This was a winnable game that ended in a goalless draw with an equal measure of positives and negatives. Defensively Fulham were untroubled while the build-up play was flowing nicely but there was literally no end product. A draw was likely so I'm not too surprised.
Predicting Fulham's starting selection has been tricky lately due to several unavailable players; also Martin Jol is attempting to alternate the striking partnership of Ruiz and Berbatov with another centre-forward. Today we saw two January arrivals feature in their debuts as Manolev and Frimpong replaced Riether and Baird who were apparently ill. Surprisingly Emanuelson didn't start, but he made his second appearance off the bench to add the spark in midfield.
We saw the pattern of play that has been a common theme for Fulham this season, particularly against teams in a similar grading. There were plenty of safe passes to feet that contributed to a high percentage of possession but there were minimal chances created. It felt that Fulham were far too casual compared to the home performances.
The team were in different wavelengths, for instance, every pass went towards the right flank as Berbatov and Ruiz seemed to be an easy route for them to be creative. They tried to thread passes towards Rodallega, who was largely isolated on his own, and he wasn't good enough to dribble beyond defenders. Duff and Riise were rarely involved in the first-half and their crosses into the box could've been the cutting edge in this game.
Norwich stepped up their game in the second-half but the goalless draw just felt inevitable. Lately Berbatov hasn't been immune to any criticism and when results are not positive his casual body language doesn't win fans over. I don't buy into that but instead the problem seems to be no limits with his freedom on the pitch. Sometimes you wish he stays closer to goal and concentrate on being clinical allowing Ruiz to take control. They're both excellent playmakers but it should be a creator/finisher partnership.
My initial worry was that Manolev was going to be exposed defensively but credit goes to Ruiz who tracked back and covered him; I thought the later was going to be burnt out but he played until ninety minutes. Frimpong was anchoring the back four and seemed enthusiastic to receive the ball and spread passes out wide. Sidwell put another big shift in to the best of his ability.
It was probably the dullest game I've watched Fulham feature in, but amazingly there are plenty of talking points on and off the pitch. I'm staying optimistic as I've seen good things lately as Martin Jol has fixed several problems and hasn't crumbled under pressure. Stoke City at home next, we must exploit these winnable games.