With the first international break of the season complete, it’s time to get our minds focused again on Fulham. We had just the four first teamers in action for their countries in Mitrovic, Ream, Sessegnon and Christie and it looks as though everyone has come away unscathed. We’ll find out tomorrow if we have any other injury concerns, but I think that Parker has a squad with a full bill of health. Harry Artur is suspended, though, so we know already that he won’t feature this weekend.
We have our toughest match of the season so far coming up on Saturday. At least on paper, that is. West Brom have always been a tough nut to crack and now, under the leadership of Slaven Bilic, we are up against a side vying for automatic promotion. They are unbeaten this season in the league with three wins and three draws putting them in fourth position in the table. Last time out they came back from two goals down against Blackburn to win 3-2, so we know that this team has a bit of metal about them. Encouragingly for us, though, they have failed to keep a clean sheet this season, so with our front three of Mitrovic, Cavaleiro and Knockaert we should be able to trouble a leaky defence.
We’ll have to look out for tricky winger Grady Diangana, on loan from West Ham. The England U21 international has scored three goals this season and is the sort of player who gives defenders headaches. He, alongside Charlie Austin and Kenneth Zohore, will give us something to think about. The Baggies squad has a tonne of experience and know-how at this level, so we will need to massively up our game from the draw in Cardiff if we are to get anything.
Winning this game would send out the message that we are going to be fighting at the right side of the table come May. It will hopefully give us a better idea of where we are as a squad under Parker’s management. If I’m honest, I don’t think we have seen the best of this Fulham squad yet. OK, the Millwall game was special, but we need to be playing consistently near that level if we are to go up. Everything went right for us that night, but we are going to have very few games were that is the case. We still seem to start games slowly which is something that we desperately need to get out of our system. With the talent in our squad other teams should be shaking in their boots with the prospect of facing us, but everyone knows that defensively we aren’t as solid as we could be. This gives other teams hope against us.
I suppose the biggest question at the minute for Parker to be pondering is who does he play in goal. Marcus Bettinelli has been a great servant for this club, but I worry at the amount of mistakes being made in goal. While I still think that he is just going through a slump, and is a much better keeper than what he is showing at the minute, I can completely understand the calls to let Marek Rodak, our very highly rated number two, have a chance. I think Parker will stick with Betts for now, but I’d imagine that he doesn’t have too many chances left.
As I’ve said before, this will be our biggest challenge of the season so far. Hopefully at 1430 on Saturday we can just enjoy the rest of the weekend’s football after watching Fulham romp to another win.