Scott Parker admitted that Manchester City are comfortably a level above his Fulham side at present – but he was pleased with how his players fought hard at the Etihad Stadium this afternoon.
The Whites went 2-0 down inside the first half an hour – thanks to an early Raheem Sterling strike and Kevin de Bruyne’s penalty – and there may have been a fear that the floodgates might have opened. But Fulham tightened things up at the break, were much improved in the second half and battled hard despite seeing very little of the ball.
The Fulham boss told his post-match press conference:
City look ominous most weeks. The challenge that we faced today was always going to be there. They’re a fantastic team with big quality. I’m disappointed to go a goal down so early on. I have nothing but praise for my team in the way they stuck to it and showed a bit of courage. Once you go a couple of goals down against this team, they can put you to the sword.
I want to put a stamp on games and this division. My players and this team want to try their best to do that. I asked the players individually to put their personality on the game. A lot of teams come here, and because of the quality, the game can pass you by a bit. There’s no shame in losing against this team but there is shame in not leaving them with something. To a man my team tried to show their moments.
One of the main things was being solid out of possession. In attack to go with a split striker in Ade and Cav to try and cause their full backs some issues. They can put a choke hold on you with how aggressive they are. We changed it around in the second half and it worked a bit better for us. We were a bit braver in the second half, we tried to get more control.
Parker confirmed that the omission of Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovic for the second game in succession was a tactical decision:
Mitrovic isn’t injured. It’s purely how I saw the game and what was suited for the team’s personnel. That was how I saw it best to cause them problems. There will be discussion around Aleks but he has a big part to play for us this year.
He always offered praise for goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, who made several fine stops with Fulham’s backs against the wall:
Every top team that comes here will know their keeper is going to have to have a big game. Alphonse had a big game today and he pulled off some big saves
Boys worked hard Parker summed up perfect , the gulf gets bigger between the bigger clubs, just glad it was only two
2-0 as good as we could have realistically hoped for. We stayed in the game but without any real cutting edge. This team starting to pick itself. Only question mark for me is Cav. I get the theory that he has pace to hurt teams on the break and run the channels but let’s be honest it hasnt been effective. I’d prefer to stay with this pacy team but see if Mitro can hold the ball up for us and provide an option in the box. Our fate wont be decided by these games. More evidence of getting the best out of what we have today! Well done boys
Have to agree with the sentiments here. Parker gives a good summary of the match, we competed but didn’t create very much. Think our strongest team has Mitrovic in it – and he has to start going forward. We can use Cavaleiro as an option off the bench, but Mitro will occupy defenders and battle for it up there.
Before the Leicester game, we would all have more than settled for 3 points from the 3 daunting fixtures we faced. After a terrific performance against Leicester we got those 3 points. I don’t believe that even the most blind Fulham supporter expected us to come away from the Etihad with any additional points. After the way City had dismantled Burnley in their previous home game, most pundits expected Fulham to be on the receiving end of another heavy loss and, after the penalty had made it 2-0 so early in the game, it certainly seemed that that was to be the case. Yet, in a much improved second half performance, we managed to keep the scoreline the same and, on paper at least, a 2-0 defeat looks like a creditable performance.
So why was I so disappointed by the way we played?
Firstly, still on a high from the Leicester win, I was quickly brought back down to Earth by the gulf in quality as City scythed through our defence time and again with such ease. Whenever we tried to gain a reprieve from the incessant Man City attacks, our “front” players managed to lose possession time and again. I’m a Cavaleiro critic but the worst offender, by far, was Loftus Cheek. He seemed to be in a slower gear than anybody else around him and constantly gave the ball away.
After a sterling, defensive performance against Leicester, Decordova Reid was back to normal-constantly mis-hitting passes and there was just no relief as we were penned back constantly. If not for our keeper, the score could have been doubled in that first half.
After the master stroke of deploying Decordova Reid in support of Aina against Leicester, I was staggered to see such tactical naivety on the part of Parker in allowing De Bruyne a completely free run of the midfield. At first, I thought that Harrison Reed was being outclassed in his battle with De Bruyne as he was so often beaten to the ball but, after 10 minutes or so, I realised that Harrison hadn’t actually been given the job of stifling the City player at all. He was too busy chasing shadows alongside Anguissa. We had, in effect, just two midfielders to challenge the City midfield and this is where the first half was lost. Anguissa and Reed are two tremendous assets in the Fulham midfield and, with Tom Cairney playing effectively in the Loftus Cheek position, we had the makings of a decent looking trio. Scott Parker thought otherwise against Everton and again at Leicester. To add insult to injury, Harrison was pulled off and on came Lemina -who managed to give the ball away with his first four attempts.
Honestly, I don’t want to sound negative. I truly don’t. But we desperately need a mobile striker with pace. Cavaleiro is not the answer-no matter how much Parker wishes it. I want to see Loftus Cheek regain form but, at the very least, he needs to put in a shift if he’s to retain his position. Decordova Reid is a squad player at best. He just doesn’t have the quality to compete at the highest level. Having Kamara as a substitute and preferring him to Mitrovic is, genuinely, just not good enough-as was seen.
It’s a great shame that we had to face Manchester City straight after such a good win at Leicester-but we did and it only served to highlight our deficiencies. It won’t take too much to fix these weaknesses in the January window. Then we will really have a team that can compete in the Premiership.
Parker has everything right except center forward. I don’t understand playing Cavaleiro instead of Mitro. It is unthinkable in my opinion. We were probably always going to lose this game, but besides making the penalty what did Cavaleiro really do last week? Often we brought the ball aggressively up the wing with no target in the box. So much for loyalty. We could have used an outlet target against Man City, someone to hold up the ball on longer passes out from the back. Lastly, Mitro makes center backs accountable Cavaleiro does not.