Tottenham Hotspur vs. Fulham: 6 Things We Learned

Thomas CooperFeatured ColumnistApril 19, 2014

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Fulham: 6 Things We Learned

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    Younes Kaboul celebrates putting his Tottenham Hotspur team 3-1 up against Fulham.
    Younes Kaboul celebrates putting his Tottenham Hotspur team 3-1 up against Fulham.Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Tottenham Hotspur crossed Fulham off their list of remaining games with a comfortable 3-1 win over their London neighbours.

    Paulinho put Tottenham ahead with his first goal at White Hart Lane, tapping in from Christian Eriksen's sublime free-kick delivery.

    Spurs' lead lasted barely a minute. Bursting forward, Steve Sidwell brushed off Paulinho's challenge and, after Zeki Fryers' attempted interception came back to him, finished calmly past the onrushing Hugo Lloris.

    Three minutes into the second half, Harry Kane put the home side back in front. Wide right, Aaron Lennon came back into his left foot and curled a cross deep into the box for the striker to flick past David Stockdale.

    The third was almost a replica of Spurs' first. Eriksen drove in another free-kick to the back-post and this time found Younes Kaboul who put the ball away.

    An Eriksen handball gave Fulham a chance to pull a goal back, but Lloris saved Sidwell's resulting penalty and was on hand to keep out several late attempts from the Cottagers.

    Defeat means Fulham missed their chance to overtake Norwich and escape the bottom three. Spurs, meanwhile, have kept touch with Arsenal and Everton above them in fourth and fifth place, respectively.

    Read on for a few more things learned from Saturday's Premier League clash.

Paulinho Is Looking to Finish the Season Strongly

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    Paulinho gives thanks on this Easter weekend after putting Spurs one-nil up.
    Paulinho gives thanks on this Easter weekend after putting Spurs one-nil up.Sang Tan

    With a World Cup on home soil this summer, Paulinho will naturally want to head into the tournament with some momentum.

    As his first season in England comes to a close, the Brazil international is in the process of recapturing some of the form that marked his earlier showings for Tottenham Hotspur in 2013-14.

    Against Fulham, Paulinho started his third game in a row, and he put in what was probably his best performance since an eye-catching display versus Stoke City in December.

    The central midfielder's goal—his seventh of the season—was a tap-in made even easier by being completely unmarked.

    His second most-notable contribution came when he ran halfway up the field to chase Brede Hangeland down in Fulham's right-hand corner. Robbing the dithering Norweigian, Paulinho's pass found its way to Christian Eriksen whose cross reached Aaron Lennon, with the winger's subsequent volley forcing a good save from David Stockdale.

    Paulinho was outfought later in the half by Steve Sidwell in the run-up to Fulham's equaliser—serving a reminder of the more relaxed air that can tarnish his game.

    His general effort and the overall quality of his work, though, was as encouraging as has been seen from him in 2014.

    As tallied by Squawka, Paulinho won five of his eight attempted tackles, made three interceptions and three clearances too. The occurrence of the former two statistics occurred all over the pitch, testament to his desire to stop and dispossess Fulham wherever he could.

    Paulinho's partnership with Nacer Chadli—also deployed for a third consecutive match—is unlikely to be a long-term option for Spurs—if much longer at all, after the latter was withdrawn on the 67th minute. Individually, though, the Brazilian is again beginning to embrace the better aspects of his character as a footballer.

    "I thought Paulinho was excellent," his manager Tim Sherwood told Spurs' official Twitter page. "He won the ball back for us a lot and defensively, did the job I asked him to do."

    Sherwood's assessment may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it was definitely better from the Brazilian.

Fryers Had a Tough Day but Should Not Be Discounted as a Spurs Centre-Back Yet

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    Zeki Fryers engages in one of a number of duels with Hugo Rodallega.
    Zeki Fryers engages in one of a number of duels with Hugo Rodallega.Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Sherwood opted to field Zeki Fryers alongside Younes Kaboul in central defence on Saturday.

    The 21-year-old replaced Vlad Chiriches at half-time in last week's 3-3 draw with West Bromwich Albion but was largely untested by the Baggies in the second-half. His previous competitive appearance in the position this season came away at Benfica in the Europa League, where he performed admirably as part of a makeshift partnership alongside Sandro.

    At times in the first-half, it looked like he was facing his toughest test yet in the form of Fulham's inform striker Hugo Rodallega.

    The Colombian hinted at his threat just a couple of minutes in when he got between Spurs' centre-back pair but scuffed his shot wide. Thereafter, his attentions mostly focused on Fryers.

    The versatile defender would get the better of the lone forward on a couple of occasions, but he also found it hard to resist his strength and speed.

    Though not quite rattling Fryers, Rodallega helped put him off his game slightly. And it was Fryers' half-hearted interception attempt that went back to Sidwell later in the first-half and helped him to equalise.

    Rodallega was not done and beat Fryers to John Arne Riise's excellent cross to force an even better save from Hugo Lloris.

    As Spurs settled, Fryers did too. He had his own chance just prior to the hour mark, heading wide from a Chadli cross. When Fulham next attacked, he showed an impeccable touch and commendable calm to read and take down a cross towards the edge of the box.

    Where he was needed after, Fryers was largely there to clear and keep things tight.

    A challenging afternoon altogether for the young defender. While he may prove to be a better left-back, he should not be discounted as a potential centre-back for Tottenham just yet.

Rodallega Will Need More Support in Fulham's Final Few Games

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    Hugo Rodallega gave Zeki Fryers a tough time of things.
    Hugo Rodallega gave Zeki Fryers a tough time of things.Clive Rose/Getty Images

    As noted on the previous page, Rodallega was a threat for Fulham throughout the match.

    Though unable to add to his two goals from the previous two games, the restored striker's display was again good enough to vindicate Felix Magath's continued faith in him.

    The better standard of the opposition compared to Aston Villa and Norwich City meant the Cottagers boss was more cautious about pushing his team too far forward.

    Ultimately, it did not work, but it was understandable given what was at stake.

    Even so, moving forward Magath must give Rodallega more to work with.

    Neither Ashkan Dejagah or Alexander Kacaniklic got particularly close to him in attempts to link up. Scott Parker and Steve Sidwell tried their best in this regard, but other midfield responsibilities precluded them from making a regular occurrence of it.

    Rodallega clearly does not mind leading the line on his own and does it rather well.

    But while Fulham will be wise to not go gung-ho if they can avoid it in the coming weeks, they must endeavour to support their best goal threat more than they did here.

Fulham Need Battling Parker If They Are to Stay Up

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    Scott Parker battles it out with Paulinho.
    Scott Parker battles it out with Paulinho.Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Scott Parker received a warm welcome at White Hart Lane on his first return since leaving last summer. The midfielder was also starting his first game for Fulham since the beginning of March after a layoff with a knee injury.

    Parker has been in a situation battling relegation before. Back in 2010-11, he was part of West Ham United's unsuccessful attempt to avoid the drop, though his efforts did see him voted the FWA Footballer of the Year.

    The can-do spirit he deployed throughout that campaign will be required again if Fulham are to stay up.

    The Cottagers began to crumble after Spurs went 2-1 up in the second-half, but they also clearly missed the 33-year-old's drive after he went off with a knock ten minutes after the interval.

    Parker created one of Fulham's best chances in the first-half. After bringing the ball to the edge of the Spurs penalty area, his perseverance amid a bunch of challenges saw him force it through to Rodallega, whose shot was saved by Lloris.

    Embodying the box-to-box midfielder, Parker was blocking a Harry Kane shot one minute and, quite literally, racing into the opposition area the next—though he was unfortunately ignored by his team-mates.

    A poor pass was intercepted by Kyle Naughton a little while after. But again, Parker was back to clear when Eriksen almost set up Paulinho.

    His manager Magath told Fulham's official website post-match that Parker "is confident and sure that he can train next week."

    The former-Spurs midfielder alone will not save Fulham this season, but they are unlikely to do it without him.

Sherwood Is Not Shying Away from His Offensive Approach

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    Les Ferdinand and Tim Sherwood had reasons to be cheerful after their team's 3-1 win.
    Les Ferdinand and Tim Sherwood had reasons to be cheerful after their team's 3-1 win.Clive Rose/Getty Images

    "We're going to be professional and we're going to try to go there and entertain our fans and we're going to attack," Tim Sherwood predicted in his pre-Fulham press conference, via Sky Sports.

    "That's what we've done ever since I've come to the club and that's what we're going to continue to do."

    As it was, Tottenham were professional without being especially remarkable in the opening half hour.

    Their professionalism slipped when Fulham scored almost immediately after Spurs had gone in front. Overall, though, they got the job done and were entertaining enough without being particularly thrilling.

    Sherwood's opted for a rather attacking approach once again, with a two-man forward line and the more attack-minded central midfield combination of Chadli and Paulinho.

    As already noted in this article, save for his part in Sidwell's goal, Paulinho did a decent job altogether.

    It was a duo that again left Spurs a little soft centrally, however. While obviously reminding his team they cannot just attack, Sherwood is clearly happy to keep the emphasis on enabling his team to get forward in numbers.

    Seven points from the last three games shows it is paying off to an extent. Last week against West Brom, though, it played a part in their going 3-0 down and on a few occasions Fulham threatened to expose it too.

    With two away games coming up against Stoke City and West Ham United, Sherwood might look to shore things up a little in midfield if he plans to continue with 4-4-2.

    Then again, the recent evidence would suggest he might just have his team carry on full steam ahead.

Magath and Fulham Are Really Leaving It Late

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    Felix Magath was not smiling by the end of the match.
    Felix Magath was not smiling by the end of the match.Clive Rose/Getty Images

    After their previous two wins, Fulham were in with a chance of jumping out of the relegation zone with a win over Tottenham.

    Their London neighbours were the toughest of the three opponents, though, so perhaps it was wishful thinking the run would continue at White Hart Lane.

    Then again, they were level going into half-time and, but for woeful set-piece defending, might have held on for a point.

    Magath will not put this game to bed just yet as he seeks to put right what went wrong against Spurs. The German, however, will also realise the need to refocus as soon as possible for the more winnable visit of Hull City to Craven Cottage next week.

    The Tigers will be turning their attention to next month's FA Cup final. And, with a trip to Stoke and the visit of a strong-looking Crystal Palace side to come, Hull is as close to a must-win game as Fulham can get without it being mathematically required.

    Just like in 2007-08, when they avoided relegation on the last weekend, Fulham are leaving it late.