It seems remarkable that after yesterday’s performance against Liverpool that we still find ourselves in the bottom three of the Premier League. It’s also remarkable that given our dreadful start to the campaign that we were disappointed with just a point against the reigning Champions! Scott Parker has so far done an exceptional job of turning things around at Fulham and he deserves a heck of a lot of credit for it. Four points from Leicester away, Manchester City away and Liverpool at home is more than we could have hoped for, and the performances before that (terrible first half against Everton aside) have been much improved. Parker has done it all while making some very bold decisions on the team that many of us disagreed with. Yet we now seem to have a squad very capable of staying in this league, but we need to keep up the momentum going into two very winnable games against Brighton and Newcastle.
The performance against Liverpool was brilliant from the first whistle. Our achilles’ heel so often this season has been conceding early but yesterday we started very much on the front foot, closing Liverpool down and forcing them into mistakes. Perhaps it was the 2000 fans back at the Cottage that ensured that we began with such intensity but whatever it was, long may it continue! It looks as though London will be back in tier 3 shortly but hopefully we are allowed fans at least on Wednesday night in our must win game at home to Brighton. However, we have to be able to start like that with or without fans.
No matter what Jurgen Klopp says, there was nothing lucky about our performance yesterday. We played at a high tempo with lots of passing and every player 100% committed. Mario Lemina was sensational in that disruptive midfield role while Ademola Lookman was in the centre of everything good going forward from Fulham. And shout out to BDR who has been a standout performer this season from the old guard. Who’d have thought that it would be him shining bright ahead of the likes of Mitrovic and Cairney? Defensively we look secure and I can’t imagine anything bar an injury would stop our CB pairing of Joachim Andersen and Tosin Adarabioyo from being our first choice duo. There is a lot to like about Fulham right now.
However, we can’t ignore the elephant in the room. Mitrovic. What is going on? It’s clear that Scott has a particular game plan for the games against better opposition in this league that Mitro seems to slow down, but I’m not sure that anyone buys the ‘minor knock’ excuse put forward by the club for his disappearance from the squad yesterday. If it’s just a playing style thing for against the better clubs then maybe we will see him on Wednesday against Brighton with a change of system. Remember that he was pivotal in our game v West Brom earlier in the season, bagging two assists. Maybe it’s just that Scott has different game plans for different games. However, if the rumours of a very unhappy Mitro after being left out of the starting line up yesterday are true, then maybe he has to look at the performances and ask himself why. I love Mitrovic, let me make that very clear, but there is no doubt that against certain teams we are more effective without him. I’d like to see him play against Brighton as I think it’s a game that would suit him but we maybe have to accept that he won’t play as much as we would have thought this season.
Tom Cairney is another question mark for me. I don’t think that Ruben Loftus Cheek has done enough at all to warrant playing ahead of him. Although I think that the position that Scott wants from them both is maybe not a strength of either player. Their favoured position is surely a traditional number 10, but we haven’t really played with that position in the last 3 matches against top opposition. It might be a similar story with Mitrovic in that we resort back to the formation we played v West Brom for the next couple of matches meaning that Cairney will be in that number 10 role, but we’ll have to see.
All in all I think Parker has made some brave decisions that have so far paid off. I’m feeling really good about Fulham despite our current position in the table. If only we had of gotten our team together before the start of the season, eh? Roll on Wednesday night for one last game in front of fans for now.
Good article Lydia which chimes with a lot of what I have been thinking since yesterday as well.
Parker deserves much more credit than he has currently received for making us competitive in the Premier League and coming up with a Plan B to get results against the leading sides in the division.
Cavaleiro has done well as an emergency forward in these past few games, but I still think we would be more clinical with Mitrovic up top. I believe he would have buried that first chance but might not have had the pace to get onto the ball through from Loftus-Cheek, if that makes any sense.
I’m not sold yet on Loftus-Cheek, who worked harder yesterday but didn’t have much of an impact on the game. Cairney’s eye for a pass and ability to retain possession should make him a pivotal part of our side (and certainly the squad) and I don’t think he either or Mitro have drastically fallen out of the manager’s plans.
I was so proud of how hard they battled and hopefully that will give the players real confidence going into two massive games this week.
We are on the up, no doubt and it was a pleasure to watch us play against Liverpool. But near wins on the back of encouraging performances now need to turn into three points against mid-table teams. The games against Brighton and Newcastle will be huge from that perspective.
As to Mitro: he played non-stop for club and country this summer. Had a ton of weight on his shoulders and probably more than one physical niggle given his style of play – never mind missed chances and a missed penalty early on this season which sap confidence. Rested and fit, he will be eager to prove his worth when tactics permit. I envisage him to return to the squad on Wednesday and to have a positive impact on the game.
Things are looking a lot better after playing three clubs who won the PL recently – I take courage in that.
I think it will be certain players for certain games I think we have the squad for that, we played superb last night it would be nice in some media outlets to give Fulham credit but they won’t do that, it s always Liverpool played badly not Fulham were good, we bossed the whole game it was good to hear Graeme Souness say how good we were and how adamant a penalty it was, Anguissa different class to anything Liverpool had well done to all the team COYW
I would play Mitro against Brighton. He has something to prove, after not his best start to a season. He will definitely want to play against Newcastle. I would prefer Cairney to Loftus Cheek who is anonymous for much of the games. Otherwise leave everything else as it is. For the first time for many seasons we have a defence who can defend. I personally would have brought on Bryan or Cairney as a sub rather than Kamara against Liverpool.
It’s impossible not to be on a high after the way we played at Leicester and at home against Liverpool. But, please, let’s not lose sight of the fact that we still have some major deficiencies within our team and a long way to go before Premiership safety can be assured.
It’s a scary fact that, despite our epic performances in two out of the three last matches, we find ourselves in a relegation spot. Why?
Without a shadow of doubt, our penalty misses cost us 5 points.
However, let’s also not forget that Scott Parker started the season with the same playing philosophy that he insisted, last season, on numerous occasions, was the correct way to play. That was a slow, passing build up with the focus on (eventually) getting the ball played in to a solitary, static striker in Mitrovic.
Despite criticism from many quarters, Parker continued to justify this style of play as being the correct course of action. Rather fortuitously, promotion was eventually gained and any criticism of this playing philosophy was mainly dissipated.
Despite Tony Khan broadcasting, loud and clear, during the summer that we would NOT be signing a large number of players and would NOT be a home to enable loan players from other Premiership clubs to find form and fitness, we did exactly the opposite after realising, very quickly, that our promotional squad was not up to Premiership standards.
More and more players arrived but, at no time, were we seriously linked with the incoming of a striker. To be more precise-a mobile, speedy striker-such was the belief by our manager in his strategy of playing to Mitrovic’s strengths. This was a very shortsighted outlook indeed with no concern being given to the fact, alone, that Mitrovic might get injured or suspended and we would be found without any adequate cover.
In the event, something caused Scott Parker to rethink his playing philosophy. I’m not quite sure when this epiphany occurred but, I would suggest, somewhere around the West Brom, West Ham games. He abandoned his possession based, ponderous build up and opted for a slicker, quicker tempo. Hats off to him for that! It takes a lot of courage to admit the error of your ways.
One of the obvious casualties of this change in tactics was the static talisman that is Mitrovic. He is a cult hero among the fans. He strikes fear in opposing defences because of his eye for goal, naturally, but, also, because he is so strong and fearless. Even his most devoted fans would admit, however, that his work rate is minimal and his body language when things are not going well is enough to spread negativity through the rest of the team.
What is worse than this is a Mitrovic who, suddenly, loses his eye for goal-even from the penalty spot.
So, out he goes, probably, at first, just an experiment by Parker. Again, hats off for a VERY brave decision, sure to raise the eyebrows of the Khans certainly. And, guess what? It worked! Suddenly, our breaks – at speed- looked actually threatening.
Only one problem, we don’t have a striker. Definition of striker: a player who strikes against opposition defences by scoring goals.
So, Cavaleiro is pressed into action to fill this role and, let’s be brutally honest, it hasn’t worked. Yes, we break with speed and real threat but with no end result.
So we are back to the summer transfer window and the mistake made in not signing a striker.
However, being an eternal optimist, I now see that as a blessing in disguise.
Firstly, if we HAD signed a striker, more than likely, Parker, given his philosophy at that time, may have opted for a carbon copy of Mitrovic.
Secondly, and I say this as an avowed Cavaleiro critic, I can actually see him getting better in this unusual, for him, role. His work rate has improved dramatically and he is definitely getting into great positions. All that is needed is confidence in his finishing ability-nothing a goal or two wouldn’t resolve.
So, I would rather see Cavaleiro given the time to grow into this position because I love Parker’s newfound philosophy.
And, as a Cavaleiro critic, I never thought I would say that!
You’re right Charles. I agree. Let’s be honest there are 2 reasons why our early season form has been transformed:
1) it’s virtually a completely different set of players
2) Parker has completely ditched Parkerball’s boring possession based, sideways football for a compact and counter attacking style.
Personally I think it was obvious to anyone that our defence and lack of premier quality upfront needed dealing with on Day 1 of promotion and the thought that essentially a Championship team was going to pass its way to success in the Premier League was naive at best…BUT…at least now…TK has brought in the players we need (except the obvious pacy striker) and Parker has completely changed his tactics and philosophy. I mean COMPLETELY changed his philosophy. I agree with Parker’s comments that it is a sign of how far we have come that we were disappointed not to beat Liverpool. In truth it’s a sign of how far TK and Parker have come that we were even in with a chance.