Back to the drawing board for Fulham after Chelsea soundly wins at Craven Cottage 2-0 thanks to goals from Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka.
With the injury to Andy Johnson during the week, Clint Dempsey started up front for the Cottagers and Fulham dipped into their newly deepened midfield pool for Sunday’s Week Two fixture against Chelsea. One wonders if Hodgson didn’t get the idea from watching Dempsey play up front for the USA national team as recently as this past summer.
It is amazing how many world-class players Chelsea has. As Michael Ballack’s free kick sailed harmlessly over the crossbar in the 30th minute, Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard looked on from behind the ball, both fully capable from that range. Just as pundits begin wonder why neither of them took the kick, the realization of who missed comes into focus and you just have to smile in awe of the quality on the field.
All transfer season, Fulham looked as if they may not add to a squad that won a spot in Europa League. The signings of Damian Duff and Jonathan Greening this week from newly relegated Newcastle and West Brom respectively, have transformed a portentous transfer window into an impressive one.
Hodgson has added depth to a strong midfield and the two signings may be just what the squad needs to get through the added fixtures brought on by Europa League.
All the Cottagers need heading into the last week of the transfer season is another striker and Roy Hodgson has been quoted saying he is looking precisely for that.
Chelsea’s football experience began to weigh through on Fulham as the first half wore on. They dictated the flow of the game through their crisp passing and possession of the football, imposing themselves upon the defensive line.
Neither goalkeeper was tested for much of the first half, as Chelsea had the better of it with a few half chances and two shots that whistled past posts.
Until Drogba clinically finished past Schwarzer in the 37th after a nice combination buildup by Lampard, Anelka, and finally Drogba broke down the Fulham defense and beat the offside trap, as Hughes mistimed his step forward by the smallest fraction.
In the second half, Anelka showed off his ability, finding himself on the receiving end of a blistering Chelsea build-up, this time with Drogba making the decisive final pass, another perfectly timed through ball behind the Fulham backline. Anelka’s pace took him past Schwarzer as he touched it past the helpless keeper to complete a trademark Chelsea counter attack.
The story of the fixture was the combination play between Anelka and Drogba. Often thought that the two couldn’t play together once Anelka arrived from Bolton in 2007, those fears have disappeared in the early days of the new season.
Carlo Ancelotti’s new diamond formation has put two strikers up front in contrast to the old 4-3-3 that the team played during Jose Morinho’s era and through the four coaches in the two years since his departure.
With Anelka and Drogba playing so well together, Chelsea will be tough for anyone to beat and have a legitimate shot at some serious hardware this season.