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Fulham linked with Manchester City youngster

Fulham are one of ten Championship clubs keen to take Manchester City midfielder Tommy Doyle on loan this season, according to reports this afternoon.

The Whites join the likes of Sheffield United, West Brom, Bournemouth, Swansea City, Middlesbrough, QPR, Coventry City, Cardiff and Blackburn Rovers in a long line of suitors for the creative midfielder, who starred as City’s under 23s claimed the Premier League 2 title last season. The teenager has made seven senior appearances for Pep Guardiola’s side after being handed his debut in a League Cup win over Southampton in 2019.

Doyle made his Premier League bow in July 2020 when he replaced Riyad Mahrez in a 5-0 victory over Newcastle. The 19 year-old is highly rated by the City coaching staff and extended his contract until the summer of 2025 last year. The club have yet to decide whether to loan Doyle out to continue his development – and a call may not be made until early August.

Fulham are known to be keen to strengthen their midfield options following their relegation from the Premier League and the end of Mario Lemina’s loan from Southampton.

Manchester City line up move for Robinson

Manchester City are preparing a shock move for Fulham full back Antonee Robinson, according to the Sun.

Pep Guardiola is planning to overhaul his squad after City’s Champions’ League final disappointment and aims to sign younger players for the future. The 23 year-old’s athleticism and attacking instincts appeal to Guardiola and the English champions believe that a £10m bid would be enough to persuade Fulham to part with a player they only signed last summer from Wigan.

Robinson made 35 appearances in his debut season for Fulham, quickly displacing the club’s Wembley hero Joe Bryan at left back, and impressed despite the blow of relegation. The former Everton trainee has won eleven caps for the United States and helped the Americans qualify for the CONCACAF Nations League final in his first start for his country earlier this week.

City stroll to success after Fulham’s second half implosion

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.

FULHAM (4-3-3): Areola; Tete, Aina, Andersen, Adarabioyo; Reed, Lemina (Onomah 73), Anguissa; Loftus-Cheek (Mitrovic 63), Lookman, Cavaleiro (Robinson 80). Subs (not used): Fabri, Hector, Kongolo, Ream, Bryan, Maja.

MANCHESTER CITY (3-4-1-2): Ederson; Stones, Dias (Garcia 75), Laporte; Cancelo, Mendy, Rodri, Bernado Silva (Fernandinho 67); Torres; Aguero, Jesus. Subs (not used): Steffen, Walker, Zinchenko, Gundogan, de Bruyne, Foden, Mahrez.

GOALS: Stones (47), Jesus (56), Aguero (pen 60).

REFEREE: Andre Marriner (West Midlands).

VIDEO ASSISTANT REFEREE: Craig Pawson (South Yorkshire).

Can Scott Parker spring another surprise against Manchester City?

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?

Sterling and De Bruyne set City on easy street

Lightning doesn’t strike twice. Scott Parker opted for the same tactics that had secured Fulham a surprise win at Leicester City on Monday, but Manchester City were simply too strong for his battling side at the Etihad Stadium this afternoon. There was an inevitably about the outcome once Raheem Sterling had ended his six game scoreless streak with a clinical finish from Kevin De Bruyne’s precise pass inside five minutes and Fulham’s task became even more herculean after the England winger went to ground under the slightest contact from Joachim Andersen and De Bruyne dispatched the spot-kick. Fulham didn’t fold, and there was much to admire in their work rate and defensive diligent, but they rarely threatened in the final third.

Parker’s blueprint was similar to the one that had so startled Leicester at the King Power Stadium earlier in the week. Happy to allow City to dictate proceedings, the visitors aimed to frustrate their illustrious opponents and spring into life on the counter-attack. The reality was that Ruben Loftus-Cheek was starved of much service, whilst Ivan Cavaleiro and Bobby Decordova-Reid were more regularly found trying to suppress wave after wave of City attacks rather than making their presence felt in the opposition half.

Fulham began brightly, with a typically rampaging run from the excellent Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa hinting at an opening for Cavaleiro, but City could have been in front before Sterling’s opener. Gabriel Jesus opened up the Fulham back four with a perfectly weighted pass, but Sterling’s snapshot was pushed away by Alphonse Areola. There was no such reprieve ninety seconds, later, however. De Bruyne surged through the centre of midfield, slipped Sterling between the Fulham centre halves with a gorgeous pass and Sterling measured his finish perfectly to find the bottom corner.

The Fulham goal then came under sustained attack. Joao Cancelo was probably a little ambitious with a curling effort from 25 yards out, but after the Whites had half cleared a corner, City came much closer. The lively Riyad Mahred fed de Bruyne on the right side of the box and the Belgian tried to a sneak a shot in at the near post. Areola did superbly to keep it out, especially as he could have easily been wrongfooted by a late deflection off Harrison Reed.

City’s second came from the spot when Sterling was caught by Andersen as he looked to locate half a yard of space in the penalty area. Jon Moss gave the decision instantly, with the England international needing little encouragement to go down, and, although he made a meal of it, the contact meant it was unlikely to be overturned by the video assistant referee. De Bruyne duly dispatched the penalty, sending Areola the wrong way, and giving the home side the reward on the scoreboard their early dominance had deserved.

The closest Fulham came to making an impression themselves was courtesy of John Stones, who almost scored a comical own goal when he decided to play a 45-yard back pass to Ederson without checking whether the Manchester City goalkeeper was actually in his goal. The ball drifted wide of the net and Toisin Adarabioyo couldn’t cap an accomplished return to his former stomping ground when his free header from the corner looped off target. Areola made a couple of further smart saves before the break to keep the deficit down. At times, it looked like City could have scored at will.

In truth, it was an exercise in damage limitation once the mercurial de Bruyne had stroked in the penalty. Fulham were much more competitive in the second period after a tweak in the formation at half-time. City still enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, but were unable to add to their advantage. Sometimes that required good fortune, like when de Bruyne finished a lightning home break five minutes into the second half by rattling the crossbar after Mahrez and Jesus had combined to work the opening, and on other occasions it owed much to Areola’s excellence. The French goalkeeper spread himself brilliantly to deny de Bruyne again seven minutes later when the midfield metronome found himself through on goal moments after Fulham had forced a corner.

Reuben Dias spurned two chances from free-kicks to open his City account, before Fulham began to pose a threat at the other end. Cavaleiro linked nicely with Anguissa down the Fulham right before cutting inside and firing the goalwards, but it was a routine save for Ederson at his near post. Parker’s side stayed true to their footballing principles and a lovely move down the right worked some space for substitute Aboubakar Kamara to shoot from outside the box. His effort had Ederson scrambling across his goal-line but ended up going wide.

Aleksandar Mitrovic simmered menacing on the bench throughout. The Serbian striker might have offered Fulham a different option in attack, but perhaps he has been saved for unleashing on the champions next week. Fulham’s tough trio of fixtures finishes with Liverpool coming to Craven Cottage in front of 2,000 fans next Sunday – although Parker will be pleased both with the win at Leicester and the application of his charges on a difficult afternoon today. There’s no disgrace in losing to a Guardiola side and his team were far from embarrassed. They are looking less like the league’s whipping boys with every week.

MANCHESTER CITY (4-2-3-1): Ederson; Cancelo, Mendy, Dias, Stones; Rodri, Gundogan; Mahrez, Sterling, De Bruyne; Jesus. Subs (not used): Steffen, Laporte, Garcia, Fernandinho, Silva, Torres, Foden.

GOALS: Sterling (5), De Bruyne (pen 26).

FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Areola; Aina, Robinson, Andersen, Adarabioyo; Reed (Lemina 68), Anguissa; Decordova-Reid (Kamara 72), Lookman, Loftus-Cheek (Cairney 83); Cavaleiro. Subs (not used): Rodak, Ream, Bryan, Mitrovic.

REFEREE:
Jon Moss (West Yorkshire).

VIDEO ASSISTANT REFEREE: Graham Scott (Oxfordshire).