Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughJol to use Arsenal victory as a launch-pad for his attractive Fulham - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Jol to use Arsenal victory as a launch-pad for his attractive Fulham - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Jol to use Arsenal victory as a launch-pad for his attractive Fulham

Martin Jol’s return to the Premier League as manager of Fulham hasn’t been the easiest of rides, knocked out of the Europa League in the first round after a dramatic late capitulation to Odense, they have suffered domestically too, 3-1 home defeats to Everton and Tottenham, comfortable 2-0 defeats to Swansea and Wolves threatened a season that may have been metaphorically as long for Jol as it actually had been, with the campaign beginning as far back as June 30th. A 5-0 bowing to the knees of a rampant Manchester United at Craven Cottage had them languishing in 15th place before the visit of Arsenal, who had suffered only one defeat, the 1-0 edging out to the leaders Manchester City, in their past 12 matches.

It looked a formidable task for Fulham, especially when Laurent Koscielny headed the Gunners ahead on 21 minutes, Jol’s side had only rescued 3 points from their previous 19 matches after a going a goal behind, but what followed was a comeback that embodied the inconsistent nature of Fulham’s campaign which had included the 6-0 demolition of QPR as well as an impressive 1-0 victory of Liverpool. Arsenal continued to create chances in the first half, somehow, immediately after the Koscielny goal, David Stockdale brilliantly double saved from Aaron Ramsey and Alex Song while Robin Van Persie and Theo Walcott were both denied before the interval by the impressive Stockdale. Despite the pressure, Fulham had begun to take a slight foothold in the match though and going in just behind at the break at 1-0, they sensed that Arsenal could be reeled back in the second period.

How right they were; in contrast to Arsene Wenger’s willingness to pin the blame on Arsenal’s second half showing to referee Lee Probert for his decision to send off Johann Djorou for two bookable offences, Wenger would be wise to look at his sides inept set-piece defending and gradual retreat as a unit as a true explanation for his teams defeat. Fulham bossed the second half, achieving 66% possession midway through the period, while the effervescent Bryan Ruiz and Phillip Senderos both went close. Djorou was dismissed for his tug on Zamora with 12 minutes to go and having been reduced to ten men, the resistance finally caved in. Wojciech Szczesney, who had been suspect at high balls throughout, flapped at a corner and the ball fell to Steve Sidwell to head home the equaliser. Then, almost inevitably, came a winner in stoppage time, Arsenal once again failed to deal with a cross and amongst the array of bodies in the box, it was fittingly Bobby Zamora, who swept home a winner to ensure Martin Jol’s side ended the Christmas period with 5 points from 9, a satisfactory return considering the shambolic night playing host to the Champions.

 Jol has rejuvenated his team since that five goal defeat and achieved impressive points with 1-1 draws away at Chelsea and Norwich, while this result will give fresh optimism that a top half finish, with the top 6 that Jol has talked about lying maybe a little too far out of reach, could realistically be achieved. That it was Zamora who scored the winner and was hugged so congratulatory by his Dutch manager as he left the field was a greater indication as any that Fulham were not suffering from any disharmony that may have been threatening to belie the potential that their squad suggests, Jol had been forced to dismiss rumours Zamora, with the striker’s burning ambition  to make England’s 2012 European Championship squad called into question, had been subject to a fall-out with his manager and that Fulham had been looking to sell him as a result. “It’s nothing to do with nothing” said the unequivocal Jol, putting his absences down to a troublesome Achilles injury and with one sweep of his right foot yesterday, followed by a show of jubilation with his manager, any lingering sense of squad discord was tossed to the wind.

After all, it is a very prevalent squad that Jol has managed to forge in a mere 6 month stewardship; the signing of John Arne-Riise has added Premier League experience to left-back after the departure of Carlos Salcido in the summer, while Martin Jol speaks very highly of youngsters Marcel Gecov and Pajtim Kasami who were acquired for relatively small fees from respectively Slovan Liberec and Palermo in the summer. Kerim Frei, the 17 year-old Swiss midfielder who replaced Danny Murphy yesterday, has been promoted from the youth set-up to impress in the Europa League. Striker Orlando Sa came in from Porto on a free and has featured sporadically as has Zdenik Grygera whose free signing from Juventus was designed to add strength in depth to a defence that was subject to a lot of rotation in the early stages of Jol’s reign, possibly an explanation to their early inconsistency.

The summer’s main signing, that of Costa Rican Bryan Ruiz from FC Twente for £10 million has been an immediate success as he has settled into the Premier League with the effortless technical elegance that has featured in his style of play on the right of an attacking three. His 20 appearances have seen a return of 4 goals and 2 assists as he looks to have a productive future in Southwest London. He is operating alongside the impressive direct running of Moussa Dembele, the wonderfully in-form Clint Dempsey who has attracted interest from Champions League clubs after his 9 goals in 25 appearances and the striking options of the aforementioned Sa and Zamora as well as Andy Johnson who has eleven goals to date. There are goals throughout the attacking options possessed by Jol and the quality of his strikers suggests that the occupation of twelfth after the Arsenal victory is a false one and if Jol can find a way to cure the stuttering league form, they should be pushing the higher end of the table.

Jol has also inherited the honest, proven contributions from the likes of Danny Murphy, Damien Duff, Mark Schwarzer, Brede Hangeland and Dickson Etuhu, all remaining after the reign of Roy Hodgson and they have provided the base for the more technical attacking threat to shine through in the likes of Ruiz and Dembele. Steve Sidwell, who was a later addition under Mark Hughes, has also been a regular feature under Jol, having already made 23 appearances, three more than he managed in the whole of last season. Yesterday’s result would have been nearly as frustrating for Martin Jol as it was for an incensed Arsene Wenger as it was a greater indication than most of what this Fulham squad can achieve rather than attempting to be dragged into a relegation battle. They now have an away fixture vs Blackburn Rovers after the FA Cup break, then home games against Newcastle and West Brom which, compounded now with the busy-scheduled Europa League out of the picture, will give a bigger examination of how equipped this Fulham side, and Jol, really is.

Adam Gray @MonkeyLunch21

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