Our Saturday lunchtime date with Coventry turned horribly sour in the second half. Perhaps the most alarming element of Fulham’s second half collapse was the fact that the visitors seemed to lack the stomach for the fight. We need to start being honest with ourselves. The Championship is one of the toughest divisions in the world to get out of. You have to wonder whether the idea that this side would walk the league, amassing a hundred-plus points, had percolated through to the players. It simply isn’t going to happen – but the team looked like they believed they only needed to turn up to win.
As the old proverb goes, hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. It seems inconceivable that Marco Silva and his backroom stuff hadn’t prepared meticulously for Coventry. Mark Robins’ men might have exceeded all the early season expectations with a fine start – they are a serious proposition on their own patch, as evidenced by their 100% record back at their own ground, and have a forward line to rival any in the league. Silva savaged his players’ second half showing afterwards – nothing went right from when Ream and Onomah got in each other’s way after Gazzaniga’s wayward pass, a mistake that highlighted both an absence of communication and a lack of awareness.
It would be easy to blame the second half collapse on the dreadful penalty decision but, although the officials at this level consistently fall below an acceptable standard, Silva was right to say it wasn’t the reason why Fulham slumped so badly. Robinson was unfortunate to be penalised for what was a shocking day, but Fulham’s defence had already been lackadaisical in the penalty area. It took a terrific saving tackle from Harrison Reed to prevent the peerless Callum O’Hare from sauntering through a terribly porous back line, which saw Matty Godden the chance to throw himself down. Denis Odoi endured an awful afternoon, giving away countless free kicks in dangerous positions, and consistently finding himself in the wrong position when sky blue shirts ran at him.
You could have been forgiven for thinking Fulham felt the job was done after the first 45 minutes. We simply weren’t awake. There was a distinct lack of closing down, with home players allowed to pop off shots from inside the area – Ian Maatsen’s strike was a perfect example of this. Odoi didn’t get to him quickly enough and suddenly the game had got away from us. The frustration was evident both in the stands and on the pitch but everyone in black has to take a long hard look at themselves. I’m confused as to how some starters remain fixtures in the team. Fulham offered painfully little going forward after the break. Wilson was largely anonymous again, although I’m confused why he isn’t on the free-kicks.
I could spent a long time detailing the failings of a number of players, but the painful truth is most of Silva’s starting line up simply wasn’t good enough. This was our worst showing since the Scott Parker days – forget the defeats by Blackpool and Reading – having got ourselves into a winning position, collapsing like that was utterly unforgiveable.
Gazzaniga: I’m not as down on him as some elements of the fanbase, but there comes a time when you have to realise, it isn’t working. Rodak is proven at this level and was starting for Slovakia as they qualified for Euro 2020. A change in goal is long past necessary. 1
Odoi: There still seems to be a sense amongst some of the fanbase the Belgian is beyond criticism after his service to the club. He looks woefully short of the defensive standard required at right back. When wide players are running at him, he appears completely out of his depth. The decision not to recruit a new man in this position after Tete’s injury is proving more and more costly. 2
Robinson: The American shouldn’t have started for me if Bryan was fit enough to be on the break. He gave Gavin Ward a decision to make by leaving his leg out for Godden to go to ground and comprehensively lost the battle with Dabo on the Coventry right. Too many of his passes went astray and, despite being a sublime athlete, he makes too many elementary mistakes. 2
Mawson: I actually felt sorry for the big man. He was wanted eighteen months for a league start and was drafted into to this mess. Comfortably Fulham’s best defender – although that is really damning him with feint praise – and he dealt with most of the balls into the box. 5
Ream: That dreadful mistake right at the start of the second half seemed to see him go to pieces. You just had a sense he wasn’t going to recover from the stumble and heavy touch after Gazzaniga’s poor pass, although Onomah’s part in this comedy of errors shouldn’t be forgotten about. I expected more leadership and communication from one of Fulham’s most experienced players. 3
Reed: I felt Harrison was lacking in a lot of departments this afternoon and was getting frustrated watching him by the end. 4
Onomah: Certainly didn’t take his chance after Silva’s strange decision to leave Seri out. Typified our lack of intensity in a dozy performance that culminated in his crazy blocking off of Ream for Coventry’s equaliser. 3
Decordova-Reid: Was he even out there? Missing in action. 4
Kebano: The Congolese winger was far from our worst performer, but he wasn’t good either. First touch had gone to pieces long before he was hauled off and you can see why a succession of managers have seen fit to only use him as an impact sub. 5
Wilson: Seems to be struggling now that sides are taking steps to limit his effectiveness. Coventry cleared put two men on him this afternoon and that dramatically reduced the Welshman’s impact. He might be better suited to filling the number ten role in Carvalho’s absence. 3
Mitrovic: Looked to have the beating of McFadzean in the first half – not just in the air, but in the way he was dropping deep to link up the play effectively. Hardly saw any of the ball after the break but you could totally understand his frustration after he was blocked off by Clarke-Salter as he tried to burst through the Coventry defence, even if his boiling rage resulted in an unnecessary booking. 5
Moving forward, there could be a case for changing the system slightly. A lot of Championship sides have successfully deployed a back three this season and, with Mawson’s return to the side, there is the potential to play three centre halves. Tosin was sorely missed today – and simply can’t be dropped or rotated again. Bryan has to start on the left and operating as a wing back might reduce defensive deficiencies. Decordova-Reid did well at right wing back last season and might be worth a try until Tete is fully fit. Rodrigo Muniz probably deserves a start after a number of bright cameos off the bench – I’d like to see him partnered with Mitrovic up top from the start against QPR. Suddenly, the derby looks like a massive game after the international break.