Manager: Slavisa Jokanovic League position: 20th
Overall: Played: 37; Won 8, Drawn 13, Lost 16; For 56, Against 63, GD: -7; Points 37
Last six away matches:
Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-2 Fulham
Huddersfield Town 1-1 Fulham
Queens Park Rangers 1-3 Fulham
Blackburn Rovers 3-0 Fulham
Leeds United 1-1 Fulham
Reading 2-2 Fuham
Season in brief:
Their season can very much be summed up by these two statistics:
- Only Burnley have scored more goals than Fulham’s 56
- Only Charlton Athletic have conceded more goals than Fulham’s 63
On average, Fulham have been involved in over 3 goals per game. Their inability to see games out has destroyed any promotion hopes with a lack of defensive awareness or intelligence crucial to Fulham failing to see games out time and time again.
Kit Symons began the season and built a very British squad of players in a bid to mount a promotion push as owner Shahid Khan started to want a return on his investment after the horror show Felix Magath provided. The former Wales defender will have been mortified at his teams inability to defend at times, particularly with the experience available to him throughout the team. Slavisa Jokanovic took over a Watford side in a similar situation last term – full of goals but vulnerable defensively – and made the most of it. This time round he has found it more difficult. Now the club are in a relegation fight and reliant on their attacking prowess in a bid to stave off their tag as the division’s underperformers.
Truth be told, it is difficult to pinpoint a particular style for Fulham. They play with such an attacking aggression that their system exudes a fluidity lost in most Championship sides but ultimately costs them when it comes to their defensive prowess.
The vast majority of their play tends to start at the feet of Jamie O’Hara, a player whose fitness has remained questionable during his career but has always showing a technical ability that is the envy of many. He plays in a deep lying midfield position with Tom Cairney and Ross McCormack ahead of him to provide creativity in more forward areas.
Jokanovic has yet to settle on a system to benefit the players at his disposal. I watched them first hand when playing Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road a couple of weeks back and they were awesome. They were bright from the off, made life difficult for Queens Park Rangers and played the ball around with such an ease that QPR were left chasing shadows all around the pitch.
Everything went through O’Hara in midfield with the former Wolves man having 90 touches of the ball during the game and being the catalyst for most attacks. Tom Cairney and McCormack enjoyed their free roles while Moussa Dembele, the coveted French youngster, stretched the QPR defence at every point. The width of the 3-5-2 system made a big difference too.
Yet they followed that up with a 3-0 defeat against Blackburn who played 4-4-2, left two big men up the field, squeezed the pitch made sure that Evans and Lenihan battled hard in the midfield, particularly in the left channel that Fulham like to exploit.
Whether they play 3-5-2 or 4-4-2, expect an attacking line-up from Fulham.
How do Blues beat them?
As just mentioned, Fulham do like to attack the right hand channel. It means that David Cotterill and either David Davis or Maikel Kieftenbeld will need to be on their guard and break up play efficiently along with Michael Morrison and Paul Caddis. If we can do that, the centre of the pitch can become ours.
Stephen Gleeson and Jon Toral will always be waiting to pick up position in central areas and if the ball can be moved quick enough once in possession, Clayton Donaldson can make the most of his presence in attack against a weak defence both technically and mentally. It is the type of game that if we play it right, Gleeson and Toral can pick up space for fun and attack the central areas with gusto.
One thing we cannot afford to do is follow runs all over the pitch and leave positions free. Fulham showed against QPR how dangerous they can be when on the front foot and moving players into areas they are not comfortable with. McCormack and Cairney are extremely intelligent footballers while Moussa Dembele is the kind of poacher a manager dreams of at this level – there is a reason Tottenham Hotspur are chasing his signature.
Patience will be key as well as composure in midfield. If we can deny Fulham the opportunities on goal, they are unlikely to live with well crafted attacking moves from those in Blues jerseys.