1. Teams & Tactics – Selection wise, the Blues lined up 4-2-3-1 with width provided by Coleman and Baines with the Irishman playing as high up-field as his lateral colleague on the left. This is shown by the player importance visual below. Fulham lined up in a 4-4-2 with the flamboyant duo of Ruiz and Berbatov up front with the defensive Baird in midfield and Riise at left back.
2. Sloppy Defending – Defensive errors cost us with both the goals shipped falling into the ‘avoidable’ category. The first goal was comedy play from the Blues; from a throw in our half Fellaini played the ball inside for Pienaar who found himself surrounded by players and lost possession, leading to Neville making a rash tackle on Berbatov. From Ruiz’s resulting free kick Howard probably should have done better also. Coleman had an enterprising game going forward but made 2 big errors for Fulham’s equaliser. Firstly, he stupidly ran into the middle of the park into a pack of Fulham players who subsequently picked him off and serviced the ball to the right flank. From the resulting cross, Berbatov fluffed his chance to score but Coleman should have attacked the ball and cleared his lines. Instead he ball watched and allowed Sidwell to nip in behind him to equalise.
3. Schwarzer Kicking – Our normal high line strategy was again evident here. Fulham play a short passing game with a fast tempo on the ball, preferring to play the ball out from the back. We pressed high up and looked to disrupt this rhythm. As the visual above shows Schwarzer was their second most prominent player after Ruiz in terms of touches of the ball.
The keeper’s average pass completion this season is 59%, usually opting to play a short pass to a defender but such was our high pressing he was forced to kick long with just 6 of his 21 long kick outs finding a teammate with his overall pass completion a dire 33%. This trend was evident all over the pitch as Fulham played 19% of their passes long – their season average is 13%.
4. Territorial Dominance – The lack of a real ‘out ball’ over the top to run onto – neither of Fulham’s quicker players Richardson or Rodallega were selected – contributed to us being able to control the game in Fulham’s half. With the ball increasingly coming back on them as per point 3, Fulham found it very hard to get out of their own half with us bossing the ball in this zone with 71% final third possession, making a whooping 286 final third touches compared to Fulham’s 107.
5. Fulham Left – Our right side was very productive especially in the second half when we really gave Fulham a hammering. Mirallas was involved in everything as his attacking dashboard shows below, particularly his forward passes in blue.
With the width coming from Coleman and Baines, Mirallas was largely operating through the middle with some great direct running committing an increasingly withered looking Fulham backline. For our first goal good work from him and Coleman ripped through Riise who was criminally exposed by non existent support from his midfielder Kacaniklic. With Riise now on a yellow and being run ragged, Jol re-shuffled and brought the more defensively disciplined Duff to the left midfield slot and moved Baird into full back to quell our pressure down this flank.
6. Fellaini Dominance – By this stage Fellaini was absolutely storming things. With Jelavic keeping Fulham’s aerial powerhouse Hangeland busy, Fellaini was free to unleash mayhem on Fulham’s defenders, dropping as he likes to into the left side of the pitch. As noted in the preview, Fulham are a side who press little when not in possession and Heitinga and Jagielka were increasingly able to bring the ball out of defence and supply the forward players. For goal two, Jagielka steamed out of his half and played a decent long ball into Fellaini who pulled the hosts defence apart to slam home. On this form the Belgian is simply ‘unplayable’.
7. Misfiring Blues – Much was made of the shear amount of shots we had – 27 in total to our hosts 9 – with 71% of these ‘real’ chances inside Fulham’s 18 yard box as opposed to Fulham’s 33% in our area. We still make more shots per game (20) than any side in the top flight (and in Europe’s top 5 leagues) although our accuracy with 65/200 on target is less than Man City. Jelavic had an off day with just 1 of the Croatian’s 5 efforts on target. Whilst he’s not firing at the moment you wouldn’t be surprised if he slammed a hatrick in one of the 3 decent looking fixture coming up in November against the atrocious Sunderland and the often leaky Reading and Norwich.
8. Final Verdict – This was definitely 2 points dropped in a game we dominated from start to finish. With 4 draws on the spin our defensive woes have started to put the brakes on our great start to the season although its worth remembering we’ve only lost once in the opening ten fixtures. On a positive note, our attacking play was again ace plus our main rivals Arsenal and Spurs both lost meaning we return to 4th spot in the table. Turning these draws into wins in the next three games is crucial before we face both these rivals on our own patch in what will be the key week of the season before Christmas.
New on EB Today – ‘Deconstructing Everton’s Shooting Accuracy’