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Premier League

Sunday 17th September 2006

After last season's relative performances, you might not have expected Spurs to be facing this game as a crunch match this early in the season.  Having lost only nine games last season, Spurs are already three down and must put together an epic run for the rest of the campaign to emulate what they achieved last season.  Fulham meanwhile have won two and drawn one in a good start to the season, including a win at St. James' Park last time out.

Without making a huge splash in the transfer market, Chris Coleman has made some buys to fit into the Fulham ream and unfortunately for him, the two most influential signings will not be available to him.  Wayne Routledge will no be able to play at his real home under Premiership loan rules, which is just as well, as he appears to be playing well for them.  Having suffered a painful and distressing injury up at Newcastle when Scott Parker fell on his knee, Jimmy Bullard needs surgery in America on his ligaments and will not be able to play again this season.  The cheeky Cockney was having a good spell for his new club after signing from Wigan Athletic, but this blow means the midfield will be a little light, with Steed Malbranque having joined Spurs after a long dispute with the manager.

Luis Boa Morte is still there and the dead snake is a difficult opponent.  That is just as much for his temperament and his theatrics as much as his pace and trickery.  Having been linked with him during the summer, Spurs might have to put the knowledge of his play that attracted them to good use and be alert to the runs he makes.  Bullard's injury coincides with the return of Claus Jensen, who is a classy midfielder, but one who is now entering the veteran stage.  He passes the ball smoothly and can strike a good shot from a moving or dead ball, so will need to be tracked back and he is more than capable of providing service to the forwards.  The huge presence of Papa Diop in midfield was in doubt after he limped off at Newcastle, but he is expected to take his place in midfield as the ball winner and distributor, alongside another terrier in Michael Brown.  A familiar face, Browny did a solid job for Tottenham, but seeking more security than Spurs could offer, he moved to Craven Cottage.  Beloved by Jol, he doesn't stop pestering the opposition and is a better player than some give him credit for.  Not a Carrick, but an effective passer, Michael can be the sort of destroyer that teams need in midfield.

The top two are likely to be the little Icelander Heidar Helguson and Brian McBride, the giant American offensive player, with Coleman having the option of bringing on Collins John.  Helguson and McBride will give a little and large partnership for the Tottenham defence to deal with, with the Yank a handful as he is strong and good in the air, but can also hold the ball up well.  His diminutive partner is nippy, a good runner with the ball and has the nous to be in the right place.  Both will provide different problems for the Spurs back four and Dutchman John is a bullish player who will use his body strength to test the Tottenham defence.  Another alternative is Tomas Radzinski, the former Everton man, who can also play in midfield.  He's also good running with the ball and possesses a good strike of the ball, so would need to be closed down quickly when in range of the goal.

The defence has been a bit of a problem for Fulham in recent years.  A lack of experience and some players who were too old provided a mix which didn't work for the Cottagers.  Now they seem to have managed to get a better blend, but there are still question marks over some of their back four.  Zat Knight is highly rated, but has occasional lapses of concentration and for a big man, he loses the benefit of his height when getting in poor positions.  Liam Rosenior is a rising star and hopes to make the England squad, but I think there is a way to go before that happens.  A good tackler and blessed with pace, he has the attributes, but needs to apply himself to what is happening when he is not involved to make sure he is not caught out.  Vet Ian Pearce is still turning out for Fulham and he brings experience and a reliability to the back four.  Having said that, he may find his timing out as he does get caught giving away penalties or getting sent off, so perhaps Coleman might go with the more rugged Carlos Bocanegra, who will be put up against Mido.  On the left will be Franck Queudrue, who was sent off on his last visit to the Lane.  An attacking full-back, his summer signing has brought more experience to the defence and also given them an outlet from the back.  Good at set-pieces ... both getting on the end of them and taking them, he is more dangerous going forward than defending at times.  David Hasslehoff fan Moritz Volz is likely to take a place on the bench over Phillipe Christanval, who has rarely had a run in the side since joining from France last summer.  Strong and cultured, his presence in the defence this season has given them a classier look, but perhaps he might not be risked in a London derby such as this.

When at SCBC, Antti Niemi was regarded as a class act. Since joining Fulham he has been sound rather than spectacular and has provided a reliable keeper, but with the defence in front of him, sometimes exposing him, he has had a busy time in the last campaign.  Jan Lustavka a young keeper from is the back up goalie and he has played for Shakhtar Donetsk before coming on loan to London.  With Tony Warner having left to go to Leeds United on loan, Jan Drobny's contract was cancelled and Mark Crossley getting on in years, the club needed a young deputy and this is the man they have chosen.

Spurs will have a bit more confidence having beaten Slavia Prague on Thursday, but will have to raise their game to get a similar result against the Cottagers.  Without Lennon, Spurs will rely on Jenas to put in another good performance on the right, with the more combative midfielder probably consisting of Tainio on the left and Zokora inside with the Dutchman Davids.  The back four seem set in stone now with Assou-Ekotto, King, Dawson and Chimbonda being the first choice line-up and up front, I expect Defoe to continue in attack alongside Mido id Berbatov is not fit.  Huddlestone will return to the bench, but I reckon he will feature at some stage.

The Fulham season started dreadfully with four goals hitting their net in the first twenty minutes at Old Trafford, so if Tottenham can find the tempo they played with last season early in this match, it might be the right time to strike at Fulham.

With home advantage, I expect Spurs to go on to win, but Fulham will have their moments and it will be a match that Tottenham will have to work hard to get a result from ...

PREDICTION : -  Tottenham Hotspur  3    Fulham  1

For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.


TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : -  Aaron Lennon (knee); Dimitar Berbatov (groin); - (-); 

FULHAM :  Wayne Routledge (not eligible as on loan from Spurs); Jimmy Bullard (knee); Ahmad Erlich (knee);  Simon Elliott (calf);  - (-); 


Match of the Day 2  (BBC 2) - 22.15 - 23.25 (highlights)
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Tottenham Hotspur   0    Fulham   0      (Half-time score : 0-0)

Premier League
Venue : White Hart Lane  
Sunday 17th September 2006
Kick Off :  3.00 p.m.
Crowd :   36,131
Referee :  Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear)
Weather :  -  Sunny, hot
Teams : - 
Tottenham Hotspur :


King (c)

Murphy (Davids 80)
Tainio (Defoe 70)


Unused subs:
Y.P. Lee

Fulham :



Boa Morte (c) (Radzinski 77)

McBride (Helguson 66)
John (Runstrom 82)

Unused subs: 
Claus Jensen

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of http://www.colours-of-football.com)
Tottenham Hotspur

Scorers : -  
Tottenham Hotspur




Cards : -  
Tottenham Hotspur  

Chimbonda (diving) 43
Mido (handball) 49
Murphy (foul) 67 



Boa Morte (foul) 44
Bocanegra (foul) 51


Match Report : -  
Comparing results to those of last season, so far we have lost three points against Everton, one at Old Trafford and now two against Fulham.  The 0-0 draw showed Spurs are still mis-firing and are desperate to find their goal-scoring touch, as we have a not so grand total of two in five matches after this goal-less showing.

With a Fulham side, who looked less likely to score than us, the game should have been a winnable one, but the lack of movement and clinical passing lead to few clear cut chances being carved out.  Mido struck the post from a narrow angle and Niemi saved well from Assou-Ekotto and Defoe, before a ball did beat him from a far post Chimbonda header, but Boa Morte was there to head off the line.

With all the chances and corners Spurs had, they rarely threatened the goal seriously, leaving the Fulham keeper with a relatively quiet afternoon.  His defence in front of him did well and the Cottagers pulled as many midfielders back to help them out too.  This provided safety in numbers, which Spurs lacked the wit and pace to break down.  Too often the ball was held up and knocked back, without the outlet of Aaron Lennon to speed down the wing.

It was a little disjointed in approach from Tottenham, but some sloppy play they demonstrated might have left them even worse off.  In the first minute Jermaine Jenas gave a loose pass, much to the groans of the Spurs crowd, then Didier Zokora had to nick the ball away from Queudrue just as he was about to shoot.  Then the defence backed off Brown, leaving Michael Dawson to block his shot.  Then Clattenburg (yes ... that Clattenburg) failed to call a foul on Zokora and John got a shot on goal, which Robbo got down for.

I thought that perhaps the UEFA Cup tie and the travelling had taken it's toll, but in a prolonged spell of pressure, Spurs started to rack up the corner count, but couldn't get past the massed ranks of the Fulham back line.  Keane had a volley blocked, then was beaten to the ball after he chested down Jenas' pass.  Mido spun onto Chimbonda's cross and his shot was blocked, while Tainio hit a volley well wide as Spurs looked for a break-through.  It nearly came when Jeans put a low ball into the edge fo the area to Tainio and his swinging shot was dragged wide of the right hand post by a yard or two, when he could have caught out Niemi if it had been on target.

Dawson was making a nuisance of himself at set-pieces and missed narrowly when he had a shot from Jenas' low cross and then headed a free-kick from the same midfielder wide.  While many see only bad in Jenas, he was having an effective match on the right wing, producing another quality cross which found Benoit at the far post, where he cut inside onto his right foot and hit a low shot that Antti Niemi kept out with his chest.

Clattenburg had decided the time had come to dish out a few cards.  Chimbonda fell over as he ran through and Clattenburg showed him a yellow for diving, which I think refs should do if they decide there had nto been contact ... as long as he is consistent over the season, I will be happy with that.  To even things up within a minute, he had cautioned Boa Morte. 

In my view Clattenburg is one fo the poorest refs in the Premiership.  Some issues that reinforce my view are ...
His lack of yellow card for Queudrue pushing Zokora right in front of him
Letting Boa Morte walk off towards the half-way line, when being substituted, instead of leaving the pitch by the nearest point.  I am afraid I don't pay good money to see someone walk fifty yards ... even if he did have a fractured cheekbone
His desire to play advantage (which is a good thing), but he is inept in not being able to do it in practice (or the real thing come to that)
The way he holds yellow cards up to the recipient ... it's like he has just picked them out of a smelly toilet as he deigns to touch them with just two fingers

He did blow the whistle for half-time well and the two teams trooped off for their respective team-talks.  Did they go something like this ... ?

Jol "Carry on playing like you are and the goals will come.  Get the ball out wide and aim for Mido's head."

Coleman "Get everyone back behind the ball.  If we get to into their half, take it to the corner flag."

And so it proves, but Spurs could not get the goal.  They got a yellow card when Mido dived in to try and head a cross in, but stuck his hand out and Clattenburg considered that it was a deliberate attempt to cheat.  To balance things up, a minute later Bocanegra was booked for a cynical foul on Murphy.

When Fulham broke down the right wing in the 54th minute, it was like Andy Johnson's goal all over again.  However, this time Dawson made a timely tackle to stop McBride getting there first.  When play moved to the Fulham goal, Tainio floated a cross out to the left and Mido ran in and lashed his shot fiercely at goal.  Unfortunately, the shot bounced back off the post, with Niemi looking shocked.

A confrontation between Zokora and Queudrue happened when the ex-Boro man declared that our Ivorian had thrown himself, rather than the defender putting a leg out to impair his progress.  Defoe touched the ball aside to Assou-Ekotto, with the left back's left-footed shot flying not too far over the top.

After 66 minutes, Clattenburg showed a yellow card to Danny Murphy for his foul on Rosenior.  This time Clattenburg decided not to even things up.

Robinson was nearly caught out, when Queudrue struck a 45 yard free-kick towards one side of the goal, as Paul had drifted to the other side and had it been on target, I am not sure the England number one would have got to it.

As the game went on, the chances became fewer for Tottenham, with Defoe hitting a free-kick well wide, but then the best opportunity, when a long Keane corner was headed back at the far post by Pascal Chimbonda, with Boa Morte rising to head the ball off the goal-line, when it looked like it might creep in near the top corner.  The Portuguese player ended up with a fractured cheekbone, which was a shame.  Jermain Defoe tested the Fulham goalkeeper again, when he hit an early shot to force Niemi to dive low at his post.

The goalie's task was easier as the clocked ticked towards injury time, when Dawson rose high to head at goal from just on the edge fo the box, but could not test the Finn.  Then it was Robinson's turn to keep the ball out.  In the 88th minute, Radzinski's left wing run went unchallenged and his square pass to Volz was struck cleanly and firmly, bringing out a good save to beat the ball out by Robbo.  However, without goals of our own, we will always be susceptible to the late effort that might take all the points off us.

The final agony was deep into injury time, as Zokora put a free-kick to the far post and King jumped t o head the ball, but only succeeded in taking it away from Chimbonda, who was coming in behind him with a good run on the ball.

It proved to be a frustrating afternoon in more ways than one.  Michael Brown came back to run around knocking people over, get in people's face and to take the ball into the corner flag near the end of the match.  Spurs' midfield lacked a cohesive blend.  Assou-Ekotto moved up to take the left side passes, while the others changed places well, but there was not the fluidity that we saw last season.  I thought Jenas had a good game, as did Zokora.  Up front, both Keano and Mido struggled, but the defence stood firm and played pretty well as a unit.

With an away trip to Anfield next up, it will be another test of how we can bounce back.

The Heathrow Spur


Reaction : -



0-0 vs. Fulham is another poor performance.
Such expectations for 06/07 and it's turning out to be a damp squib already. Top 5 looks highly unlikely now.
Was last season a blip - as sides turn us over @ White Hart Lane again.
The new signings have impressed me and I know it takes time to gel. BUT ...
4 international strikers who've failed to score in 4 games (out of 6) this season !
A lot of huff and puff in midfield, but where's the flair ??
5 of our next 6 games are tough - we could be in the bottom 6 a quarter of the way into the season.
And I'm not too fussed about the UEFA - a Mickey Mouse cup for Channel 5.
Big concerns - and a big job for Jol. We need a turnaround fast.

Kevin Coaker

What on earth was Jol thinking when he dumped the excellent Huddlestone out of the
side for the disappointing Murphy ?

I know that I've been calling for Murphy to be given a chance, but not at the expense of the Thud, not after playing so well for us last Thursday.  That was a mistake, as the shackles were back on Zokora against Fulham and he wasn't near as effective as in Prague.  Murphy is a good player (or was?) but we could have another Tim Sherwood situation on our hands, where we've got a player that's done well elsewhere, but just can't get it together at Spurs.  I hope I'm wrong and that it's just ring-rust, but he didn't look very good out there on Sunday, from the little I saw, and his influence wasn't obvious.  Jenas seemed to be making more of a difference and that says it all really.

Tainio toiled, as per usual, but did bugger all else, isolated on the left, it all seemed to pass him by.  He's definitely not the answer for that position but, unfortunately, the man that might be happens to be out injured for a further month.

The defence is great, as is Robbo, but what is up with our attack.  Mido, despite having legitimate excuses, just does not look the same player, which is worrying.  Even more so than Mido, Keane has slipped so far back from the quality of his performances last year that Jol simply must dump him now and recall Defoe, who looks like the only one that knows where the goal is.  I hope that Berbatov recovers for the Liverpool game, as we could do with that extra striking option. 

Crucially, Jol must reinstall Thud in the holding role that he was meant to inherit upon Carrick's
departure.  Zokora has the lungs and legs to be our Gerrard, the box-to-box destroyer, so needs somebody capable playing behind him.  That man is Huddlestone.

Subject to any further injuries we may incur, the side that should face Liverpool is: Robinson, Chimbonda, King, Dawson, Assou-Ekotto, Jenas, Huddlestone, Zokora, Ziegler, Berbatov, and Defoe. Subs: Keane, Cerny, Mido, Tainio, and Davenport.





Other scores this weekend :
Bolton Wanderers 0 Middlesbrough 0 Saturday
Charlton Athletic 0 Portsmouth 1 Saturday


2 Wigan Athletic 2 Saturday
Sheffield United 1 Reading 2 Saturday
Watford 0 Aston Villa 0 Saturday
Chelsea 1 Liverpool 0 Sunday
Blackburn Rovers 4 Manchester City 2 Sunday
Manchester United 0 Arsenal 1 Sunday
West Ham United 0 Newcastle United 2 Sunday
Other scores this midweek :
Liverpool 2 Newcastle United 0 Wednesday



League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Portsmouth 5 4 1 0 9 0 13 +9
2 Manchester United 5 4 0 1 11 3 12 +8
3 Chelsea 5 4 0 1 9 3 12 +6
4 Everton 5 3 2 0 10 4 11 +6
5 Aston Villa 5 2 3 0 6 3 9 +3
6 Reading 5 3 0 2 7 6 9 +1
7 Bolton Wanderers 5 2 2 1 4 3 8 +1
8 Fulham 5 2 2 1 5 7 8 -2
9 Liverpool 5 2 1 2 5 6 7 -1
10 Newcastle United 5 2 0 3 5 7 6 -2
11 Arsenal 4 1 2 1 3 3 5 0
12 West Ham United 5 1 2 2 6 7 5 -1
13 Blackburn Rovers 5 1 2 2 5 8 5 -3
14 Middlesbrough 5 1 2 2 5 9 5 -4
15 Wigan Athletic 4 1 1 2 4 5 4 -1
16 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 5 1 1 3 2 5 4 -3
17 Manchester City 5 1 1 3 3 8 4 -5
18 Charlton Athletic 5 1 0 4 4 9 3 -5
19 Watford 5 0 2 3 3 6 2 -3
20 Sheffield United 5 0 2 3 2 6 2 -4



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