from Clint Dempsey saw him taking the match ball home. Martin Jol himself explains what happened:
“The first half was a sort of Brixton, and the second half was a holiday in Jamaica,” said the Dutchman.
Fulham were indeed all over the place in that first half until he introduced the muscle of Johnson shortly before half-time. Fulham were taking a bit of a beating all over the pitch. But Jol continued:
“In the first half, we didn’t create anything. We had no runners from midfield. We couldn’t keep the ball, and when we played it up to Bobby [Zamora] we lost it. We couldn’t exploit the spaces in behind Williamson and Coloccini. So we couldn’t exploit our extra man in midfield. With Johnson, we solved that problem. If you’ve got more people trying to move off the ball, you’ve got more threat.”
Meanwhile, Pardew’s take on the same game was:
“Last year, we probably played our best half of football in the first half. Unfortunately, the second half was probably our worst, so we are hoping we don’t put in that Jekyll and Hyde performance that we did last year.”
Getting back to this game though, the return of Captain, Breda Hangeland from suspension in the heart of defence will undoubtedly be a big boost for the Cottagers. He’s their Coloccini and is a very important player for the side.
As for Newcastle’s approach to this game, well that could be a tricky one as Pardew certainly changed things around a bit in our last game against Wigan. I’ve knocked Pardew’s long balls on several occaisions since he joined the club, though by accident or design, they certainly weren’t very much in eveidence in that game as the table below illustrates. At the top I have placed my highest reading for long balls so far, which was a colossal 23.5% of all passes in the game against Southampton, which must be verging on some kind of long ball record. To put it in perspective it was far higher than Stoke’s average for last season. At the bottom however you can observe the much lower figure of 10.8%, which is very similar to Chelsea’s average for the season so far.
|Pardew’s long balls getting shorter.|
|TP – Total Passes.|
LB – Long Balls (over 25 yards).
LB % – % of passes which are long balls.
All stats by OPTA.
So, as I have criticised Pardew so much in the past, I must now give some credit where it is due. I don’t mean just for the stats but for the tactical approach to the game in general, which is what is important. However the teams started out at the kick off, the way they actually played was very interesting, ending up as something approching the 4-2-1-3 formation I have portrayed in the image above. Whatever Marveaux was supposed to be doing, in reality he operated mostly in the centre behind a (kind of) front three of Ba, flnked by Cisse on his right shoulder and here we come to the “kind of” bit as I think that Gutierrez was supposed to be the left hand player in the cosy threesome at the front, though in reality he dropped back quite a bit from the other pair.
So, there may be some element of wishful thinking in my suggested line up, but I do hope that Pardew gives it another go. What I certainly don’t wish is that he returns to the same old tactical approach as before if Ben Arfa is back in the team. I write this as he said he had to change things around in the first place due to the lack of the two “creatives,” Ben Arfa and Cabaye. However, he also suggested that he is having another go at playing Ben Arfa more centrally as a kind of “trequartista” type player just behind the strikers, so perhaps he will stick with the same approch as he did against Wigan after all. Though we won that game 3-0, of course, Wigan played much of the game with ten men after a very debatable incident which involed a penalty and a sending off for Wigan’s Figeroa. Hence, it would be good to see if Pardew’s new thinking works as well against a team with a full compliment of players. We shall see this evening!
Team news and squads.
Fulham defender and captain, Brede Hangeland, will be returning after serving out a three match suspension for a sending off against Blunderland. Midfielder Alexander Kačaniklić will also return to being in contention after recovering from a hamstring injury. However, midfielder and forward, Brian Ruiz (the man Ashley allegedly tried to panic buy for £10 million just after the Carroll sale), will be out for another month or so with his hamstring. Finally, on loan defender and midfielder Sascha Riether will be a doubt with a minor knee sprain.
Fulham FC: Mark Schwarzer (G), Neil Etheridge (G), Csaba Somogyi (G), Stephen Kelly (D), Brede Hangeland (D), Aaron Hughes (D), Philippe Senderos (D), John Arne Riise (D), Chris Baird (D), Sascha Riether (D, M), Kieran Richardson (M, D), Steve Sidwell (M), Ashkan Dejagah (M), Mahamadou Diarra (M), Giorgos Karagounis (M), Alexander Kačaniklić (M), Pajtim Kasami (M), Damien Duff (M), Simon Davies (M), Mickaël Tavares (M), Hugo Rodallega (F), Mladen Petrić (F), Dimitar Berbatov (F).
Injured: Bryan Ruiz (Hamstring),
Doubtful: Sascha Riether (Knee sprain).
Well the main news from the Newcastle side is that Benny is almost certainly back, though there does seem to be a very slight uncertainty which is why I’ve put him on the “doubtful” list, though he should be fine. Gabriel Obertan will also return to be in contention for a place, with Pardew recently waxing lyrical about what he brongs to the team and how much he has been missed. As for the usual entries on the injury list, they have been included below.
Newcastle United: Tim Krul (G), Steve Harper (G), Rob Elliot (G), Danny Simpson (D), Davide Santon (D), Fabricio Coloccini (D), Mike Williamson (D), James Tavernier (D), James Perch (D, M), Vurnon Anita (M, D), Shane Ferguson (M, D), Cheick Tiote (M), Jonas Gutierrez (M), Gabriel Obertan (M), Sylvain Marveaux (M), Gael Bigirimana (M), Hatem Ben Arfa (M, F), Sammy Ameobi (M, F), Demba Ba (F), Papiss Cisse (F), Shola Ameobi (F), Nile Ranger (F).
Injured: Yohan Cabaye (groin), Steven Taylor (hamstring), Ryan Taylor, Haris Vuckic and Dan Gosling, (all knee).
Doubtful: Hatem Ben Arfa (hamstring).
I suppose that the big question before the match is if Pardew will persevere with his new approach. Whatever Martin Jol has up his sleeve for this evening, I really hope that he does rather returning to his old bad habits.
Howay the Lads!