Hodgson dampens expectations after Fulham stroll
Fulham 2 Bolton Wanderers 1
Roy Hodgson's football philosophy is a simple one – pass and move, pass and move – and he has packed his Fulham team with just the personnel to carry out his mantra.
It makes them an enjoyable team to watch and, on this season's form, a difficult one to beat as Arsenal found out before the international break and a pitiful Bolton Wanderers learnt on Saturday.
The Fulham chairman, Mohamed Al-Fayed, was persuaded by Hodgson to part with a fairly substantial wodge of his cash in the summer but the manager has invested it cutely, a charge that could not always be levelled at his predecessors at the Cottage.
In Bobby Zamora (£5m), who scored a lovely goal after a balletic spin on Saturday, and Andrew Johnson (around £11m), who had a lively debut and could have won a penalty but for his reputation – fairly or unfairly – as a diver, Hodgson has a forward line of contrasts: Zamora, with a sound touch, holds the ball up while Johnson is always looking to run in behind the defence. Ally that pair with the impressive midfield of Danny Murphy and Jimmy Bullard, who are always making themselves available to receive the ball in the middle, and Zoltan Gera and Simon Davies running the flanks, and all seems rosy by the banks of the Thames.
"We've set our stall out with the type of players we put out on the field," Hodgson said. "We've got to play football, we've got to pass the ball, we can't change to a more direct style. We want players to demand the ball. Our midfield is very skilful, there's no destroyer, so they've got to get their movement, passing and decision-making right."
They made all the right choices on Saturday until a wobbly last 10 minutes after Bolton had scored, but Hodgson was still dampening expectations. "We're not going to get carried away," he said. "Our job in this league is to survive, hopefully without it going down to goal difference like it did last year because that's too harrowing for everybody."
Bolton played one up front – Kevin Davies fulfilling the thankless task – and were the antithesis of Fulham, content to pump long balls downfield. Their manager, Gary Megson, bemoaned the fact that he was without Johan Elmander, who he likened to Johnson. But he also thought Bolton bossed the match for the first 15 minutes, so the jury's out on his new Swedish striker.
Goals: Gera (15) 1-0; Zamora (41) 2-0; Davies (82) 2-1
Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky; Davies, Bullard, Murphy, Gera; Johnson (Seol, 75), Zamora (Nevland, 84). Substitutes not used: Zuberbuhler (gk), Andranik, Stoor, Kallio, Dempsey
Bolton Wanderers (4-1-4-1): Jaaskelainen; Steinsson (Helguson, 64), Shittu, A O'Brien, Samuel; Muamba; J O'Brien, Nolan, McCann (Riga, 51), Gardner; Davies. Substitutes not used: Habsi (gk), Hunt, Mustapha, Vaz Te, Cohen, Fojut
Booked: Fulham Seol Bolton Nolan
Referee: S Tanner
Man of the match: Zamora