From a neutral perspective I imagine Thursday's tie at a half-full Cottage was quite entertaining. For 70 minutes both sides played a fast-paced, technically adept game. The card count gave a false impression - this was never a dirty game and Twente looked to score as much as we did. The ball was zipped around at such pace the tiniest margin of error saw players being caught as the ball left their feet and the ref got overly fussy with his cards.
Make no mistake, the Dutch were a talented outfit. They were also younger and fitter than us. Far from experimenting, Jol retained the core of his side. Grygera made an encouraging debut and Briggs only enhanced his reputation again with both composure and a desire to thrust forward up the left. Sanity saw Chris Baird given a run out in the centre of defence, Kasami again suggested he has something about him - he certainly looks comfortable at this level.
But the parts remain greater than the sum. Plenty of approach play and purpose but yet again no punch around the penalty area. I just spent a night on the razzle with my Spurs supporting neighbour. He says the current style down by the Thames is indicative of Jol's final days at Spurs. Lots of pretty stuff, the Dutch 'total football' being constantly preached, but no end product. The cackle along Tottenham High Road is that we will be facing a relegation scrap under our new boss, who flew high under Commoli's eye for players at the Lane, but that Jol has no credentials for achieving under budget restraints with a 'small' club. Digest that at your leisure, and please feel free to tell me it's still way too early to panic.
Clint thought so after the game. The gunslinger gave his usual pragmatic view that the goals will come and it's just a matter of time. Brushing off suggestions that the side were hurting from their two games a week schedule, the Texan - who has barely had time to flip a T-bone steak for the past three summers - insisted that 'you want to play as many games as possible' at this level and that's what you crave as a pro. Does our captain feel the same way?
Far from being able to rest key players before Sunday's monumental test against high-flying City, it was another draining performance against the energetic Dutch. The game for Fulham was up Thursday night with 20 minutes left, a couple of astute posters elsewhere noted it, and for me it was the crucial lesson from the game. The inference with Jol's selections are clear. Bobby and Damien must be wrapped in cotton wool to avoid burn out. On their day both can turn a match, and the two have given us many such performances to cherish in recent seasons. Both conjure goals out of nothing while others shuffle sideways across the park or bounce off the defensive wall. If they don't spark...Thursday for the last 20 minutes both were barely visible.
But not their fault. At the point where we tried to force the issue and Jol played his jokers, Danny was out on his feet and reduced to walking pace. Much of our energy drained away as Kasami and Briggs left the pitch, Dembele continues to perform like an overwound clockwork mouse, and had the game lasted another ten minutes Twente would surely have taken us on the break. Senderos had an awful few minutes at the death.
How the team would benefit at present in having Simon Davies fit to make more sensible use of the ball than Moussa will ever be capable of. Has anybody yet seen him make an intelligent pass to a team-mate? Both goals on the night were fortuitous. Andy's was a gift. He got both the benefit of an underhit square pass and a kind ricohet off the last man before dinking his finish in off the post. When we were on top in the 2nd half he shot wastefully straight at the keeper after Clint's slaloming run at the defence. As with Sunday's game, we still seem reluctant to try our luck from range. As to Twente's leveller. Good break up the right wing, but I don't think that header was pre-meditated, and of course it finished up going in off the back of Mark's head. Having said that, for their enterprise the Dutch entirely merited a goal.
This will be a close-run group to go through from. But such was the story two seasons ago. The history of our Europa campaign then saw many different players step up to sprinkle a little magic Roy's way. Hangeland's header in Donetsk totally against the run of play, Riise jnr supplying the bullets for Bobby in Basel, Clint's unforgettable chip to finally down Juventus. Perhaps the footballing gods only allow you such golden moments every 10 years.
Time then to roll up the sleeves and try to get something from our next two games. The task could hardly be tougher. Although City stumbled against Napoli, it's hard to imagine Fulham keeping them quiet for 90 minutes Sunday. For the past two seasons supporters had a pretty accurate idea of what constituted our best starting eleven. Now, I have no idea what the strategy is or how Jol thinks he can set the side up to conjure wins over both Citeh and Chelsea. Surgery on the side was brushed aside last season, Jol's activity in the market thus far is yet to return any dividends. Of course, the big money man has had another week to get know his team-mates. But I fear for Bryan if we are of a sudden looking to the new boy to step out immediately garbed in the golden fleece.
We've faced tougher times. Far tougher. Time to keep the faith and pray the boys find some confidence to defy the odds over the coming week. I shall be keeping a bottle of Jack close by just in case to ease my pain.
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