European Football Round-Up // December 10

Bayern score a whopping seven goals away at Bremen in the Bundesliga while it was goals galore again in Serie A as Napoli draw 3-3 at home to Udinese. It was the cup in Spain as Real Madrid came unstuck against the lowly Xatavia, though not to forget mentioning PSG who continue to look formidable in France as they won 5-0 at home to Nantes.

 

When Pep Guardiola was appointed the manager-to-be in of Bayern Munich for the following season I wrote about how he faced the task of ‘reinventing the wheel’. When I wrote that, Bayern were in the quarter finals of the Champions League, top of the Bundesliga and also still in the German Cup. A little over four months later Guardiola’s task looked a whole lot harder.

Bayern had won the Champions League, won the Bundesliga, and won the German Cup. Not only had they won the treble, but most notably they decimated Pep’s previous club Barcelona which sent shivers down the spines of the millions round the world who had been captivated by Barcelona’s space-age tiki-taka football the past four years.

Such success would be impossible to top, certainly in one season. Not only that, but as Bayern destroyed Barcelona and seemingly their possession based football, many questioned what Guardiola could bring to thing new all-conquering Bayern side. There were questions whether Pep would over-complicate a side who had found a formula which couldn’t be matched. The summer signings of Mario Gotze and Thiago Alcantara insinuated Pep wanted to bring some Catalonian inspired football to Bavaria.

Fifteen games into the 2013/2014 season having played 15 league games Bayern sit on top of the Bundesliga having won 13 games and drawn two, scoring 39 goals and only conceding seven. They’re already ten points clear of last season’s European and domestic runners-up Borussia Dortmund (who have since dropped to third place) and four points clear of high-flying Bayer Leverkusen. Not only that, they top their Champions League group having won every game.  As for the questions regarding the football he would bring to Bayern, well, it has been a fusion of lat season’s dominant counter attacking, and his tiki-taka possession based football we all seen from his Barcelona side. If I could give one example of how Pep’s innate genius has improved this Bayern side, is the curious case of Phillip Lahm.

Lahm, who despite being right-footed has been the best left-back in the world for the past decade has been moved to play in defensive midfield replacing one of Europe’s best players last season in Javi Martinez. Many scoffed at the tactical decision initially, including me. Nevertheless the decision has been inspired, as Lahm has mirrored the performances of Sergio Busquetts for Barcelona. Lahm now sets the tempo for the best side in Europe: the fulcrum of the side. A full-back: genius.  Maybe Guardiola won’t top last season’s trophy haul but he’s going about equalling it the right way, that’s for sure.

I guess all of that was a prelude to the news that on the weekend Bayern travelled to Werder Bremen and won 7-0. There was a double from Robben who at one point looked to be likely to be sold in the summer. Mandzukic was brought back into the side and scored,  there was also an o.g. from Bremen’s Lukimya, a goal for Gotze and even one for centre-back Van Buyten. It has got to the point where the number of goals Bayern score is the benchmark of how well they do, not simply if they win. If Bayern’s dominance is benchmarked by number of goals scored, it’s a little different for Sami Hyypia’s Bayer Leverkusen side who have found themselves within four points of the Bavarian giants as they edge closer to the winter break.

Bayer Leverkusen travelled to Borussia Dortmund on Saturday which frankly Dortmund needed to win should they want to keep any hopes of winning the Bundesliga this season. The game was tight and Bayer won with a solitary first-half goal from attacking midfielder Son. The victory puts Leverkusen on 37 points after 15 games and four points within Bayern who, quite clearly, look Europe’s best side by a distance. Not bad for Hyypia who’s only been managing less than two years.

Elsewhere in Germany there were wins for Wolfsburg who travelled to Freiburg winning 3-0 which leaves them in fifth, behind ‘Gladbach who hosted Schalke and won 2-1 which keeps them on course for European football next season.

In the ever-so boring Serie A this weekend there were two 3-3 draws for Napoli-Udinese and Inter-Parma and another draw for AC who travelled to Livorno in which a Balotelli brace made the game 2-2. Juve as ever looked like a mechanical winning machine as they travelled to Bologna and won 2-0.

Ac’s 2-2 draw leaves them in ninth place and a whopping 22 points behind Serie A leader Juventus who look on-course for a third successive Scudetto. Not bad for a side who only a few seasons previously were relegated to the Serie B for their part played in the Caliopoli scandal. If Galliani and co need answers surely they need to look to Turin where solid management and player acquisition, without an extortionate outlay on funds, has saw them look as formidable and healthy as they have in quite some time.

Napoli’s 3-3 draw with Udinese leaves Rafa’s men in third, now eight points behind Juve. Roma however, got back to winning ways with a Destro inspired victory as they saw off Fiorentina 2-1 which leaves the side from the Capital only three points behind Juve having won 11 and drawn four of their 15 games played this season. Totti’s return to fitness sends signals to Turin that Roma will surely run Juve close for the Scudetto this season.

Inter’s 3-3 draw at home to Parma was another mad-hatter performance which in a roundabout way shows their improvements from last season and their remaining deficiencies. Despite containing a leaky defence, they’re scoring goals and looking more fluid in attack than last year with Guarin at the heart of all things’ positive for Inter. The draw leaves Internazionale in fourth position, four points behind Napoli.

In France the big news came from Lille who finally conceded a goal after an 11 game shutout which saw them overtake Monaco as the best side that won’t get near PSG. Lille travelled to Bordeaux and lost 1-0 which saw them drop to third place behind Monaco. Monaco hosted Ajaccio and won 1-0 which leaves them within two points of leaders PSG who beat Sochaux 5-0 in another romping performance from Blanc’s side.

In Spain this weekend it was the Copa Del Rey and literally nothing interesting happened. Real Madrid could only muster a 0-0 draw with lower league side Xatavia while Barcelona looked as poor as you can in a 4-1 victory over Cartagena (who?). Diego Simeone’s Atletico side won again (surprise surprise) as they beat Saint Andreu (again – who?) 4-0. In one of the few all La Liga clashes Celta hosted Bilbao and won 1-0 which leaves them in good stead for the second leg to be played in the coming weeks.

Kevin Kelly

Confessions of a Football Hipster

Only a few months ago, I became aware that I fall into the category of being a football hipster. I was horrified to learn that I was one of those people that I despise. Football hipsters have always been around. They are easily identifiable. They wear obscure jerseys (River Plate anyone?) and adore unusual players who traditionally shouldn’t be popular. But just what makes someone want to be a football hipster and why am I one myself? I wish I knew. This piece will explain the traits and methods of a football hipster.

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The internet has been a major catalyst in more and more people becoming football hipsters. The ability to create a blog has driven the trend more than anything else. Blogging has given football fans who don’t even have an opinion a chance to mimic the opinion of someone who has an one. Everyone is a journalist now, but not your everyday hack, people specialise in the most obscure football subjects. You’re thinking La Liga? No chance, more like blogs on Romanian left backs from the 1970’s.

Twitter is another prime reason for the rise of football hipsters. Along with blogging, twitter helps drive the fad. Everyone must know everything, denounce the norm, be one step ahead of the trend. Social media creates a platform for anyone to talk about how bad their team played. Maybe it’s just that now, because hipsters are expressing their views to a larger audience that people are now more aware of football hipsters.

Many view hipsters as a plague on the game, including me. Unaware to the fact that I am a football hipster, I slate them at any given opportunity. It’s odd, I despise football hipsters, yet I portray so many of the traits. Irish football website Balls.ie recently wrote an article on the top 25 football hipster traits. Some of my favourites were; ‘Buy Inverting The Pyramid. Read it cover to cover. Take shorthand notes to remember important terms like catenaccio, regista and trequartista,’ ‘Set up a blog. Write 4000 word pieces on how Falcao scores and stuff. Tweet every football journalist on twitter and ask for a RT’, or my personal favourite ‘Assert that this Barcelona team is decent but nowhere near as good as Sacchi’s Milan’.

One of the more recent hipster movements was when Real Oviedo began selling shares online. This gave football hipsters a chance to be different to your average fan. They now had the opportunity to part own a football club. I was one who bought shares in Real Oviedo being unaware that I was following a hipster movement. Am I ashamed? No, I merely embrace the life of a football hipster.

As with any trend, there are different severity levels of how far people are willing to push to be individualistic. They refuse to watch the Premier League or La Liga simply because they are too mainstream. Instead, they watch the Belgian League and the Brazilian league, or the Brasileirao as they’ll point out its proper name. Gladly, this is not something that I have to concede to admitting. (I’m not that bad, yet!)

There once was a time when having a Napoli jersey sufficed as being obscure, but not any more. Sydney FC or even a Corinthians jersey would qualify as a hipster jersey these days. (Thus why Pitchside follows Sydney these days) Hipsters are growing to be more ridiculous all the time and are becoming more extreme by the day, or so it seems.

Football hipsters love the Bundesliga and say that it is far better than a league in England or Spain. Atletic Bilbao is another favourite for a football hipster. In fact anything that is not the norm is a hipster movement in my view. That’s not saying that individualism isn’t good, it’s just that trying to be different for the sake of it is just plain stupid.

The only exception to the rule that hipsters favour things aren’t the most popular is Lionel Messi. Even hipsters agree than Lionel Messi is nothing short of magnificent. It’s not Lionel Messi though, it’s just Leo!

Nick-naming players and managers on just their initials is another trait that is just ridiculous in my view. AVB and RVP instead of Andre Villas Boas or Robin Van Persie just don’t fit in football. That’s something I’d expect to see in a sport like basketball.

Sergio Busquets is a huge favourite among football hipsters as is Hugely under-rated South Korean playmaker Yoo Chang-hyun of Pohang Steelers . I urge people to lay off football hipsters. They are just trying to be individuals. This is obviously difficult because football is such a global game. Hipsters are misunderstood in my view. Many find them unbelievably irritating and this may be true. The commercialisation of the game is hated by both hipster and normal football fan alike and I’m sure that both believe that Sky have ruined football, but that’s another matter altogether.

Ps, Jurgen Klopp is god.

Jamie Connor

How to Concede Goals for Dummies // Tottenham F.C. – November

Tromso 0-2 Tottenham:

November ended with a Europa League game to try and avoid a City hangover, with a game in the Arctic Circle in Norway against Tromso. Spurs knew they’d topped the group by half-time as Anzhi had drawn 1-1 with Sheriff. Despite that Spurs still managed to notch their third and fourth goals of November in the second half. An own goal and a good finish from Dembele gave Tottenham the points.

Performance Rating Grade B; the trademark Europa League performance  Tottenham  have come to know under Andre Villas-Boas, despite the lack of a Jermain Defoe goal. It was nice to top the group with a game to spare and come through unscathed in freezing Norway on an artificial pitch.

Manchester City 6-0 Tottenham:

The worst defeat I can remember supporting Tottenham Hotspur. Diabolical, literally from start to finish, with the first goal coming after just 13 seconds after an awful mistake from Hugo Lloris. Spurs were 3-0 down before half-time; City’s partnership of Aguero and Negredo taking full effect and cutting our “Best defence in Europe” apart. It only got worse in the second half, City looked like scoring whenever they went forward, and the introduction of Adebayor, taking us to a 4-4-2, made us capitulate. It was a complete non-performance from pretty much every single player in an admittedly beautiful navy blue shirt.

Performance Rating Grade U; where do I start? Spurs looked scared from the first minute to even have a go at City. No shape, no rhythm, no service, no chances, no goals, no anything to actually remember in a positive fashion for us. Without a doubt the most shocking performance of any team this season.

AVB’s lowest point at Spurs; could it get any worse?

Tottenham 0-1 Newcastle:

The 10th of November shall forever be Tim Krul day at White Hart Lane. The amount of saves he made in this game was ridiculous. Although Tottenham made it easy for him at times, 14 saves is an achievement in itself. Loic Remy settled the game with a neat finish past Brad Friedel (in for the “recovering” Lloris), and fans begin to grow restless against AVB and the new squad.

Performance Rating Grade E; it was just awful from start to finish. No real cutting edge, despite the amount of saves Krul made, and another labouring, dull performance that kept the atmosphere near-silent.

Tottenham 2-1 FC Sheriff:

Back to the Europa League, sponsored by Jermain Defoe, with another solid victory against Sheriff guaranteeing a place in the Europa League knockout stages. Erik Lamela played his best performance in a Spurs shirt so far, intricate little play from the Argentinian getting him a goal and winning a penalty. The spot-kick was subsequently converted by Defoe, who now becomes Tottenham’s all-time leading goal scorer in Europe.

Performance Rating Grade B; it was good to see Lamela hitting some form. Bit of a disappointment to concede our first European goal of the season however. A decent enough performance against a side better than some may believe.

Everton 0-0 Tottenham:

November began with the same theme as October, a trip to GoodisonPark providing few chances for either side. Everton in particular struggled to break the defence down, but that was not to say Spurs had anything at the other end. The talking point from this game became the Hugo Lloris issue after he collided with Romelu Lukaku. Personally, I feel the referee should have sent him off once he started going against medical advice. He did pull off a smart save near the end of the game, though.

Performance Rating Grade C; while a draw away to a rejuvenated Everton side is never a bad result, the sluggish play and lack of service to Soldado really left me and other Spurs fans wanting here.

Overall rating: Grade D; overall not good enough from us, four goals over an entire calendar month is poor beyond belief. Any month that ends with speculation over the manager’s job can never be considered a success, a vast improvement in league form is needed immediately for the pressure to be lifted off of AVB and some of the new signings.

George Pacitto 

Allez le Toon! – Newcastle F.C. – November

Newcastle United 2-0 Chelsea:

After a devastating defeat to closest rivals Sunderland in their last Premier League outing, it was imperative that Newcastle responded in front of their home fans. The reaction was indeed impressive as the Toon army remained in the game throughout, and then produced a brilliant second-half display to rattle Chelsea.

After around an hour, it became clear that the Blues weren’t up too much and three points were very much up for grabs. The goal then came as Yohan Cabaye dropped a free kick into the box that Gouffran showed the most desire to get his head on and give Newcastle a priceless lead. Hazard nearly levelled for Chelsea but narrowly put his free shot wide. The points though were sealed in the final minutes when a magical jinking run from Anita pulled the defence out of position, giving Loic Remy the inch he needed to find his sixth goal in seven games.

Performance Rating: Grade A-; fantastic result to put the Sunderland game as far out of mind as possible. Matched and thoroughly beat one of the best squads in the division.

Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Newcastle United:

Many Newcastle fans last season would probably have been quoted as calling Spurs a “one-man team”. Oh, the irony. An early Loic Remy goal would sentence Tim Krul to a 77 minute massacre, one he would somehow survive.

Remy scored after 13 minutes after some good work from Gouffran, the two offensive players again proving as dangerous as any in the division. What would follow? – Wave after wave of Tottenham attack, particularly in the second-half. Spurs fans have been complaining about their sides woes in front of goal this season, but nobody could criticise their forwards on this occasion. Tim Krul showed some inspired form to keep a clean sheet with a bit of help from Yanga-Mbiwa who made a clearance that crossed the line into ridiculousness.

Performance Rating: Grade B; if this rating was for Tim Krul it would be an A+. Otherwise it was a good team performance and another big result against one of the teams expected to do well this season.

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Tim Krul had the game of his life against Spurs at White Hart Lane…

Newcastle United 2-1 Norwich City:

A game of two halves that saw us dominate the first-half, displaying the sort of confidence you would expect from a team coming off the back of wins against two big-hitters. Two first-half goals from that duo again, Remy and Gouffran, would ultimately be enough.

Many Newcastle fans often express frustration at the fact Newcastle struggle to push on from winning positions – This was no different and at half time a game that was comfortable, became very uncomfortable when Leroy Fer scored. This was the first goal that we had conceded in over 250 minutes. Thankfully we had enough to see it out and there would be no happy return to St James’ for Chris Hughton.

Performance Rating: Grade C; a game that you would expect to win, and we did… just! It was a par, nothing spectacular but enough to smile about. Questions would have to be asked about Pardew’s half time team talk as we stepped well off the gas in the second-half.

Newcastle United 2-1 West Bromwich Albion:

Another home game and another home victory; Gouffran and Sissoko scored the goals that meant of the 19 scored by the Toon army this season, a staggering 18 had been scored by Frenchmen – The only exception to this being Geordie-born, Paul Dummett.

Gouffran gave us the lead but the scores were levelled when nobody picked up Brunt at the far post and he slammed home. Step up Moussa Sissoko, Mo Mo Mo he’s magic, you know…you’ll never get past Sissoko. Forget him stopping you, try and stop his swerving effort on the hour mark, you’ll fail. A blistering effort that deserved to win the three points, and did.

We have been treated to some special goal this season from the likes of Cabaye and Ben Arfa but this one had a real good feeling about it. The Frenchman said: It is up there as one of the greatest goals I have ever scored, probably, in my career, and I am really happy to have scored it.

Performance Rating: Grade B-; another par performance, but to be pegged back and then go and win it is something that Newcastle fans rarely see. So that gave this a bit of a better feel, it also confirmed a rarity for Newcastle, a perfect month with four wins in four.

Overall Rating: Grade A; The polar opposite to Fulham’s November. Six points would have been a good month here for Newcastle, so to get 12, is really something! Seven goals, all scored by Frenchmen, un parfait Novembre. The first 11 looks as good as any in the league right now, and all the signs are encouraging, could Newcastle be in the mix for Champions League football come the end of the season? Allez le Toon!

Harry Barker

Steady Suarez and Co. // Liverpool F.C. – November

An unusual aura of belief surrounded Anfield at the end of October. Going into November, Liverpool supporters strongly felt that their team had enough quality to finish in the top-four. Talk about Liverpool’s title credentials were picking up pace and Liverpool looked set to prove to the footballing world that they were back to their best…

Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool:

Liverpool’s first opponents were Arsenal, at the Emirates Stadium. The Gunners had been outstanding thus far in the league but many people were questioning Arsenal’s capability of beating the “stronger” sides in the league. Having just come off the back of a loss against Chelsea in the League Cup, people were left pondering as to whether Arsenal were equipped to beat the mighty Reds.

I for one was worried about Arsenal and their midfield. Liverpool had looked lack-lustre in the middle, and the presence of Lucas and Gerrard continued to stress me out. The problem for me was the lack of energy in the midfield. Without Jordan Henderson in there, I believe Liverpool’s team wouldn’t have functioned the way it had so far. Ozil, Ramsey, Cazorla, scared me and this was with good reason too.

Liverpool began the game well and were pressing high up the pitch; it all fell down on 19 minutes when Santi Cazorla found the net to put the Gunners 1-0 up. Ramsey doubled their advantage on 59 minutes and Liverpool never looked like getting back in it from there. This left Liverpool sitting third in the table which was still a very healthy position for The Reds.

Performance rating: Grade C-; poor result against a very good Arsenal side, wasn’t unexpected if I’m honest, still sitting third in the table.

Liverpool 4-0 Fulham:

Fulham paid a visit to Anfield next, and I’m sure they wished they hadn’t once it was finished. Pressure was mounting on Fulham boss Martin Jol, and Fulham fans had very little optimism leading up to this game. They knew Liverpool’s tails would be up after losing to the Gunners the previous week. I was very pleased with Daniel Agger, Philippe Coutinho and Glen Johnson returning to the starting line-up.

In truth, Fulham didn’t have a prayer in my view. When Fernando Amorebieta put the ball in his own net, I knew it was going to be a rout! It was 2-0 just three minutes later when Martin Skrtel scored a header off his 50p shaped head. From here I could see nothing going wrong for Liverpool. Then it was 3-0 when Luis Suarez scored his seventh of the season after a clever pass from Jordan Henderson.

Further punishment was to be felt by Fulham as Suarez doubled his tally for the night and scored what was to be the last goal of a very one-sided game. After such domination, I felt like a top-four spot really was achievable this year. Liverpool used to have a tendency to only perform in big games but not against lesser sides and this looked to be changing.

Performance rating: Grade A*; excellent win, excellent performance. Delighted to bounce back and dominate like we did.

Daniel Sturridge was the saviour for Liverpool at Goodison...

Daniel Sturridge was the saviour for Liverpool at Goodison…

Everton 3-3 Liverpool:

Going into an international break is made easier when your team performs the way they did against Fulham. Everton were up next and as every Red fan knows, going to Goodison and getting three points is usually easier said than done. Everton themselves were in a rich vein of form and since their shaky start to the season, have really kicked on and were only a few points behind Liverpool. Lukaku was on fire and Liverpool fans know too well what he is capable of in front of goal. Despite this, I felt we would beat Everton and needless to say I was gutted about not picking up three points.

It was a dream start for Liverpool and it was 1-0 after five minutes. Kevin Mirallas scored just three minutes later to draw the game level, and I was so frustrated to concede from a set-piece. When Suarez got us back in front on 19 minutes, I felt that we would kick on but Everton continued to pose a threat. Joe Allen missed an absolute sitter from only a few yards out and this turned the game in my opinion.

It was then that Everton kicked on; McCarthy and Barry in particular impressed me in midfield as did, young Ross Barkley. It wasn’t long after this that Romelu Lukaku scored to level the game. This was the second set piece of the game that Liverpool had failed to deal with, which resulted in a goal. Then in the 82nd minute, Lukaku found the net again with a powerful heading from a corner. Our lack of ability to defend against set-pieces worries, and annoys me. Teams challenging for a top-four spot, cannot keep conceding goals in that fashion. Sturridge came off the bench and got Liverpool a point by scoring in the 89th minute. Overall, a disappointing result in my opinion.

Performance rating: Grade C; okay point, tough opponents, sad to throw away two leads, happy to score late on to equalise.

Overall Rating: Grade B+; the month of November was relatively successful for the Reds. Everton and Arsenal proved to be stern tests and we were unfortunate not to pick up three points at Goodison Park. I believe Liverpool’s strong start to the season will continue and I know that with the quality we have, we should definitely continue pushing for a top four finish.

Jamie Connor

Not So “Jol-lly” for Jol (and the rest of us!) // Fulham F.C. – November

At the time of writing this, as I’m sure you’re all aware, Martin Jol has been given the chop at Fulham. Shahid Khan and his quite excellent moustache had seen enough, and his replacement, Rene Meulensteen who originally had come in to work alongside his fellow Dutchman has now been the main man for all of five days, (losing his first game in-charge to Spurs).

So let’s recap, (do I have to?) on what was another miserable month for all those concerned with Fulham Football Club, and, as much as I hate to slate managers’ off, the last of Martin Jol’s all-to-easy excuses…

Fulham 1-3 Manchester United:

After a somewhat thrilling, (for the neutrals anyway) Capital One Cup exit at the hands of Leicester City, you would have thought that the lads would’ve have given it a right good go against the Red Devils. No. No they did not.

Three goals in the first twenty minutes after yet more calamitous defending saw Fulham give United the whole of the Craven Cottage pitch, while the back-four went off somewhere to upload their CV’s for the January window or something…

Alex Kacaniklic scored a consolation, with a deflected effort off of Wayne Rooney, in what was to be fair, an improved second-half performance.

Performance Rating: Grade D-; Martin Jol said in his post-match interview that “we won the second-half”. Well that’s good Martin but last time I checked we had to win just the both half’s.

Liverpool 4-0 Fulham:

For the second season in a row we turned up at Anfield, to one walk out the tunnel and two let Martin Skrtel get his seasonal goal.

For the first 20 minutes we were looking decent, but then Fernando Amorebieta thought he’d give Liverpool a helping hand by nodding into his own net after pressure from Luis Suarez, probably gnawing away at his elbow. I’d had high hopes for the Venezuelan coming into the season and thought he’d tighten us up, when it came to set pieces – sadly I was wrong.

Consecutive 4-0 losses in the past two seasons to the always irritating Red-half of Merseyside is never nice due to the “ever-optimistic” shall we say, fans. When the first went in the floodgates just opened and we again crumbled before the ever-sinking eyes of Martin Jol.

Performance Rating: Grade E-; after such a solid opening 20, we reverted to type and conceded two sloppy set-piece goals in the space of three minutes which really killed us. We never really showed up after that and had Man of the Match, Maarten Stekelenburg to thank for stopping it from being a cricket score.

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“Yes Martin, every Fulham fans’ face looked like that after the West Ham game!”

Fulham 1-2 Swansea:

A vastly improved performance saw the Whites go down somewhat unfortunately, to yet another defeat at the hands of the visiting Swans.

Fulham had the better of the first-half and should have been going into the break 2-0 up after Darren Bent had missed two glaring chances. The first came after Scott Parker, newly-made Captain, had floated a sumptuous ball onto the head of the on-loan striker, who somehow headed wide. The second chance was a lot more unlucky to not see it ripple the back of the net; after a long ball had been directed into his path by Swansea defender, Chico Flores, Bent struck a half-volley true as like which agonisingly rattled the post.

Yet again, Fulham’s inability to defend set-pieces proved to be our downfall, as we switched off to give Swansea a very cheap opening goal. A quick free-kick was played to Alex Pozuelo who drilled in an uncomfortable cross which Aaron Hughes just couldn’t get out of the way of, with the ball bundling into the net.

Scott Parker equalised with a cross-shot after the Whites had rallied but it was to be in vein; after allowing Swansea to take control of the game, we let the most over-rated player the world has ever seen Jonjo Shelvey, waltz his way through and toey’ a shot into the top corner from 18 yards.

Performance Rating; Grade D; should have been three points. Let Swansea control the game, second-half, and just never really kicked on after Parker’s equaliser, conceding yet another late winner.

West Ham United 3-0 Fulham:

The worst Fulham performance this season, by a country mile. Made a very ordinary team look like world-beaters which consequently made us look even worse.

The only two players in a White shirt that looked like they even cared were as you’d expect, Captain Scott Parker, and player of the season so far, Pajtim Kasami.

Two players out of 11. Not a single shot on target. What a load of sh*te!

Performance Rating: Grade F-; never would I give my beloved team a “U” but this was bloody close! Five defeats on the trot spelt the end for Martin Jol, and it was written all over his face. Shahid Khan put the man out of his misery the following afternoon.

Overall Rating: Grade F; the writing had been on the wall for Martin Jol for some time, and the overall performances in the month of November were truly dismal, so much so I’m sure I wept after the West Ham game.

So did Martin probably, (with joy considering that pay-packet he stuck in his back pocket) when the following afternoon he was given the sack along with first-team coaches Michael Lindemann and the popular, Billy McKinley.

Unsurprisingly the man that was brought into work alongside the departed Jol, Rene Meulensteen was giving the top job with the title “Head Coach” not manager alla Steve Clarke of West Brom.

His first game in charge against Spurs was a hell of an improvement despite the result. If he can get us doing the basics right again, I have faith that we’ll be fine and push for lower-mid table. COYW!

The Only Way is Up (BAAAABY!)…

Tom Dorsett