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Fulham lining up Lookman deal

Fulham are close to completing a loan deal for the Red Bull Leipzig winger Ademola Lookman, according to a report from the Daily Mail this evening.

The former England under-21 international is keen on a return to England having struggled since leaving Everton in a £16.5million move to Germany last July. The Wandsworth-born winger made just thirteen appearances last season, failing to recapture the form that had convinced Leipzig to turn his previous loan into a permanent deal, when he scored five times in eleven appearances.

The former Charlton academy graduate is now in discussions with Fulham about a potential loan move, according to the Mail. Lookman made his Charlton debut as an eighteen year-old and made an immediate impact for the Addicks, scoring five goals in 24 appearances in his first season in senior football and being voted the Championship’s apprenticeship of the year. He followed that up with seven goals in 25 appearances, which was enough for Everton to take him to Goodison Park in January 2017 for a fee rumoured to be in the region of £7.5m.

Lookman made a positive impression early on at Everton and scored four goals in 48 appearances for the Toffees but fell down the pecking order as new signings arrived. The 22 year-old is most at home on the left wing, but can also operate on the opposite flank or as a second striker. He has won eleven caps for England at under-21 level, scoring a single goal, and was part of the England under-20 side that won the World Cup in 2017 alongside Fulham’s Josh Onomah.

Fulham eye Amartey deal

Fulham have made an offer for Leicester City midfielder Daniel Amartey, according to reports this afternoon.

The Foxes are willing to sell the 25 year-old, who has struggled for both fitness and form of late at the King Power Stadium, and is now not considered an integral part of Brendon Rodgers’ squad. Leicester value the Ghanaian international at around £5m and Fulham have held a long-standing interest in the former Djurgardens and Copenhagen man, having had approaches rebuffed last January.

Amartey signed for Leicester for around £6m in January 2016 and made five first-team appearances as the Foxes surprised everyone by winning the Premier League title under Claudio Ranieri. He succeeded Ngolo Kante in the holding midfield role the following season, making 35 appearances and scoring a single goal, a late leveller at Stoke City. He has suffered several injury setbacks at Leicester, breaking his ankle and being sidelined for nearly two years before making a goalscoring return in a pre-season friendly against Blackburn Rovers earlier this summer.

Amartey, who has won 26 caps for Ghana, helped the Black Stars finish fourth in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, where he was named in the team of the tournament. The powerful midfielder, who won the Danish title and two domestic cups during his team with Copenhagen, can also play in central defence, which remains a problem position for Scott Parker.

Fulham to let McDonald leave on a free transfer

Fulham will allow Scottish international midfielder Kevin McDonald to leave on a free transfer, according to a Sky Sports report this afternoon.

The popular 31 year-old midfielder has been a stalwart in four years at Craven Cottage, significantly strengthening Slavisa Jokanovic’s side when he was signed from Wolverhampton Wanderers after a lengthy pursuit in 2016. McDonald, who quickly became an automatic pick patrolling in front of the back four, has been part of two promotion-winning sides from the Championship but has rarely featured in the first-team in each of the last two seasons and is understood to be eager to play regular football again.

Fulham are reportedly willing to allow McDonald to leave Craven Cottage on a free transfer in recognition of his contribution both on and off the field. The former Dundee United midfielder has made 127 appearances for the Whites, scoring six goals, and is credited with being a vocal and important member of the dressing room. He has slipped down the pecking order of late and with Mario Lemina and Harrison Reed signing this summer – allied with Andre Frank Zambo Anguissa’s return from his loan spell at Villarreal – McDonald’s chances of featuring under Scott Parker appear remote.

McDonald, who is currently undertaking his coaching badges, wants to continue his playing career and Fulham do not want to impede chances of reigniting his career by holding out for a high-value offer for his services. The experienced midfielder’s current Craven Cottage deal expires at the end of this season.

Fulham make Marlon offer

Fulham have submitted an offer for Sassuolo centre back Marlon, according to reports from Italy this afternoon.

Sassuolo director Giovanni Carnevali told Sky Sport Italia:

‘We had an offer from Fulham, an important one, so we are evaluating it and the negotiations are in progress. We’ll see over the next couple of days if we can conclude them’.

The 25 year-old defender has been left on the pitch for Napoli’s Serie A opener against Cagliari. The Italian press believe Fulham’s offer to around £14m, although the Brazilian’s former club would be due half of the transfer fee as part of the deal that took Marlon to Italy two summers ago.

The 6ft centre half, who came through the Fluminense youth academy, made three senior appearances at the Nou Camp and was loaned to French side Nice for the 2017/18 season. He has played 41 times in two seasons with Sassuolo, scoring one goal. Fulham’s need for reinforcements in central defence was underlined by their dreadful defending in a 4-3 defeat at Leeds yesterday, which followed a 3-0 loss at the hands of Arsenal on the opening day of the season.

Fight won’t save Fulham, we need reinforcements

In years past, Fulham conceding the goals in the manner they did so against Leeds would’ve led to a gutless acceptance of loss and it’s credit to Scott Parker that his squad show grit and character to fight back into the game, even if ultimately fruitless and a disappointing final 10 minutes saw Fulham struggle to retain possession and get into the Leeds final third rather than the push for the equaliser typical of these endings.

Scott Parker’s side has heart, it has fight but it ultimately lacks quality in vital positions to be positive about safety. The Premier League transfer window has about three weeks left to deal with the rest of the world with a Premier League and EFL only window remaining open from the 5th October to the 16th. We didn’t need two Premier League games to know that we needed help in the middle of the back four but Michael Hector’s early performances may lead to thoughts of whether actually need two? It’s absolutely imperative that the majority of the remaining transfer budget is spent on improving the quality in central defence. Whether that’s tempting someone like Chris Smalling to return to the club or attracting Bayer Leverkusen’s Jonathan Tah (both rumoured this summer), I don’t mind, but sooner rather than later would be beneficial before a hole is dug that we simply can not overcome.

It’s easy to be pessimistic after two games, no points to show for it and seven goals conceded but I think there are some positives. Kenny Tete looks a terrific player and will make it hard for Ola Aina to get into the team at right back, a second gorgeous delivery to assist Aleksandar Mitrovic in as many games as well as a solid defensive showing where Jack Harrison was anonymous is promising. At the other full back position, Joe Bryan might be playing his best football since starting at the club despite that moment of madness in giving away the penalty so soon after the equaliser but his alternate, Antonee Robinson is another promising player with the athleticism and play style to shine at the top.

In midfield, Harrison Reed is looking less dominant as a defensive force but is still doing fine. It’s Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa who provides the star power in midfield with his ball recovery, progressive dribbling and distribution that shone at Elland Road and may have been a fairly unanimous man of the match decision if the club was still doing the fan vote. With Mario Lemina in rotation for one of those two roles, the big hole is currently the most advanced as Josh Onomah has been a bit slow to Premier League football and yet to do anything of note and question marks are there around Tom Cairney’s athletic qualities to be the same creative force at the top, especially when quite so one footed.

The three in behind Aleksandar Mitrovic could do with work in general. It wasn’t until Neeskens Kebano’s reintroduction after lockdown did we get anything of note from the flanks in the Championship and he’s already found himself back on the bench. Getting some speed for the counter and quality in the final third is imperative in games where Fulham may not get so much of the ball and need to make the most of the counter attack game.

Scott Parker spoke post game about it not necessarily being a training thing, the desire to defend has to come from inside, the red alert has to come on for situations like set pieces and I don’t think he’s wrong. Bringing in superior quality and a champion mentality would help – Fulham’s most senior players in age and experience are Tim Ream and Kevin McDonald, whilst both will go down in Fulham folklore, they are ultimately Championship players. It’s time for Fulham to have that figure or two that have been there, done it, got the t-shirt and all those other cliches. It’s happened throughout football history how one player with high standards and high quality benefits the rest of the changing room, the first coming to mind is Dennis Bergkamp at Arsenal, it’s time for Fulham to find that presence and we go again. But until we improve the middle of defence and the three in behind Aleksandar Mitrovic, it’s going to be a long, long season, no matter how hard we fight.

Decordova-Reid salutes Fulham’s spirit

Bobby Decordova-Reid was frustrated that Fulham couldn’t pull off an improbable comeback at Elland Road and pick up a point against Leeds – but believes the fightback from 4-1 shows his side have serious spirit.

The Jamaican international came off the bench to breathe new life into Scott Parker’s side – quickly scoring his first goal of the season to spark a Fulham revival. He told Fulham FCTV after the final whistle:

We didn’t give up. We’ve got a never-say-die attitude and we need to carry that on into games and maybe not give us that moment to climb next time.

Decordova-Reid’s influence as a second half substitute might have been fuelled by a desire to show Parker what he is capable of. The former Bristol City forward felt a responsibility to try and lift his team-mates after Leeds’ two early goals in the second period.

You’ve just got to try and affect the game. It’s a team game at the end of the day and you have to be counted when you come on. I just tried to come on and give a bit of energy and lift the lads. It’s nice to get a goal. I just want to keep on getting in areas and be in positions to get a goal. If we do that, keep working hard as a team, I think we’ll be okay.

It’s tough. They’re a team that runs a lot and you need to match their intensity. I think we’ve done that at certain points in the game and other times we probably could have done it better. We gave it our all and we tried to fight to the end.

Decordova-Reid is no doubt that Fulham will need to tighten up but is confident that they can improve to be competitive in the Premier League.

At the end of the day, we can’t need to score five goals to win a game. Three goals should be enough. We’ll work on it as a team, as a whole and hopefully we’ll get better at it. We’ve got to scrap for every single point, every single goal. As a collective we’re going to do that – and hopefully

Parker pans poor defending

Scott Parker was bitterly disappointed with the defensive errors that ultimately cost Fulham dear in their defeat at Leeds United this afternoon.

The Whites went down 4-3 at Elland Road with more calamitous defending to blame for several of the hosts’ goals. A frustrated Fulham boss told his post-match press conference:

Overall I am very frustrated. You can’t expect to score four or five goals to get something out of a game. You cannot give goals up as easily as we have given them up today. That is vitally important for us to improve on. For me at times it not about training, it’s about a mindset when it comes to defending. A bulb that goes off in your head when at certain moments in football matches there are critical moments. 

You have to be on high alert because in the Premier League at any given moment when you are nice and calm in possession the game can change. Of course there are individual mistakes and I understand but the biggest issue for me is at certain moments you need to show another side. That comes from deep in the belly, you need to have a sense about you. Sometimes we are too nice. Within a split second the ball can be in the back of the net.

Parker did praise his side’s resolve as they battled back from 4-1 to almost complete an improbable comeback in the closing stages.

But there are positives from today. We showed some real quality in possession at times. We showed a real impetus and caused Leeds a lot of problems. It was an entertaining game and I think we were largely part of that. My team showed massive character. At 4-1 I think the floodgates could have opened. Maybe 18 months ago that would have been the case. The team kept on believing and never quit. But we left ourselves with a little bit too much to do. 

Parker explained his four changes from the defeat by Arsenal as being designed to try and deal with the particular qualities of today’s opposition.

This was a unique team we played against today. A man-for-man team that presses you all over the pitch. We needed ball carriers. We needed people who could break away all over the pitch. That is why I named the team we fielded today. But listen. The players who did not play today are vital and will play a vital part this year. As I showed last year I will make changes for matches that give us the best chance of winning.

Fulham fightback falls short

You have to feel for Scott Parker. Reacting to a dismal defensive display against Arsenal on the opening day, he picked a new goalkeeper and reshuffled his back four to no great effect as Fulham’s defensive disasters continued this afternoon at Elland Road. The Londoners shipped four to Marcelo Bielsa’s men – with three of them the sort of gift-wrapped presents you’d associate more with Christmas than the start of a Premier League campaign – making their failure to sign a centre back during the summer all more the mystifying. Parker could console himself with the fact that his team turned a contest they looked well beyond them at 4-1 into a seven-goal thriller, but such naïve defending already looks worryingly reminiscent of Fulham’s 2018/2019 top flight campaign.

It took just six minutes for Leeds, seeking their first Premier League win in sixteen years, to go in front. A needlessly conceded corner was haplessly defended. Kenny Tete, brought in for a debut on the strength of his adventure from right back at Ipswich in midweek, lost his man, Harrsion Reed and Michael Hector made a hash of clearing Kalvin Phillips’ delivery and Helder Costa crashed an emphatic finish in off the crossbar. Even when the Whites had been giving a helping hand of their own, with another senseless tackle from Robin Koch affording Aleksandar Mitrovic the chance to equalise from the penalty spot, they pressed the self destruct button again. Joe Bryan, who had won Fulham’s penalty, pushed Patrick Bamford in the back and Mateusz Klich restored Leeds’ lead just when the visitors were becoming assured in possession and looking like they were getting on top.

Any words of encouragement Parker offered at the interval were swiftly rendered meaningless as Leeds ruthlessly exploited more amateurish defending to take a firm grip on the contest. Klich threaded a searching through ball between Hector and Tete for Bamford, whose measured finish was a mark of his new-found confidence after a brilliant goal at Anfield last week. Alphonse Areola shook his head mournfully, but worse was to come. Hector inexplicably stepped up to try and win a header on the halfway line and when he failed Bamford burst away from Odoi before rolling an inviting cut back that Costa clinically converted the edge of the box.

With more than half an hour to go, and Leeds leading 4-1, the prognosis looked bleak for Fulham. Parker shuffled his pack sending on Bobby Decordova-Reid and Neeskens Kebano and, to their great credit, his side remained both ambitious and determined. Nothing typified that more than the display of Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, derided as an expensive flop during his last taste of Premier League and fresh from a fabulous season in Spain. Anguissa’s consistent winning of the ball in high areas unnerved Leeds throughout and he produced a peach of a pass to send Decordova-Reid through on goal, with the Jamaican forward firing a fine finish through Illan Meslier.

If that appeared to be just a consolation, alarm bells would have been ringing on the Leeds bench five minutes later. Ivan Cavaleiro and Tete combined well down the right before the Dutch international floated an enticing cross into the six-yard. Meslier came and got nowhere near it, with Mitrovic outjumping Liam Cooper to head home his second of the contest. From nowhere, Fulham were very much alive. Kebano almost capped an incredible comeback two minutes later when his low shot from the left surprised the Leeds goalkeeper and came back off the near post.

In contrast to the end-to-end stuff that came before, the denouement was frustrating tame for Fulham. They didn’t do enough to threaten a clearly nervous home side in the final ten minutes – but ultimately they were once again the architects of their own downfall. Parker spoke about the need to bring in centre backs during his pre-match press conference on Thursday, but how much damage will have been done by the time a signing is completed? Swapping Tim Ream for Odoi had little noticeable impact and, for as long as there is that fragility at the heart of Fulham’s defence, Parker’s success in overhauling the club’s mentality over the past year will be fatally undermined.

LEEDS UNITED (4-4-2): Meslier; Ayling, Dallas, Koch, Cooper; Phillips; Klich, Costa, Harrison; Bamford (Alioski 70), Roberts (Roberts 45). Subs (not used): Caprile, Struijk, Shackleton, Bogusz, Poveda.

BOOKED: Klich.

GOALS: Costa (6, 57), Klich (pen 41), Bamford (50).

FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Areola; Tete, Bryan, Hector, Odoi; Reed (Lemina 70), Anguissa; Kamara (Kebano 58), Cavaleiro, Onomah (Decordova-Reid 58); Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Rodak, Ream, Cairney, Knockaert.

BOOKED: Tete, Mitrovic.

GOALS: Mitrovic (pen 34, 67), Decordova-Reid (62).

REFEREE: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire).

Up next: Leeds United (a)

If we were dealing in footballing clichés, this would be your classical six pointer. It may only be the second weekend of the season but a clash between two of the newly promoted sides at Elland Road already appears pivotal. Leeds, who received plenty of plaudits for their swashbuckling style as they nearly embarrassed Liverpool on the opening day, will view this as an ideal opportunity to get their Premier League return up and running and, after the damaging 3-0 reverse that dealt such a blow to Fulham’s hopes of automatic promotion after lockdown earlier this summer, Scott Parker will be under no illusions as to the size of the task in front of his players.

Marcelo Bielsa reportedly told the Fulham boss that the result should have been other way around after the Whites had dominated the first half of that open encounter, only to be felled by their familiar defensive frailties. It is one of the oddities of a shortened summer that Fulham have failed to address their vulnerabilities at centre half heading into a top flight campaign and Parker will probably have little choice but to pair Tim Ream and Michael Hector together again in Yorkshire this afternoon, despite both looking far from the standard required in last week’s loss to Arsenal at Craven Cottage.

Bielsa, a master tactician whose innovation and eye for detail are second to none, will probably seek to exploit the space between Fulham’s full backs as well. Leeds ruthlessly targeted the right flank in June, eventually profiting from the areas vacated by Joe Bryan in particular, and the visitors will need to be prepared for another stern examination of their durability. To date, Bielsa has remained largely loyal to his Championship winners where possible – and, in fairness, he continues to coax extraordinary levels of players from many of his players.

Consider the consistency of Luke Ayling, who raised his level when Leeds looked like they were wobbling in pursuit of promotion, and the fact that Stuart Dallas, a scourge of Fulham from his Brentford days, is now considered a more than dependable option at left-back, despite being far from a natural in that position. Nobody should need reminding of how Bielsa has converted Kalvin Philipps into one of the country’s most promising holding midfielders and few players in recent years have been more deserving of elevation to the England squad. Even Patrick Bamford, a willing worker up front whose place in the side was largely expected to be filled by recent record signing Rodrigo, delivered an emphatic message to the doubters with a lovely finish at Liverpool. There are plenty more figures whose own outstanding performances have crept under the radar, including Mateusz Klich, who offers both energy and quality in midfield.

The bookmakers, and most of the pundits, see this as a mismatch. Fulham, possibly much more suited to playing away from home in Parker’s preferred system, are a 5/1 shot to bring home three points this afternoon. Parker has plenty to ponder, as he acknowledged during Thursday’s pre-match press conference. He has some dilemma in goal, even if Marek Rodak is expected to keep the starting spot for now, despite the arrival of Alphonese Areola. You would bank on Kenny Tete coming in at right back, particularly after he fizzed in the sort of ball Aleksandar Mitrovic thrives on to secure progression in the League Cup at Ipswich on Wednesday. The Fulham head coach could play Robinson behind Bryan to give Bielsa something else to think about on the other flank as well as shoring up one of those historical weaknesses.

Midfield is the most interesting area for me. Parker has yet to make significant changes to the side that clinched promotion, but the temptation to pair Andre-Frank Anguissa and Mario Lemina in central midfield after their encouraging performances at Portman Road must be huge. This feels like the sort of game where Fulham could do with a powerful double pivot to screen the back four and it appears to be the fixture tailor made for Anguissa to showcase how his own game has developed during that season in Spain. Getting the balance of that midfield will be vital and Tom Cairney, still with plenty to prove in the Premier League, might no longer be an automatic pick, as Chris argued in this piece earlier in the week. The skipper seems to raise his game against Leeds, fuelled by the lingering memories of being released by them on account of his size as a teenager, and has lost ten once in ten appearances, having a hand in seven goals.

To stand any chance of springing a surprise this afternoon, Fulham need to do more than simply prove more diligent than they were against Arsenal. A threat in the opposition box was sorely lacking last weekend, something that Mitrovic’s mere presence should help with, but the Serbian striker – assuming he avoids another flare up with a centre half this time – will need numbers around him regularly. Parker’s system has far too often isolated their most proven Premier League performer. That can’t happen again today.

MY FULHAM XI (4-2-3-1): Rodak; Tete, Bryan, Hector, Ream; Reed, Anguissa; Kamara, Kebano, Cairney; Mitrovic. Subs: Areola, Odoi, Robinson, Lemina, Onomah, Cavaleiro, Knockaert.

Christie joins Forest on loan

Fulham defender Cyrus Christie has signed for Nottingham Forest on a season-long loan, the club have confirmed this evening.

The Republic of Ireland international moves to City Ground after the summer signings of Kenny Tete and Ola Aina reduced his chances of first-team football at Craven Cottage. The right back, who has been part of two Fulham sides that have won promotion from the Championship in his time in west London, has made 67 appearances for the Whites, scoring two goals.