© Getty Images
There were some big performances in Europe this past week, but only one of them from an English club. Improbably, Chelsea smuggled victory from the grasp of a highly impressive Napoli, but comprehensive drubbings for the two Manchester clubs should silence the wish fulfilment witterings of the self-serving who claim the Premier League is 'the best league in the world' for a while. Most impressive win of the bunch? Possibly promoted Swansea's over leaders Man City last weekend. It was no fluke, and the Welshmen will arrive at Fulham full of confidence and belief in their own passing game.
Brendan Rodgers has done a terrific job down there in Wales, although Fulham passed up a real opportunity to take something from our trip there before Christmas. We squandered a penalty before pulling our usual trick of conceding late on at a time when Swansea had their first dip in form. Fulham turned up that day wearing the lead suits habitually donned for away games however, and we got what we deserved. Nowt! Time to put that right at the Cottage.
While we are playing for pride from here on in, every supporter deserves a big performance from the Whites this Saturday to eradicate the inexplicable display at Villa. Here was another club on the skids, missing key players in Dunne and Bent, with the fans in despair, a manager on the ropes, and an owner increasingly at sea with his strategy to build up the team. What did we produce? For the first 45 our worst half of the season. I could not believe the energy levels and commitment from the Villa players - although we improved after half-time, we (again) did not have the wit or boldness with our substitutions to try and change the flow of the game. Only one side gambled on going for the win, and Villa duly got their reward.
Nuff said on this fixture. I had to lampoon the game on the blog, being too incensed to review it forensically. The away day blues have long since ceased to be funny, and we've exhausted the topic ad nauseam. The whole day summed up by Schwarzer's howler. Let's move on. By the way, a source very close to the team reminded me this week there's little danger of any individual being upset by comments made through the media after disasters like this. "Players don't need to read the papers to know they've had a stinker." After our run of three wins we could waste a thousand words on our latest away loss without finding any logic to the way we repeatedly fold on the road.
Bouncing straight back then against Swansea becomes imperative. Surely our talent collective can't all combust for the second time in a week? Something about Swansea's adventurous approach makes me think this could see both sides sharing four goals. If our defence is back on song and we impose ourselves from the off...who knows. Lest we forget, early strikes against Stoke, QPR and Wolves all helped settle the nerves and we saw the flowing football flourish. Coming from behind to win is not our forte. Let's start on the front foot.
Encouraging transfer talk this week though, if the rumours are true, linking us to Trabzonspor's goal machine Yilmaz and interest in the Lens left-back Bergdich. One factual snippet of good news is a contract extension for Kerim Frei. Now all you have to do Martin is pitch the kid in for twenty minutes against tired legs and see what he can do. Should have been sent out to run at Hutton last week and restrict Villa from repeatedly pressurising our full-backs. And on that note, what odds Riise failing to find the net for the whole season?
Perhaps the most telling statistic of all revealed this week, which indicates our bench are not the best at analysis during game time. Yes, Fulham make fewer substitutions than any other side. With an update on Grygera's knee, having had a second op in Denver and being definitely ruled out till next August, you wonder how many of our late goals against might have been prevented had the impressive defender stayed fit? McCleish certainly had his side target our fragile full-backs from the off last Saturday.
Back to back home games with the two enterprising teams who stepped up to the top table last summer (whatever happened to the third???) - so time to remind both Swansea and Norwich we are no pushovers at home. An opportunity also for the players to remind us quickly how good we can be. Feel free to post your comments post match here. Home or away standards on this forum remain constant, dedicated to making this your number one FFC blog!