It proved pretty pertinent when Marco Silva described Denis Odoi as being a ‘different’ profile to the type of right back he was looking for at Fulham. The Belgian veteran served as a dependable deputy for the injured Kenny Tete but his deadline day departure for Club Brugges perhaps wasn’t as big a shock as the Cottagers’ head coach made out. Likeable and loyal, Odoi isn’t the archetypal modern full back or a flier like Ryan Fredericks, who helped the Whites reach the top flight back in 2018. His return home allowed Fulham to seal a late loan for Liverpool’s Neco Williams, which is quickly bearing fruit.
The Welsh international could easily have been created in central casting for Silva. The 20 year-old busts a gut to get to the byline, befitting his years as a winger in youth football, possesses a devilish delivery, rapid acceleration and has forged a fantastic understanding with Harry Wilson for club and country. He has real pedigree – having played every minute of Wales’ run to the second round of the European Championships last summer – but needed first-team football that simply wasn’t in the offing at Anfield with Trent Alexander-Arnold ahead of him.
Williams came through what was always going to be a tough baptism of fire at the home of the English champions on debut in the FA Cup and his offensive qualities were always more likely to be on show against Millwall than Manchester City. As well as several clever combinations with Wilson along the right flank, Williams marked his Craven Cottage bow with an assist as he produced a peach of a cross for Aleksandar Mitrovic’s opener. The Serbian certainly appreciated the service – making a beeline for the new man on his way to celebrating in front of the visiting fans.
You felt the in-form forward might have been salivating at the thought of further sensational supply in the weeks to come. Lo and behold, Williams – who looked the most likely source of a goalscoring opportunity in a fairly forgettable first half – sent over a gem of a ball from right eleven minutes after half time. Mitrovic made a tricky glancing header look laughably straightforward but the quality of the cross was quite something. Williams’ sense of adventure was encapsulated by the fact that his first thought on latching onto Antonee Robinson’s switch of play was to gallop forward and whip in an early delivery: it ended up catching out Hull’s otherwise excellent centre halves.
Williams’ immediate impact has been timely with the injury-ravaged Tete sidelined again with the groin problem he picked up trying to score against Stoke. The Dutch international resumed training at Motspur Park towards the end of last week but he can’t be certain of returning to Silva’s starting line-up given the loanee’s lightning start. The Wrexham lad’s link ups with Wilson, honed for years at Melwood and then with Wales, are seamless enough to add a new dimension to Fulham’s already frightening attack. It isn’t as if the league leaders need more threats in the final third, but Silva will take it.
Tim Ream’s post-match interview on Humberside confirmed that Williams had slotted into the squad serenely. It is always easier to fit into a successful side but Williams already seems like one of the shrewdest additions of the season. Three matches constitutes the smallest of sample sizes but you can’t quibble with two assists in as many matches. Might Williams will be the makeweight in the Liverpool’s anticipated attempt to return for Fabio Carvalho in the summer? We’ll just have to watch this space.