Doing a bit of spying on the other semi-final in anticipation of a meeting in the final, it left me thinking there are a couple of ways we could set up against Fulham at Wembley.
In the first leg at Pride Park, Derby suffocated the Cottagers. They pressed high, restricted their opponent’s chances in front of goal, and took a lead into the second leg.
With a lead to maintain, Gary Rowett’s side sat a lot deeper at Craven Cottage. However, with the home team chasing the game, the Rams had a number of counter-attacks they could have taken advantage of. At times, Fulham’s defence looked to be creaking and there are clearly gaps to exploit. So, should we press high, or sit deep and catch them out on the break?
The Case For Pressing High
You need energy, athleticism, dedication and positional awareness to press high and early. Out of the two approaches, I think it is the least likely as I don’t see us being completely comfortable doing it. We could be caught out by pace at the back, especially if they beat the press. However, Steve Bruce does have the best part of two weeks to prepare his side for the game.
Both Fulham centre backs Tim Ream and Denis Odoi take risks at the back passing the ball. Interceptions are highly likely if they are put under enough pressure. If we can force them into mistakes, we could have a lot of joy and create chances for ourselves. With the likes of Grabban, we should be able to to be clinical and take advantage; more so than Derby.
The Case For Sitting Deep
Bruce can set a team up defensively in his sleep. Against Boro at Villa Park, it was a textbook display of restricting space in behind. Experienced players like Chester and Terry can deal with balls into their own penalty, but the manager knew they would be exposed against the pace of Assombalonga and Traore if they were caught out too high up the pitch.
The result was Tony Pulis’s side were restricted to very few chances. Fulham are a far better attacking unit than the Teessiders but they are also weaker defensively. If we can absorb their attacks, and play swiftly on the counter with the likes of Grealish and Adomah taking our opponents on from deep, we should have chances.
However, such a system would cede possession and territory to our opponents. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side are great at keeping the ball, and we could be boxed it if we are not careful.
Which approach would you take?