Good to be Baek

Monday 4 February 2002

Following a poor first half display against Villa on Saturday, a tactical reorganisation after the break gave Fulham a much more solid look that allowed them to push on and put their opponents under some concerted pressure.

Instrumental in this was the introduction of Bjarne Goldbaek, who taking up his accustomed position on the right of midfield when he came on, not only gave the team more width, but also allowed full back Steve Finnan to get forward on a more regular basis.

Think about this situation for a moment - a player who has made only a handful of appearances is brought into a team clearly lacking in confidence, is played out of position and is then substituted at half time. He's on the bench for the next game and is then brought on after one of the most dismal performances of the season. It must be an incredibly difficult position to be in, but that was where Goldbaek found himself on Saturday, and it speaks volumes for the man that he was able to have such a positive effect on the match.

Speaking after the game, the Danish international preferred to concentrate on the team's performance rather than his own position.

"We didn't play the best," he said, "On the one hand it was quite good to get a point, but on the other hand we had some chances to win, so we've mixed feelings really.

"Even though in the second half we put them under more pressure and created chances, they still had opportunities and Edwin had to pull off some good saves, so all in all I suppose we should be quite pleased with the point. I thought that Villa looked technically very good today."

It was a bold move playing with three forwards from the start, but the more familiar line up in the second half with Sylvain Legwinski moving back to the holding role saw the team start to dominate the game and create a number of clear cut chances. Goldbaek insisted that tactical considerations should not hide what were some basic shortcomings of the team.

"We did change formations today, but I don't really think that's what it's about. I think we lost the ball too early a lot of times - as soon as we got it we lost it again and that always kept us under pressure. If we don't keep possession we are always going to make life difficult for ourselves."

Over the last few weeks, injuries have had a significant impact on team selection; John Collins, Sean Davis Luis Boa Morte and Lee Clark were all missing from the midfield against Villa. Did Goldbaek feel that has had an effect on the past couple of performances?

"I think it would be sad if we turned round and said this squad wasn't good enough," he said, "I don't think that's the problem - we have the players to do very well in this league. At the moment I suppose it could be a combination of things - confidence is always a big issue in every player's head, and some of the players have played in every game and perhaps they could be feeling that a bit. But I don't really know, it's very hard to put your finger on why a team goes through a spell when they don't play as well as you know they are able to.

"We didn't really get hold of the game like we know we can, but we had the most and the best chances by the finish, so it left us feeling disappointed in the end."

It's a measure of how far Fulham have come in recent years when both the players and the fans can come away disappointed after gaining a creditable draw against a very good looking Villa side. With a bit of luck in front of goal Fulham could have moved up to eighth place in the league, just two points behind Villa who are themselves sitting in a European spot, and everyone would have been happy.

You can sense the frustration that the team are only in the top half of the Premiership and not challenging for the title. Expectations are clearly very high and you can feel very strongly the determination from everyone involved with the Club to make Fulham the best there is. After Liverpool's thumping of Leeds of Sunday, the Whites officially now have the meanest defence in the Premiership - we're already halfway there!