Clint Dempsey's Fulham side is still searching for its first win of the EPL season. Sunday's match against Blackburn could do nothing but bring about another frustrating draw for the Cottagers, with big-money signing Bryan Ruiz managing just 45 minutes in his debut with the club.
“It was similar to the game against Aston Villa, especially the second half,” Fulham boss Martin Jol said after the match. “We thought that we deserved three points from that game and today was probably the same."
Fulham's biggest problem has been the ability to find the net with any consistency. Aside from Dempsey, the club hasn't had a consistent goalscorer in recent years, and the American is really much more midfielder than out and out striker. Bobby Zamora and Andrew Johnson have both struggled with injuries in the last couple of seasons and the acquisition of Ruiz was meant to bring another scorer into the fold for this season.
On Sunday, Zamora took advantage of some woeful defending to get himself a goal, but as the game progressed, Fulham couldn't turn an otherwise dominant performance into a win.
“You see it more and more nowadays," Jol said. "Liverpool yesterday had 75-percent possession and still lost the game, so that can happen. It’s not easy to play in their half and we did that."
The style of this club is to get a good shape to play attractive football, and in the second half that certainly happened. I can remember eight or nine crosses to the near post, and of course they did well to defend the near post, but then we have to come up with different solutions in good situations, and a better finish. You could say we lacked a cutting edge.”
The notable absence from Fulham's second-half showing was Ruiz.
The former Twente star was pulled at the half after a very tough start to his Fulham career. Despite showing signs of the skill that has drawn such rave reviews, Ruiz struggled to cope with the pace of the Premier League.
“You could see in the first half that he has some quality, but the pace is different,” Jol said of his newest signing. “Bryan has to get used to that and cope with English football. He will certainly do that."
The adjustment won't be immediate.
Ruiz' biggest mistakes in the match against Blackburn were all caused by his want to hold the ball a touch too long, most notably just before Blackburn's early goal when he was needlessly caught in possession in the midfield, leaving an odd-man rush heading the other way.
It's habit for many players, especially those with massive amounts of quality in the dribble, to try and hold the ball. That tendency allows time for space to open up for others and often leads to better decisions. But in the EPL, the time on the ball is very limited.
If Ruiz is to fit in at Fulham - and with the money the club spent on him he'll have to or his time with the club will be short - he'll have to figure out when and where to use his skill, and when to release the ball early.
Fulham's reliance on CONCACAF players is well noted, and Ruiz has the potential to be among the best to have ever graced the pitch at Craven Cottage. But Fulham will have to wait on that promise to come through, and it might not be something the club can afford to do for very long.
Liam Twomey contributed reporting to this article from Craven Cottage in London.
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