The Opta statistics from Saturday’s game at Craven Cottage make for much kinder reading than they did from Fulham’s previous match in the Barclays Premier League. The Whites may have lost to Manchester United by the same margin that they were beaten at Southampton, but Martin Jol’s men mustered 14 more attempts at the weekend than were managed at St Mary’s at the end of October.
Ashkan Dejagah was handed a first Premier League appearance of the season, and the Iranian’s attacking instincts out wide are evident in the average player position graphic. The winger was the second most advanced Fulham player, while Dimitar Berbatov remained in the number nine role for the majority of the match. Dejagah’s presence in the team meant a more central role for Bryan Ruiz and – with a playmaker tucked in behind him – Berbatov did not need to drop as deep as he has done in the past in order to get involved in the play.
The 15 efforts by Fulham compared to United’s 10 at the weekend suggests that the home side were vastly improved from a creative standpoint, with six of those attempts on target – not counting Darren Bent’s looping header that landed on the crossbar which would have brought the game back to 3-2 with five minutes plus stoppage time remaining.
There wasn’t a great deal between the two sides when it came to distribution, either, with the Reds just about dominating the possession stakes (53 per cent), while there was just one per cent difference between the two teams when it came to pass accuracy (Fulham 83, United 84). And although David Moyes’ men played a greater number of passes in total – 66 more than the Whites, to be precise – a larger proportion of Fulham’s balls played were attacking, with 60.5 per cent off all attempted passes considered offensive in comparison to United’s 56.3.
In addition, Fulham’s 15 key passes dwarves Man United’s seven, with the home side also delivering seven more crosses than the champions – with only a three per cent inferior cross completion ratio. The fact that the visitors were forced into 40 clearances only reinforces the notion that the Whites caused them a variety of problems throughout the game.
The midfield did a fine job of preventing our more illustrious guests from over-creating in the centre of the park, with Steve Sidwell, Scott Parker and Pajtim Kasami responsible for 14 of the total 25 tackles made by a man in white. In fact, only one attempt to rob the ball was unsuccessful, leaving Fulham with a 96 per cent tackle success rate, in comparison to United’s 80.
The average player position graphic also demonstrates how Kieran Richardson acted as an additional midfielder when his side was going forward, as his average position was just as advanced as Sidwell and Parker. That allowed Kasami to drift in-field safe in the knowledge that Richardson’s running down the flank would ensure the Whites weren’t light on numbers down the left-hand side.
The former United man enjoyed a solid game against his former employers on Saturday and, in fact, had more attempts on goal than anyone else on the pitch, bar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney, who had matched Richardson’s three. The Fulham left-back also claimed an assist for playing the ball out to Alexander Kačaniklić who then cut inside and fired beyond David De Gea – via the boot of Rooney – to grab his first goal of the season in the 65th minute. In total, Richardson had 76 touches of the ball – a stat bettered only by Sascha Riether (89), Nemanja Vidic (78) and Rooney (80), while he also had a decent pass accuracy of 86 per cent.