Sarah runs the rule over some fine performances as Fulham recorded their first Premier League win in four years yesterday …
Marcus Bettinelli: Football’s a funny old game. Just two weeks ago, it looked as if Bettinelli would be frozen out after the Whites signed two senior goalkeepers and now he has returned from the cold to keep goal in the Premier League. He had little to do here, in truth, with Burnley’s two goals being their only shots on target and he was left helpless for both of them. Jokanovic clearly wants a keeper comfortable with the ball at his feet and there were early signs that Bettinelli still struggles to fulfill this requirement. There’s hesitancy in his distribution and several of his early passes went into touch – and it will be interesting to see how the goalkeeping situation resolves itself. 6
Timothy Fosu-Mensah: An energetic and enterprising display from the Manchester United loanee, who was once again preferred to Cyrus Christie at right back. He showed an eagerness to get forward from the off and displayed a blistering turn of pace in the final third that Fulham could yet utilise to their advantage. Fosu-Mensah was solid defensively and read the game well, but like most modern full-backs offered real value as an overlapping attacking. His crossing proved more dangerous than Christie’s and one splendid low centre narrowly eluded Andre Schurrle and Aleksandar Mitrovic in the second half. 7
Denis Odoi: The Belgian was recalled to the heart of the Fulham back four following his suspension and Calum Chambers’ below-par display at Wembley. He is still very much a makeshift centre back and can struggle to convince at this level, but managed to nullify Chris Wood’s physicality for the most part. Although it was Maxime Le Marchand who gave away the ball for Burnley’s equaliser, Odoi was slow to shuffle across and read the danger, ultimately leaving Bettinelli unsighted for Hendrick’s first shot. 6
Maxime Le Marchand: This was probably the Frenchman’s least assured of his three Premier League outings to date. He has been superb since stepping into the Fulham defence but was badly culpable for Burnley’s first goal, gifting the Clarets possession on the halfway line with a sloppy pass. Did little else wrong, making a couple of excellent recovery tackles to thwart potential danger and switched to left back for the final quarter of the contest after Joe Bryan went off. 6
Joe Bryan: Another excellent display from the left back, who has shown little sign of being daunted by the step up to the top flight after arriving on deadline day from Bristol City. Got forward to great effect and dovetailed nicely with Luciano Vietto down that flank, providing him with the pass that began the move for Fulham’s first goal. Positioned himself well defensively and seems a solid acquisition with scope for improvement, who already looks comfortable at Craven Cottage. 7
Kevin McDonald: The Scottish international was restored to the starting line-up to face his former club having missed the meeting with Spurs last weekend – and delivered another composed performance at the base of the Fulham midfield. Didn’t need to snap into too many tackles to break up Burnley attacks, but his reading of the game and positioning remained spot on. A reassuring pressure in front of the back four, McDonald know hows he will need to be on top of his game as Anguissa adapts to English football. 7
Tom Cairney: The Fulham captain was a little quieter than usual at the heart of the midfield, but was by no means poor. Produced a brilliant floated ball that looked to be straight from the Motspur Park training ground routines for Mitrovic’s first goal from a cleverly worked short corner and found the room to run at the Burnley defence as the game became open in the second half. Substituted as a precaution following a late challenge from Charlie Taylor, but Jokanovic revealed that he should be available for the trip to Brighton on Saturday. 7
Jean-MIchael Seri: The Ivorian already appears a cut above as a classy orchestrator of possession in the Fulham midfield, with his quick movement of the ball, and his exceptional footballing brain. He produced a moment of genuine quality to put the Whites ahead, with an exocet from long-range that left Joe Hart beaten just four minutes in – the kind of effort that the Whites have seemingly been reluctant to take on in recent years. But with the low centre of gravity reminiscent of Mahamadou Diarra and some of the vision that reminds you of Mousa Dembele, Seri has all the attributes to be a star. 8
Andre Schurrle: The German was determined to make his point after being recalled to Jokanovic’s first eleven yesterday afternoon and buzzed around with intent from the off. You can see his quality in the driving runs from midfield he makes and how he darts into dangerous central areas – as will as some of that vision to release team-mates. Schurrle seems to be full of confidence and looked to test Hart at every opportunity, hitting eleven shots during the contest, but it appeared as though it wouldn’t be his day until the former England goalkeeper turned Mitrovic’s effort onto the post and the winger rifled in the rebound. 8
Luciano Vietto: The Argentinian was handed a surprise start at the expense of Ryan Sessegnon on the left of Fulham’s front three and turned in an excellent performance on his full debut. He might look a little lightweight for the rough and tumble of the Premier League, but Vietto’s intelligent runs and clever use of the ball shows just how he could fit into Jokanovic’s plans. Vietto was bright throughout and floated in an inviting cross for Fulham’s third goal – the high point of an energetic display. 7
Aleksandar Mitrovic: On this form, the £22m Fulham paid Newcastle to finally secure the Serbian’s services this summer looks a snip. There have been question marks about his ability to score goals at this level but Mitrovic seems to thrive on proving the doubters wrong. He already has three – topping the Premier League’s goalscoring charts – and he bullied the Burnley centre halves throughout. He buried two headers but his all-round play was far more significant, with intelligent movement and the ability to play in others. Unfortunate not to claim a memorable hat-trick late on. 9
Calum Chambers (on for Joe Bryan, 72): Sent on to sure up the Fulham defence for the final quarter of the contest as Joe Bryan tired and didn’t let anybody down. 6
Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa (on for Tom Cairney, 78): Showed plenty of promising touches during a late camera that also features such driving running from deep and a penchant for pulling the trigger. Anguissa will need to smooth out some of the overplaying that got himself into trouble against Tottenham, but proves much-needed competition for McDonald in front of the back four. 6
Ryan Sessegnon (on for Andre Schurrle, 88): Gareth Southgate’s scouting trip afforded him just two minutes of seeing the wonderkid, who was a late substitute for the excellent Andre Schurrle. 6
Fulham’s Under 23s began their Premier League 2 season with an encouraging display and an entertaining draw against Manchester United at Motspur Park last night.
Peter Grant’s side commendable resilience to come from behind twice to claim a point against the Red Devils after conceding goals to Angel Gomes and Tahith Chong. The young Whites were indebted to their centre back partnership with set piece equalisers arriving courtesy of Arron Davies and Rob Atkinson. The draw was the least the home side deserved for an enterprising display full of ambition and creativity, sparked by the energy and drive of Tyrese Francois in central midfield.
Cameron Thompson, deployed on the left wing in a fluid 4-3-3 that mirrored Slavisa Jokanovic’s preferred system, had Fulham’s first sight of goal but couldn’t connect with Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson’s dangerous cross before Cauley Woodrow, who endured a frustrating evening in front of goal, wasted a good opportunity after a fine through ball from Matt O’Riley. United had dominated possession and gradually began to create chances of their own with Magnus Norman saving stubbornly from George Tanner at his near post.
Thompson did saw a shot well blocked by united’s Ro-Shaun Williams before the visitors broke swiftly, but James Wilson’s low cross didn’t find a team-mate. Estonian international midfielder Mathias Kait then drilled a shot fractionally wide of far post midway through the first period, but it was United who broke the deadlock. A neat passing move found Tanner out in space on the right flank and the full-back was afforded far too much time to cross. Angel Gomes drifted between Atkinson and Davies to direct a firm header past the helpless Norman.
The visitors, who despite their ample resources were surprisingly relegated last season, then had chances to double their lead before half-time. Former Fulham forward DJ Buffonge saw his effort bravely blocked by Atkinson and Davies then bravely threw himself in front of a Gomes effort to thwart further danger. United were to pay for those misses four minutes before the break when O’Riley’s deep free kick was turned home at the far post by Davies.
The equaliser gave Fulham a boost at the start of the second half. United keeper Kieran O’Hara pulled off a brilliant save from Woodrow’s improvised flick at his near post and Thornsteinsson then saw a strong penalty shout waved away by the referee. Instead, it was the Red Devils who went ahead again – hitting Fulham on the break. A lovely move involving Buffonge and Gomes finished with Belgian winger Chong drilling an excellent finish past Norman.
Defeat would have been harsh on the hosts and, to their credit, Fulham never gave up. They grabbed a deserved second equaliser from another O’Riley set play with Atkinson able to punish a poor clearance from Williams with a fine header. The Whites pushed hard for a third in the closing stages of an intriguing contest, but both sides ultimately had to be content with a point.
FULHAM U23s (4-3-3): Norman; Jenz, Mundle-Smith, Atkinson, Davies; Kait, Francois, O’Riley; Thornsteinsson, Thompson (Harris 73), Woodrow. Subs (not used): Stahl, Opoku, Drameh, Carvalho.
GOALS: Davies (41), Atkinson (80).
MANCHESTER UNITED U23s (4-2-3-1): O’Hara; Tanner, O’Connor, Williams, Garner; Poole, Hamilton; Chong, Gomes (Dearnley 88), Buffonge (Whelan 88); Wilson (Bohul 45). Subs (not used): Warren, Forstieck.
GOALS: Gomes (28), Chong (61).
Kevin McDonald says Fulham are ready to ‘give it a right old blast’ in the Premier League this season after seeing the club supplement their promotion-winning squad with new signings during a busy summer transfer window.
The Scottish international insists that the Whites aren’t just looking to survive but are determined to prove they belong in English football’s top flight. Fulham spent around £120m on twelve new signings over the summer – including five arrivals during a busy transfer deadline day – and McDonald told the Evening Standard that reflects the ambition at Craven Cottage.
We are going to give it a right old blast this season. We are not here to make up the numbers. We are here to prove to everyone what we can do, prove that this is where the club belongs. The owners have invested money wisely and bought some really good players. That can only benefit the team.
The former Wolves and Burnley midfielder was quick to insist that the squad themselves are remaining grounded ahead of the start of the new campaign, acutely aware of the big step up in quality from the Championship.
People are seeing all these big names coming in and the money we are spending so it is understandable that from the outside expectation levels have been raised. But we are a level-headed group of players and we know where we stand. We would be naive to start looking above to the top half of the table. First and foremost we have got to establish ourselves as a Premier League team. Of course we want to finish as high as we can but we know it is going to be a long, hard season.
McDonald also reiterated that Slavisa Jokanovic has told his players to keep true to their footballing principles and that the Fulham squad don’t feel under any extra pressure on the eve of the new season.
We are a new team coming to the league so I do not think there is pressure on us. Outsiders always think the three promoted teams are favourites to get relegated. With the signings we have made maybe we are different. The gaffer wants us to play the exact same way. He got us here playing that way. That is not going to change.
Valencia defender Martin Montoya has flown into London for a medical ahead of his proposed move to Fulham.
The former Barcelona defender is eager to play in the Premier League and has been allowed to leave Valencia after they brought in Cristiano Piccini from Sporting Lisbon last month. The 27 year-old missed Valencia’s training session this morning in order to make the journey to England, according to reports in the Spanish press.
Montoya is an attacking right back who came through the famed La Masia academy to win three league titles, two Copa del Rays and the Champions’ League in 2014/2015 with Barcelona. He was also part of the Spanish under-21 side that won back-to-back European Championships in 2011 and 2013 and was a regular in the first-team during his two years at Valencia. He made 62 appearances at the Mestella, scoring two goals and making seven assists, and is also versatile enough to play at left back as well.
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic has been seeking to augment his options at right back since Ryan Frdericks signed for West Ham on a free transfer earlier in the summer. He has been using academy graduates Marlon Fossey and Steven Sessegnon in rotation with Irish international Cyrus Christie for much of pre-season, but it looks as if the Premier League new boys are about to add some more defensive depth before the start of the new campaign.
Queens Park Rangers are eager to sign Marcus Bettinelli should the goalkeeper be allowed to leave Fulham following the arrival of Sergio Rico, according to the Daily Mail.
The former England under-21 international had an excellent second half of the season as Fulham went on a 23-match unbeaten run to win promotion via the Championship play-offs. Bettinelli kept a clean sheet as the Whites beat Aston Villa at Wembley, but he was swiftly usurped in the pecking order at Craven Cottage when Fulham brought in Spanish custodian Fabri from Besiktas.
The Fulham academy graduate looks set to slip further down the list of Slavisa Jokanovic’s goalkeeping options when Rico completes a loan move from Sevilla, which was widely trailed in the Spanish press yesterday. The 26 year-old, who signed a contract extension with the Whites last summer, has made 98 first-team appearances since making his Fulham debut in the League Cup win at Brentford in August 2014.
QPR are looking for an experienced Championship goalkeeper having sold Alex Smithies earlier this summer, although Bettinelli is also rumoured to be interesting Bristol City, who have previously offered him a loan route out of Craven Cottage when he was second choice to Button two years ago. The likeable goalkeeper has twice turned down a possible switch to Chelsea in order to compete for his place at Fulham and recently spoke of his excitement at the chance to play in the Premier League, but could be persuaded to move on for regular first-team football.