Claudio Ranieri’s Fulham showed its first indications of change in his debut and subsequent victory in charge of the football club. Happy to allow the opposition possession of the football, Fulham looked to revert to shape and be hard to break down: a relative success given just 10 days of work with a large chunk of the players that started away on international duty. Fulham looked to play quicker and be more dangerous in the transition than previously, with longer balls being fed into Mitrovic and interchanges resulting into passes outside for the wide players in fairly open space.
It wasn’t a great or particularly pretty performance, but it was an improvement in terms of spirit and forethought. Calum Chambers for example finished with a fairly disgusting 56% passing accuracy but his 5 tackles and 3 interceptions led the way for a Fulham side who shaded just over 37% of the ball. Ranieri has previously defended the amount of ‘lost balls’ (inaccurate passes) when at Leicester by saying “it’s only natural, when your team plays at the speed of light.” Calum Chambers was not only looking to play quicker, but longer into Mitrovic and the wide areas which naturally are lower percentage passes than the slower sideways and backwards pottering of typical deep lying midfield players.
A difference in attitude felt personified by the volume of crosses coming into the box over Slavisa Jokanovic’s slower more patient build up play. All three of Fulham’s goals came via the wide areas: two directly from crosses from the left hand side, the first from Maxime Le Marchand for Aleksander Mitrovic’s opener and then Ryan Sessegnon’s gorgeous ball across to assist Andre Schurrle and ensure Fulham go in at half time a goal ahead. The ultimate winner was a Cyrus Christie cross flicked on by the 18 year old England under 21 international for Aleksander Mitrovic to outrageously volley home (the first multi-assist game for Sessegnon in his professional career).
I think the signs are encouraging for more combatant performances such as the one this afternoon and with more coaching time and additions in January – a Claudio Ranieri side appears to be one that stylistically and results wise will provide difficult opposition for a lot of sides and one thing I think we have that others around us don’t – a legitimate no.9 who possesses a league leading level of all round forward play and our Serbian forward is on pace of hitting the mid-teens for goals in our first campaign back in the big time. Ranieri-ball could well unleash a new level of dominance from Aleksander Mitrovic.
This is a squad that possesses quality and I am sure that was partly why Claudio was prepared to take on this task. While the squad doesn’t feel complete for what Ranieri has in mind stylistically, it’s more than talented enough to pick up points until he can add in January.