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Life after Zamora: Welcome to the 4-6-0

15 September 2010

Fulham had one remaining sub with 10 minutes left Saturday against Wolves, and off the bench trudged long-forgotten USMNT striker Eddie Johnson. Yes, the same guy who spent the last two seasons on loan, barely playing for Championship side Cardiff City and then scoring a few goals in Greece for Aris.

Wait, who's that playing striker??

That’s how dire Fulham’s current striker situation is now that Bobby Zamora is out until at least January with a broken leg and ligament damage and Andrew Johnson still hasn’t made his return from a year’s worth of ailments.

So, when the Cottagers take the pitch at Ewood Park this weekend in what should be a testing affair with Blackburn, expect to see them in a strikerless 4-6-0 formation. Well, I’m sure Moussa Dembele and either Clint Dempsey or Zoltan Gera will nominally be up top, but you need to call it what it is, which is basically a replication of what Everton and Manchester United have used on occasion in past seasons.

If this were last season and Roy Hodgson were still on the Fulham bench, expectation would be for an ultraconservative approach, especially on the road. Mark Hughes has opened up Fulham’s wings a bit, though, and while Zamora’s hold-up play and finishing clearly will be missed, this will be an interesting opportunity for Hughes to stamp greater creativity on a side that has developed a well-earned reputation for disappointing away form, both stylistically and results-wise.

It will also be interesting to see where Hughes uses each player. For the first three league matches and the Carling Cup tie, Dembele and Dempsey were used as replacements for each other, with the implication being that Hughes saw them as similar talents in his system. Against Wolves, both got the start, with Dempsey up top and Dembele (properly) out on the left wing, at least until Zamora’s injury forced him to move into the other striker’s role after 30 minutes, with Zoltan Gera coming into central midfield.

I’d imagine that’s what we’ll see on Saturday, with a formation looking something like this:

—–Dembele———Dempsey——-
—— Gera ——Davies/Duff ——–
———-Murphy—Etuhu———-

Whatever the combination, Fulham should have a bunch of players who can keep possession and run at attackers. The Cottagers will have to be less direct in their approach, but in the short run, they might not be too much worse off as far as attacking potency. It will help to have Johnson come back, just to add some (ostensibly) polished finishing to the lineup, but I’m eager to see what this creative possession approach can look like, especially on the road.

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