LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Aaron Hughes of Fulham is challenged by Gabriel Agbonlahor of Aston Villa during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Aston Villa at Craven Cottage on August 13, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Martin Jol may prefer Philippe Senderos over Aaron Hughes in central defense. There's no concrete proof of this yet (only time will provide that), and Senderos has referred to himself more as an "option" than an answer, but we've already seen Senderos earn a handful of starts in the Europa League, and now the Premier League, at this early stage of the season centrally, forcing Hughes wide. Whether that's simply because Jol feels Hughes is the best option at right back, because Senderos is preferred centrally or if Jol simply wants to keep a squad rotation going is a different story.
What's interesting about Senderos is that he seems to be a player made more in the mold of Brede Hangeland than the relatively diminutive, cerebral Hughes. Strong and positionally aggressive, Senderos made it clear from the start that he able and more than willing to dribble up field in possession and attempt some aggressive passes. Sadly, he also seemed to go to ground fairly easily, something that irritated the erratic Gabriel Agbonlahor during the match.
Though tucked in a bit, Hughes played a passable game out wide while receiving support from midfield to deal with the pace of Agbonlahor. What seemed to hurt Fulham's backline was Hughes' tendency to fall back a little while Senderos was eager to step up. A few lanes were there to exploit but Villa and Darren Bent were unable to do so. There's really no way to be disappointed with Fulham's play at the back yesterday - Mark Schwarzer was rarely tested - but it's something worth keeping an eye on.
Riise was especially potent in the second half once Fulham gained some positional fluidity and Damien Duff found himself on the left flank with some frequency. When you add in Riise's potent left boot, marauding tendencies, and dangerous long throws, you have a player who should make a very distinct impact in attack this season, especially as the squad learns to read his runs. The question will be how his game matches up against the heavyweights of the Premier League and whether Fulham's midfield can provide enough cover when Riise's forays go astray.
Possession, meanwhile, was also in Fulham's favor at 54 to 46 percent. When you factor in that Villa had an advantage in possession, according to ESPN's gameday presentation, of 58-42 by the 27th minute mark of the match, it shows how much Fulham truly bossed the second half without reward.