We’ve all got potatoes to peel but if you’re done with scraping your spuds, Cam’s shaved off the main talking points from Saturday’s meek defeat.
That wasn’t very Christmassy. I don’t think it’s going to spoil Monday’s turkey dinner but it would’ve been quality to walk into Christmas Day with three points in the stocking. Vincent Kompany’s Burnley set up their stall, they wanted the victory more than us and we just didn’t respond once we went behind so suddenly after the break. Simple as.
If you don’t take your chances, these kind of results often occur and that, ladies and gentleman, is football. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, so they say, and with a Boxing Day trip to Bournemouth booked, we can’t have scrooges cluttering up the joint so the sooner we get this article out the way, the better.
History founded at the Cottage
It’s well documented that history was made on December 23rd, 2022, when Rebecca Welch became the first female to referee a men’s Premier League game and while her judgement and perception wasn’t always spot on, I’d say her afternoon in the thick of things went according to plan for the most part.
Welch has run the rule over Football League games before now but top-flight football holds its own standard and demands. It’s played at a faster pace, the footballing world’s attention was drawn towards her determinations and she had to block out noise from the outside, which could’ve prevented her from calling the shots and stamping her authority with clarity. Calvin Bassey’s yellow shouldn’t have stood, for example, but other than that I’ve no lingering issue with her verdicts and for the record, bozos like Chris Kavanagh would’ve fared far worse.
We’ve berated referees for decades, it’s intrinsic to the sport and while Welch did make mistakes, while a handful of her decisions were crowd-led, she actually kept things under control to the best of her ability and what’s more profound, the players respected her logic and reasoning, as they should. Gamesmanship was present, James Trafford did take his sweet, sweet time in resuming play and often, excessively tough challenges were dismissed as fair but that is part and parcel of being a ref, no matter who you are.
Welch conducted herself with professionalism, discernment and she wasn’t overawed, not entirely so, anyway. If somebody is selected to officiate a game in the world’s most demanding division, they simply have to be good and strong enough. Gender should never be a factor and for the good of the sport, and the future, I sincerely hope it encourages young females to trust themselves and appreciate their competency and skill. Football is a game for all and I am proud that the elite game has made this step in the name of inclusivity and equality, founded at Craven Cottage.
Silva’s off-colour Whites
Taking Burnley’s on-field inadequacies into consideration, this is a game Fulham should’ve steamrolled but for whatever reason, the Whites were second best when it mattered most and the visitors executed their game plan excellently. In the final third, we couldn’t make our combinations stick and when we’d worked play into tempting positions, our final product was amiss. For all our commanding possession, for all the neat interplay before we lost connection in advanced areas, we barely troubled the Clarets’ disciplined defence and that is massively off colour for a Silva side which has exhibited some of the most exciting, pragmatic football we’ve seen in our most recent outings at the Cottage.
We were ponderous on the ball, simple passes were mistreated, particularly from Tosin Adarabioyo and Harry Wilson, and in crossing scenarios, with balls whipped into decent areas, nobody gambled and nobody was in sync with the run of play. Rodrigo Muniz and Carlos Vinicius were virtually non-existent, we’d no focal point up top to bounce off of and it seriously hampered our productivity.
Willian’s absence was definitely felt, too. Wilson is better coming off the bench when teams tire, the Welshman couldn’t influence proceedings effectively because whenever he got on the ball, his head was down and he didn’t recognise the space ahead of him. Willian is so important to our attack because he actively seeks out inroads, both infield and out wide, and his intelligence and sharpness enables us to mesh phases together convincingly, without having to force it. Harry was caught out far too often and though we weren’t to rely on him solely, he’s usually a key component moving forward and on Saturday, he was subdued and secondary. Alex Iwobi was also fielded on the wrong flank.
A reasonable prognosis for this loss, given the symptoms, is physical and mental fatigue. We’d invested so much at Goodison Park, we’d showcased our very best selves against Nottingham Forest and West Ham United and at St. James’ Park, we chased shadows with ten men for 70-odd minutes. That is going to take its toll on stamina and endurance and though it sounds like a David Moyes sickness bug cop out, we have pushed ourselves to the limit in such a short timeframe and we were always bound to fall foul of a result such as this during a heavily congested festive schedule. Suck it up, right some wrongs, tweak and tune and move on. Pronto.
Christmas crackers conceded
Can we just stop conceding disgustingly good net busters. That’s not a request, it’s an order. It is deeply damaging to the soul to see a ‘keeper of Bernd Leno’s calibre being beaten from otherworldly distances and both of Burnley’s strikes from range were unreal. Shipping four fizzers at Anfield has given us PTSD and we just want some shelter and actually, more to the point, when are we gonna twat home some far-flung worldies of our own?
Wilson Odobert’s arcing opener came from nowhere, it effectively killed us off within minutes of the game’s resumption and Sander Berge’s 66th-minute winner skimmed across the surface, beans aplenty, and on both occasions where the visitors let rip with gusto, our midfield was cut adrift. Burnley had acres to work with, it’s not often Joao Palhinha and his teammates are stranded up shit creek but he, Tom Cairney our central defensive duo were regularly bypassed and once that obstacle had been avoided, the visitors could pick their spot and smash the target, unimpeded, at their own leisure.
We didn’t close them down with urgency, we sat off and allowed them to progress with ease and if a professional baller sniffs the whiff of a pinger, they tend to have a pop. Just two days before Xmas, Burnley’s scorers walloped a couple of crackers, they were the only real opportunities they had throughout the game and they were gift wrapped by Fulham’s disjointedness and hesitancy as the angles opened up invitingly.
Dim home atmosphere
It has to be said, our home fans were shite and this is precisely what that weasel Alistair Mackintosh has wet dreams about. We’re ribbed constantly by visiting supporters for our placid atmosphere and it has gotten embarrassingly dim this season, we’ve hooray-hurrahs yapping about pistachio ice cream and the latest 1975 album rather than getting involved and vocal. Going to the Cottage is almost a chore nowadays because you cannot drum up an atmosphere, it’s just impossible to get a tune out of NPCs you’ll never see again because these mannequins aren’t proper football fans, let alone genuine Fulham followers.
We’ve just reached our first League Cup semi-final, we may have lost in the North East but we had scored ten goals in two league games at home before Burnley arrived and even Silva has implored us to turn up and make ourselves known. We may have been poor on the pitch, it is going to happen but we, in the terraces, literally have no excuse. There is a direct correlation between crowd involvement and team performance, players feed off the energy from the terraces and on Saturday, there was nowhere near enough oomph to get them going.
I get that people don’t want to shout and scream until they’re blue in the face, that’s their prerogative but the chinwagging about their sausage dog’s dick, the dead banter about their tennis socks, the lack of investment and attention about the game which is happening right before their vacant eyes grinds my gears and at a period of the season when spirits should higher than ever, when we should be singing off the same hymn sheet, the whole occasion was ruined by stiff jobbos that probably had no idea why they came in the first place.
Anyway, words are harmless and I’m sure we’ll all enjoy a very merry Christmas anyway so I’ll sign off with an offering of love and goodwill to you and yours, and if you’re headed for the Vitality on Tuesday, let’s fucking ‘ave it. You Whites!