Sunday sees us head to Fulham in a game which offers some respite from the gruesome run of fixtures the Blues currently find themselves caught up in. This quick preview will look at the Cottagers strengths and weaknesses and how we will approach the fixture…..
Fulham will predominantly attack down their right side and use counter attack as their main attacking weapon. As fans we are constantly told by the pundits that defending pace is a ‘defenders nightmare’….so how best to stop it? Well I’d expect Distin and co to drop deeper to deny the space in behind for Andy Johnson to exploit rather than run the risk of a straight race which would favour the former Toffee.
Fulham have played 9 games in all competitions at home already this campaign and are still unbeaten with 6 clean sheets to boot. Jol’s outfit will look to Danny Murphy in the middle of the park to pull the strings – he has created a chance for a teammate on average 3.1 times per game this campaign with 3 assists so far.
Dempsey provides the most penetrative threat in Fulham’s ranks. Last season he scored 5 goals from corners – the most in the division. He’ll start wide left but will cut inside and his runs will need to be tracked – we didn’t do this last season and it cost us as he slotted at Goodison – giving Rodwell the slip in the build up to the goal (left).
Fulham can be a tad negative and there is still a Roy Hodgson feel about the side in their focus and borderline obsession with defensive shape. They will be happy for us to have the ball in defence and take the game to them. The chalkboard (left) shows their interceptions in a recent defeat at Wolves when almost all their pressing is applied in their own half to bring teams onto them meaning we will have time and space to bring the ball out of defence.
As noted above I would expect us to defend deep to cope with Johnson – with Fulham not playing a high line either there will be a lot of space in the middle of the park which could mean we see a fair bit of the ball if Cahill drops to give us a 3 v 2 advantage in midfield.
Everton Personnel & Strategy
With just 4 goals from open play this season (only Stoke and Swansea have registered fewer) we have looked really toothless at times. 50% of these goals have been scored by Greek youngster Apostolos Velios in the 58 minutes he has appeared. I just can’t see Moyes starting with him though and would expect Saha to continue alongside Cahill who will pivot between the striker and midfield zones.
There seems to be a question mark over Drenthe’s fitness hence his role so far has been restricted to that of an impact substitute. In every game he has made an impact though and surely he will be given an opportunity from the off in this fixture. He could potentially be pitched in on the right cutting in on his left as Coleman has struggled to make an impact lately.
With Fulham having played the majority of a European away game on Thursday night with ten men, the Blues certainly have an advantage going into this one. Nobody drew more top flight games than these two last season – 31 in total – and Fulham have carried this on this season with 50% of their league games so far deadlocked. I think Moyes would settle for a point to stop the recent rot. 1-1.