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Tottenham’s FA Cup Exit Could Be A Blessing In Disguise As Fulham Show Their True Potential


Tottenham’s travelling fans will have been looking forward to their FA Cup Fourth Round tie against Fulham in what promised to be a very exciting and closely contested battle. What happened however showed the changing fortunes of two teams enduring a period of transition, with Fulham coming out 4-0 winners on the day. Could Spurs’ exit from the FA Cup be a blessing in disguise? Will Fulham see this as an excellent opportunity to get to get to Wembley, given the Fifth Round Draw?

Before focusing on Spurs’ frailties in this afternoon’s cup clash, I would like to credit Fulham’s performance by looking at what they did well, as well as looking at the bigger picture at Craven Cottage. Mark Hughes has always been one to play his strongest side in Cup Competitions and this afternoon was certainly no different. He set up a side brimming with confidence at the moment, which when you look at their league position may surprise many. The in-form Moussa Dembele put in an outstanding performance, showing the skill and ability he has as a player relatively new to the English game. The pace of Andrew Johnson and Clint Dempsey  caused Tottenham so many problems; particularly when it came to winning the Midfield battles in the early stages. A physical and hard-working Fulham side would have been licking their lips when they saw Tottenham’s lightweight Midfield on the team sheet.

Danny Murphy was one of Fulham’s finest performers on the day, showing composure from the spot on two occasions in the first 13 minutes. He continued to lead as Fulham’s captain throughout the game, at least right up until he was substituted in the 74th minute. Finally, a noteworthy performance from John Pantsil capped off a fine afternoon for Fulham at Craven Cottage.

Undoubtedly, Mark Hughes’ side are really beginning to take shape, particularly when playing at home. Whilst any football fan out there will be aware of the problems Fulham have away from home, they are showing improvement week-by-week. Craven Cottage is more and more becoming one of those Premier League grounds that no team will want to visit. The FA Cup draw rewarded Fulham’s victory with a home draw against either Bolton or Wigan; a tie that they will expect to win given their Home form.

To finish with Fulham’s changing fortunes, I would expect to see the London club climbing the Premier League table in the coming weeks. Whilst they will of course need to improve away from home, their home form should see them heading in the right direction. Fulham will also fancy themselves to go further in the FA Cup; which is the only remaining competition they stand a chance of winning (given Premier League position and Carling Cup exit)! I would predict that Fulham’s inventive and tireless work ethic on the pitch will see them reach the FA Cup Semi-Final’s; and depending on the draw perhaps beyond that. Finally, with players like Brede Hangeland, Danny Murphy, Clint Dempsey, Moussa Dembele and new arrival Steve Sidwell showing such excellent form, Fulham fans will be looking forward to a positive end to the season.

So to Tottenham, who will want to quickly forget events at Craven Cottage this afternoon before some of the colossal fixtures they have coming up. Harry Redknapp set up an attacking side in today’s FA Cup fixture, with what seemed a 4-3-3 system spearheaded by out-of-form Striker Jermain Defoe. Aaron Lennon and Rafael van der Vaart provided the width for Spurs, playing ahead of the aforementioned lightweight midfield of Luka Modric, Steven Pienaar and Sandro.

Spurs as an attacking force were simply non-existent throughout the 90 minutes, given how early events unravelled at Craven Cottage. The Spurs defence however will be put under the spotlight after a simply catastrophic first half. It all began to go downhill when Spurs fans saw Michael Dawson ‘stitch up’ Alan Hutton with a woeful pass, which lead to the Scot bringing down Clint Dempsey inside the box after only 11 minutes. Only two minutes later and Dawson’s afternoon went from bad to worse, with a shambolic piece of skill resulting in him bringing down Moussa Dembele in the box and seeing a red card as a result. Michael Dawson’s form in the last two seasons has been very good at Tottenham, but today’s match, one off or not, will undoubtedly destroy the confidence he has built up over recent months.

Redknapp brought on William Gallas to try and stop to avalanche of Fulham attacks, but in spite of this Fulham again exposed Tottenham’s frailties at the back, this time from a corner which allowed Brede Hangeland to waltz unannounced into the six-yard box to prod home Fulhams third. The only goal that Tottenham could do nothing about was Moussa Dembele’s solo effort, which was as good as any goal you will see this season.

I believe that Tottenham’s exit from the FA Cup might turn out to be a blessing is disguise. Redknapp has a decent squad at White Hart Lane, but given the injury problems of late he may be relieved to scratch another potential cup game off of the fixture list, and focus on the Premier League top four and the Champions League. Tottenham have three important Premier League matches to face in the next 12 days, which are very closely followed by a huge Champions League Fixture with AC Milan at the San Siro. Let us not forget the fantastic season Spurs have had to date, which has shown and continues to show tremendous promise.

Whether or not todays match was simply an off day for Tottenham, fans and coaching staff alike will have been very alarmed by their defensive performance. To me, Harry Redknapp seems to adopt a philosophy that neglects a focus on defensive strength, but rather one which relies heavily on attacking ability. In essence, he seems not to worry about how many goals Spurs will concede, but simply relies on them scoring more than their opponents. Whilst it may seem that this is very logical, it has not happened that way on too many occasions this season. With only 24 hours left of the January Transfer window, I would hope that Harry is looking with eager eyes for a Centre-Back to add some strength and rigidity to Spurs shaky back line. Gareth Bale’s absence due to injury today was undoubtedly a big miss, but one which was not the reason for Spurs downfall.

We all know the attacking strength that Tottenham have, but on occasions like today they had little chance to show this. Fulham worked hard to keep the ball away from Tottenham; tiring them minute by minute as Redknapp’s frustration grew. What it takes on occasions like this is a solid defensive performance that all too often eludes Spurs.

To finish, are their any names in particular you would like to see arrive at White Hart Lane in the next 24 hours? In your opinion, can Spurs continue to perform poorly at the back if they are to qualify for next season’s Champions League? Meanwhile, do you agree that Fulham are going places, and that Mark Hughes is building a side ready for an assault on the Premier League’s top half? Over to you as devoted readers!




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