LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: Clint Dempsey of Fulham celebrates with teammate Danny Murphy (L) after scoring a goal to level the scores at 1-1 during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Fulham at Stamford Bridge on December 26, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Look at that picture.
Excitement. Smiles. Smiles all around off picture. Amongst Fulham player and supporter alike.
They were hard to find less than a week ago, a week ago when the Whites were drubbed by Manchester United, suffering a 5-0 defeat that was as emphatic as it was humiliating.
It was the club's heaviest defeat in the Premier League and heaviest at the Craven Cottage in 40 years.
Jol brought the team out in a 4-1-4-1, with Danny Murphy operating between the midfield and the backline. Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembele, so accustomed to working in an attacking midfield role, played a more central role. Still given the go-ahead to attack, but also burdened with additional responsibilities in defense.
Essentially, this was a less experienced, less proven, less experienced team, with a handful of players in unfamiliar roles.
And they earned a point.
This feels all to similar to my write up for the Liverpool victory. Perhaps because it is so similar
The title for the aforementioned write up was "Ebbs, Flows And Locker Room Foes." The thesis was that strange things happen in soccer sometimes. Teams that look dead and buried awaken from their slumber. Great Escapes emerge seemingly out of nowhere. Others who couldn't lose quickly forget how to win.
A few days later, the trend turned to viewing results together, rather than individually. Drawing at Chelsea doesn't take away from the loss to Manchester United. Losing to Manchester United most definitely makes the draw at Chelsea even more gratifying.
Overall, Fulham are where they should be. The difficult December has featured peaks and valleys, but, with all of the club turmoil, a 2-1-2 record through five matches will suffice. Away to Norwich on Saturday will be a real test for the surprising Canaries, and a visit from Arsenal never guarantees points.
On the positive side, Frei looked a capable player once again. His diminutive size is more than made up for by his dribbling ability and zero hesitancy to cut inside. Dempsey and Dembele adapted well to their roles centrally, and were never bossed by the always impressive Chelsea midfield.
On the other hand, Murphy, given loads of time and space to operate, did so less than effectively. He saw a ton of the ball, more than anyone else, and his passing numbers on the surface look good, completing 75 of 92 attempts. But a large number of these were backwards and lateral. Nothing wrong with that either.
Where Murphy's strength lies is in his technical ability distributing the ball forward. This is where he lacked, telegraphing attempts to split the defense wide, and finding his efforts intercepted more often than normal. It wasn't a particularly bad day at the office, but it lacked something that we typically see.
Sa did little to sow his longterm worth. He'll continue have a role at Fulham, ideally as simply a squad player. Zamora is all but out the door and Johnson is likely as well. What was encouraging about this match was scoring and hanging with a strong side away from the Cottage without the presence of a talented striker.
That won't suffice for a season, but it did for one day.