Fulham defender Joachim Andersen has been called up to the Denmark squad for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against Israel, Moldova and Austria.
Andersen, whose only previous international cap came in a 4-0 win over Luxembourg in 2019, has been rewarded following his fine form during his loan spell at Craven Cottage. The 24 year-old has been an ever present at the heart of Fulham’s defence since joining on loan from Lyon in October and has captained the side in the absence of Tom Cairney. The centre back has made 23 Premier League appearances, keeping nine clean sheets, as Scott Parker’s side have dramatically improved their chances of beating the drop.
Denmark have been drawn alongside Scotland in Group F of the UEFA qualifying. Their quest to reach the finals in Qatar next year begins with a trip to Israel on Thursday 25 March, with a home fixture against Moldova in Herning on Sunday 28 March and an away tie against the Austrians on the following Wednesday.
Fulham full back Steven Sessegnon has been named in England’s under 21 European Championship squad this morning.
The 20 year-old, who is currently on loan at Bristol City, has been selected by England under 21 manager Aidy Boothrooyd for the finals, which get underway in Hungary and Slovenia later this month. Sessegnon, who has won three caps for England at under 21 level, has made eight first team appearances during an injury-hit loan spell at Ashton Gate. His twin brother Ryan, on loan at Hoffenheim this term, is also in the squad.
England have been drawn alongside Portugal, Switzerland and Croatia in Group D. Their campaign kicks off against the Swiss in Koper on 25th March.
“I found out about it [the call-up to the European Championship squad] a couple of days ago. Having been around the set-up before it wasn’t my first time but I’m still very proud and very happy. Throughout my recovery and the strengthening of my hamstring, it was an aim of mine.
Asked for his thoughts on England’s chances in the tournament, Sessegnon was characteristically positive:
“Always believe – my age group and the groups around us have got some really good players and as a group, we get on really well. I believe we can do a lot of great things.”
Ola Aina insists that Fulham’s second half collapse against Manchester City will have no impact on the side as they prepare for Friday night’s meeting with Leeds United.
Having held the champions’ elect quite comfortably in a competitive first half, Fulham conceded three goals in thirteen second half minutes to slump to defeat at Craven Cottage on Saturday. Aina told FFCTV that the Whites were already looking forward to putting things right against Marcelo Bielsa’s men:
“We’re raring to go, if we had Leeds in an hour we’d be ready to go. We’ll just recover well and get ready for that one. The position we’re in, we have to just take it game by game. Good or bad results, we have to take it and move on and look forward to the next one, because ultimately there’s a goal that we need to achieve at the end of the season, so we can’t dwell on bad results.
“First half I felt like we really made it tough for them. We gave them a tough first half. I felt like we shut off their options, and we created a few openings of our own. And obviously in the second half, it was a few mistakes that end the game for us really. We haven’t had mistakes like that for a long time, since the beginning of the season.
“It’s frustrating that we made them because it’s not in our character, but these things happen. We’re only human. We have to take it on the chin and just move on. The mistakes have happened and it killed us a bit, but I feel the team still gave a good fight.
“Everyone knows about Man City, everyone knows they’re such a good side and they’ve got good depth in their squad, but we felt like we could’ve definitely got something from the game. If we don’t make the mistakes then we do give them a run for their money, in my opinion. But we have to just take it as it is and move onto Leeds.
Scott Parker rued the ‘silly goals’ that gifted Manchester City a straightforward win at Craven Cottage after Fulham had made life difficult for the runaway league leaders in the first half.
A thirteen minute collapse after the break saw Pep Guardiola’s side score three times without reply and the visitors ultimately strolled to a simple victory. Parker was disappointed with Fulham’s defending and promised that he would be working hard to analyse what went wrong in those key moments, but insisted there were elements of his side’s tactical approach that he was pleased with,
“We tried to take the game to the best team in Europe and this division. I thought we did do that. We conceded silly goals in the second half, which is disappointing but the players know that. I asked the team to be brave and show a way about us to try and assert ourselves on Man City. For large parts they did very well but it was some silly goals really.
“We came out in the second half with a platform. The disappointing thing was to concede early. That 15-minute period made it a real uphill task. I didn’t want the game to pass this team by and they didn’t do that, but we struggled in certain moments.”
The Fulham boss backed Tosin Adarabioyo to bounce back quickly from his own mistake which led to the concession of a penalty, converted by Sergio Aguero, for City’s third goal.
“It’s a big learning curve for Tosin. He’s been exceptional and top-class for us. But like a lot of the players here, he’s young and developing, they will make mistakes. It’ll be down to how quickly they learn from these errors. He will learn fast; he’ll understand the differences to make and we’ll move on as a team.”
Parker remains upbeat that his side can escape the relegation zone with nine games of the season to go.
“Confidence is key to how we’ve put ourselves in this fighting position. We’re well organised and we’ve been resilient. We’ve come out the other side of these little mistakes throughout the season. We’ll work out where we went wrong and improve. We won’t write this off. We need to move on, but we need to analyse the way we conceded goals. It’ll be one we need to work out how to improve in those moments. We will look to where we need to be next which is Leeds on Friday.”
For forty five minutes, Fulham blunted Manchester City’s considerable attacking arsenal and looked to have given themselves a chance of escaping the relegation zone this evening. But, in the sort of implosion that characterised their disastrous start to the season, Scott Parker’s side conceded three goals in thirteen second half minutes as Pep Guardiola’s charges strolled to a comfortable victory at Craven Cottage and moved seventeen points clear at the top of the table.
The manner of Fulham’s meek capitulation after the break will have disappointed Parker, especially after their diligence and determination had stoutly kept the visitors at bay in the first half. Their hard won parity lasted just 76 seconds once Andre Marriner had harshly penalised a Joachim Andersen challenge close to the right touchline. Fulham’s high defensive line has served them well since Parker reshaped his rearguard, but it allowed a rejuvanated John Stones to saunter unimpeded onto Joao Cancelo’s cross and put City in front.
Another calamity wasn’t long in coming. Ivan Cavaleiro, deployed as a wide forward in a system designed to contain the champions’ elect, wandered aimlessly infield and towards a sea of opponents. His anxious pass played Andersen into trouble and the Danish defender’s desperate attempt at a clearance, cannoned off Cavaleiro and allowed Gabriel Jesus a clear run on goal. The Brazilian breezed round a stranded Alphonse Areola and rolled home his twelve league goal of the campaign. Tosin Adarabioyo then made the wrong sort of impression against his former employers, attempting a dragback on the edge of his own box and presenting the ball to Ferran Torres, before clipping the winger inside the area. Sergio Aguero, a regular scourge of Fulham, gleefully dispatched the penalty – scoring his first league goal in fourteen months.
The rest of the game was something of a training exercise, which would have suited Guardiola, who rested a number of key players ahead of their Champions’ League commitments against Borussia Moenchengladbach on Tuesday night. The visitors stroked the ball around confidently and might have added to their lead, with the hosts still guilty of overplaying in their own final third. Fulham flickered briefly with their three substitutes to the fore. Aleksandar Mitrovic produced a peach of a ball to free Josh Onomah, who was denied a consolation by a combination of Ruben Dias and Ederson. Antonee Robinson made a couple of threatening runs down the left flank, but barring one blocked Mitrovic shot there was little in the way of penetration.
Parker’s plan to outwit the runaway leaders had looked promising early on. Both Ademola Lookman and Andre Frank Zambo Anguissa got themselves into the space behind City’s three centre backs, but Fulham’s one concerted period of pressure ended in frustration – chiefly because a succession of crosses were aimed towards Lookman, who was outnumbered and hardly a towering presence in any case. Areola made a couple of smart saves at his near post from Torres and Aguero but the hosts were largely untroubled – even hinting at an attacking threat of their own when Kenny Tete almost sneaked onto a deep cross from the left, but the bounce proved unfavourable.
Parker will need to quickly switch Fulham’s focus away from their dreadful second half defending and onto a home meeting with Leeds United on Friday night. Their excellent recent run offers genuine hope that they can avoid the drop but they will need to offer more in attack, with Josh Maja – omitted in favour of a conservative approach this evening – likely to return.
After Fulham’s impressive win at Liverpool, Scott Parker faces another stiff test tonight in the shape of runaway league leaders Manchester City. Pep Guardiola’s men appear destined to win the Premier League this season – even after losing their incredible 21-match unbeaten record at the hands of local rivals Manchester United. The Citizens are one of the strongest sides in Europe on present form – with plenty of talent and depth in almost every department. The task ahead of Parker, one of the country’s most promising young coaching prospects, looks daunting but the Fulham boss has already insisted that he will send his side out looking to claim all three points.
Guardiola’s philosophy is keenly understood by observers and coaches across the world now and, even if some of the mystique might have worn off given how much time he has now spent in England, it is incredibly tough to beat. The Spaniard favours a 4-3-3 formation, with overlapping full-backs, a hard working holding midfielder, two advanced playmakers in midfield and two inside forwards on the wings. His side are disciples of tiki-taka football, the style Guardiola introduced and refined at Barcelona, which involves short passing at a high tempo to break teams down. City regularly refrain from shooting from distance, looking instead to to bring the ball as close to the goal as possible to increase their chances of scoring. Given the quality at his disposal, though, it is no surprise that City possess plenty of proficient strikers of a ball from range – so there is danger in almost every scenario.
City’s attacking threat is frightening, with the peerless Kevin De Bruyne a metronome in midfied, the lively Raheem Sterling drifting into dangerous areas from out wide and Sergio Aguero, who needs no introduction to Fulham fans. Bernado Silva’s devastating dribbling has come to the fore since his namesake David, a mainstay of previous City sides, finally called time on his career in England. Guardiola has gradually blooded the brilliant Phil Foden, widely considered as England’s next star, in an advanced midfield role and the gifted youngster has delivered a number of eye-catching displays this season. It has been the understated Ikay Gundogan who has topped the Sky Blue scoring charts this season, chipping in with eleven league goals and compensating for Aguero’s injury-plagued season.
City also have a formidable defensive structure with Guardiola’s adoption of the Kevin Keegan mantra that ‘the best way to defend is to attack’ bolstered by a magnificent central defensive partnership in the shape of Portuguese prodigy Ruben Dias, who has slotted in seamlessly since his summer arrival from Benfica, and John Stones, now restored to the first team and targeting an England return in time for the European Championships. Joao Cancelo and Oleksandr Zinchenko, an attack-minded full back who has been retrained from his early role as an attacking midfielder, are serious threats when pushed forward from their defensive positions. That adventurous ethos is afforded the protection of Brazilian international Fernandinho in front of the back four, with Rodri in reserve. Such solidity has meant Manchester City have concededed only 21 goals so far this term – which means Fulham face a mammoth task to score, not just survive.
Given City’s strengths, I think Parker should reinstate his 5-2-3 system for tonight’s match. The additional defender can help to crowd the box and prevent the visitors from flooding into the area, where they are most dangerous. It wouldn’t take much of an adjustment when you consider that Tosin Adarabioyo, Joachim Andersen and Ola Aina have lined up as a central defensive trio successfully already this season. To disrupt City’s usual flow, Parker should use his two central midfielders to pin back Guardiola’s advanced playmakers – reprising the tactics that were so successful at Anfield last Sunday.
Here is my suggested line-up:
Areola is now Fulham’s undisputed starting goalkeeper – and arguably one of the top flight’s most consistent custodians. Andersen and Tosin have forged an incredibly impresive partnership at the heart of the Fulham defence – as Parker highlighted in his pre-match press conference, and Aina’s versatility has seen him drop into centre back effectively already this season. Kenny Tete has shaken off injury setbacks to have a real impact on his return to the side and a right wing-back role should suit the Dutch international, whose crosses are amongst the most accurate at the club. I would bring back Antonee Robinson at left wing-back. The American international has shown Premier League potential in the early stages of the Fulham career even if his final ball has proven a little bit hit and harsh. There are obviously frailities in his game but Robinson’s energy and pace provide a real outlet for Fulham to get forward, especially when City’s full backs are likely to be permanently pushed high.
In midfield, the recent use of Mario Lemina has allowed Harrison Reed to come out of his shell, giving the former Southamptin midfielder license to not only win and shuttle the ball, but also look to do something meaningful and creative with it. Lemina has been excellent since returning to the starting line-up with his brilliant strike at Anfield offering swift retribution for the harsh handball that ruled out a deserved equaliser against Spurs. On recent form, I feel as though this is Parker’s strongest central midfield partnership, with Frank Anguissa struggling for form since Fulham’s COVID outbreak and Loftus-Cheek more of a luxury attacking player at number ten, most useful in games that the Cottagers look to dictate.
Fulham are still struggling to score goals, although Josh Maja demonstrated on debut that he is more than capable of finding the back of the net given regular service. The front three of Maja, an underrated Bobby Decordova-Reid and Ademola Lookman seems like the strongest attacking option for Parker with all three proving at various times this season that they can conjure up magic moments to win games.
As the unstoppable force meets the immovable object, how do you think that the Whites should line-up? And, what do you think are the chances that Scott’s men will be able to win some points?
The Whites were in command from the outset, with Stansfield at the heart of most of their threatening moves, and strikes from skipper Idris Odutayo and Scottish forward Kieron Bowie as well as the ex-Exeter teenager gave the hosts a commanding 3-0 lead by half-time.
Odutayo almost headed Fulham in front inside the first minute but the defender’s effort was scrambled off the Southampton goalline. Steve Wigley’s side went ahead with their very next attack when Luke Harris rattled the crossbar from an Olakigbe corner and the left back supplied a simple finish from the rebound.
Fulham could quickly have extended their lead with Oliver Wright blocking a Harris shot after he had linked up well with Bowie and the lively Olakigbe flashed a drive wide shortly afterwards. Stansfield’s first sight of goal saw a speculative shot bravely blocked by Will Tanner but you felt it was a matter of time before the young Whites doubled their advantage.
Stansfield was the architect with a glorious cross that Bowie gleefully converted from six yards out. The England youth international then seized on a dreadful mistake from Wright to roll home a straightforward finish and Fulham could conceivably have gone in at half-time further in front had Imani Lanquedoc kept his strike on target from the edge of the box and when Harris stabbed wide at the back post.
Stansfield, whose comeback from ankle surgery is progressing impressively, laid on the fourth goal with another sumptuous delivery that Olakigbe lashed home gloriously on the volley. Barely a minute later, Stansfield added a fifth with an ice-cool right-footed finish before substitute Jaylan Wildbore spurned a couple of good openings within moments of coming on. Olakigbe completed the rout with a clinical finish with eight minutes remaining – making the most of a kind deflection to round off an excellent individual display.
Tosin Adarabioyo says he has no regrets about leaving boyhood club Manchester City for Fulham and is looking forward to ensuring Scott Parker’s side staying in the Premier League.
The centre back comes up against his old club, where he spent eighteen years, tomorrow night with Fulham hoping to move out of the relegation by following up their win at Anfield with another famous victory. In a detailed interview with the Daily Mail, the ball-playing centre half said he didn’t take long to decide to move to London when the Whites came calling on the final day of the summer transfer window:
“No, surprisingly. Well, I guess some people would say that’s surprising. But I was actually fine with it. Ultimately my goal is to be a top player. That was never going to happen at City so I knew I had to get out of there. t wasn’t the same club I had grown up in. A lot of the staff had gone so it was an easy decision. I felt very comfortable making the decision and coming here and it is working out. I love it at Fulham.”
Adarabioyo says Fulham’s belief has reached new heights after they extended Liverpool’s miserable run at Anfield with a precious win last weekend.
“I thought our confidence was sky high before the Liverpool game but it’s gone up again now. We are very confident after that. We have all been very positive throughout. We know things can change. It’s never right to write things off as it can all change in two or three games.”
The 23 year-old knows he will be in for a stern examination against City, who won the reverse fixture thanks to two early goals from Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne.
“It’s always really mentally tough. You have to be very aware of their movements, whoever is in that nine role dropping deep to get the ball. It’s hard but it was the same at Liverpool. There were times in the game — pretty much the whole of the second half — where you have to have laser focus. You can’t rest for one moment and it will be the same against City. But to get that clean sheet is something else. It’s great afterwards. That’s what you play for.”
Adarabioyo left Manchester City, whom he had been with since the age of five, in October having grown frustrated by a lack of first-team opportunities at the Etihad Stadium. The 23 year-old has swiftly established himself at the heart of a much improved Fulham defence, making 25 appearances and looking very much at home in the top flight.
Parker, who revealed he has had his eye on Adarabioyo since his days coaching the Tottenham youth team, told his pre-match press conference that international honours would be realistic if the centre back continues his impressive development at Craven Cottage.
That [an England call-up] can be a goal for Tosin. I still think there are elements where he can improve for sure. I see that every day.
“I saw him at Blackburn last year, I saw him play for the under-23s at City, his biggest attribute was certainly with the ball. Where I think he has improved drastically is without it. Defensively doing his work.
“That’s not to say defensively he wasn’t top, but certainly, I think I knew when we were bringing him in that he is a player that has been brought up and schooled as a ball-playing centre-half. When we brought him in, first of all, he needed to realise that he is going to be defending a lot at times in our team, compared to a City or a top side. For defenders, sometimes that’s a big transition. That’s sometimes hard.
“You need to have that instinct for defending really. I think over the course of this season, he is defending the box much better, with headers. I think he has improved drastically in that element. What you see on the ball is a player that is a top, top player.”
Harrison Reed is confident that Fulham can beat the drop and believes the squad’s ‘huge belief’ will be a huge factor in taking them to safety.
The on-loan Southampton midfielder saluted Scott Parker’s man management as pivotal in retaining Fulham’s belief following a different start to the season. Speaking to Talksport, Reed was adamant that the Whites are heading into every game looking to pick up three points, regardless of the opponent.
“We have huge belief in our ability and in each other. Listen, we go into every game and the main focus is to win the game. It’s not to be just competitive, but to go and get three points. Everyone we work on every week – and we have done for two seasons with this manager – we try to put into the game and being solid and doing the basics really well give us a platform to go on and take points.
Reed feels that Fulham have adapted their style of play after going six league games without a win having returned to the top flight.
“The way we go about the game has probably changed a little bit from the start of the season. Of course, we want to try and play an attractive style of football but I feel like we’ve found a really good balance now of when to play our stuff, when to be no nonsense and manage the game a little bit. I think that’s a big part of why we are getting results now.
It was a tough start to the season and people wrote us off, but that gave us a lot of motivation. From day one, the manager spoke about the season and how we are going to be successful and focusing on our ourselves and truly believing that we belong here. I think that’s been throughout the whole season – maybe the results haven’t shown that, but we feel like we’ve been in a lot of games and maybe on the wrong sides of a bit of luck here and there. We’ve sort of found our feet and we’ve grown massively as a team now.”
The 26 year-old, tipped as a possible contender for Gareth Southgate’s England squad after his composed displays at the heart of the Fulham midfield, praised Parker’s ability to keep his squad believing even as the gap between the Whites and safety grew over the winter.
“A lot of credit goes to the manager there, because he’s got to be sitting at home and thinking the same as us at points of the season. He reads the mood in the camp very, very well. If he ever probably gets a little sniff that that mood’s changing or we need a little bit of a pick up, I think he done that this season. He just reminded us that it is so possible to do it. I think there was a time when we were ten points behind Newcastle and Brighton and we had a run of games. We set targets. We hit them and we pulled them both back in.”