Fulham’s Brede Hangeland is a towering defender but there are question marks about his pace, something he answered with his intelligent positioning.
FK Vetra were never going to be the most demanding of oppositions for Fulham and therefore probably not the most appropriate opponent whereby to do a scouting report of defender Brede Hangeland. However there was a logical reason for it (apart from the appropriately timed conformation of interest from Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger).
It was a tie in which Fulham were always going to be in control of and for them to effectively play a possession game it meant the defenders would have to push up. The thinking here was that the higher line will create a similar situation to one which Arsenal’s defenders face every game. And also with the heavy rainfall on the Craven Cottage pitch, the slick surface will provide Hangeland a stern test of his pace and mobility but alas that opportunity never arrived.
Vetra were expectedly out of their depth and therefore never really tested Hangeland and Hughes in the centre of defence. And in moments where it seemed Hangeland may be tested, the Norwegian came out comfortably on top. In one such instance, left back Paul Konchesky vacated his flank meaning Hangeland would have to cover both positions and he did so with relative ease. On another occasion, he was faced with a one-one with the Vetra winger but as the opponent knocked the ball past him, he expertly put his body in the way to stop the run.
However what was most interesting when comparing the two Fulham centre back’s were their positioning. When the ball was hoofed high up in the air both were very comfortable although more so Hangeland who attacked the ball aggressively. On the deck however, Hangeland usually took a step back from the defensive line and surveyed the action before astutely nipping in.
It seemed the Norwegian does have some reservations about his pace but time and time again, not just in this match but others also, his positioning and reading of the game were so fantastic that this supposed weakness is far harder to expose. It should be noted that Hangeland is by no means a slouch and is deceptively mobile and can pass the ball well.
Much kudos to Fulham’s defensive steel should also go to Roy Hodgson who has his team very organised and disciplined, pressing the opponents well to deny space. Danny Murphy and Dickson Etuhu were once again formidable defensive shields to the centre backs. Against Aston Villa last campaign, the side’s organisation meant the only way Villa were going to get through Fulham was from wide. And when the crosses did come in Hangeland was always in the way.
His aerial prowess was on show again but it’s his commanding of set-pieces that has really impressed me. Hodgson has given him, along with ‘keeper Schwarzer full control of the player’s positioning from dead balls. Hangeland attacks the ball and makes sure he is the one in the best position to get to the ball first. As a result Fulham conceded fewer goals from headers and set-pieces than any other team last year.
It seems with Brede Hangeland, pace is always going to be a concern especially if you are the coach of an expansive football team like Arsenal who need to play a high line. With all respect to Fulham, Craven Cottage may be too small a pitch to fully test that while we probably won’t get a definite answer to whether he can cope without him playing week-in-week-out in a more demanding team.
But while it’s easy to see Hangeland being beaten for pace in a similar situation as Gallas did against Agbonlahor last season, it’s also easy to see Hangeland making sure he is in the right place to stop that from happening.
Scout Report Card:
Position Central Defence
Height 6ft 5in