By Alex Bowmer | Twitter: @AlexJamesBowmer | Web: alexanderjamesbowmer.contently.com
The dust has now settled on another regular season in the Championship. While the football was often underwhelming, Fulham finish the campaign on a seven-match unbeaten run, with four of those performances yielding clean sheets. Here, Friends of Fulham casts an eye over some of the key statistics from Scott Parker’s first full season in charge and compares them to the last two years the Whites enjoyed in the second tier under Slaviša Jokanović.
Over-reliance on Mitro
An obvious point, but the statistics are stark. The prolific Serbian bagged 26 league goals in 2019/20 to claim the Championship Golden Boot. This tally represented a mammoth 41% of Fulham’s goals during the campaign.
To put this in context, Ryan Sessegnon was our top scorer in the league back in 2017/18, netting 15 goals. However, this made up only 19% of Fulham’s total, as the team netted 79 times over the course of the campaign compared to 64 occasions this season.
The previous season saw Tom Cairney, Stefan Johansen and Chris Martin make it to double figures, with Floyd Ayité and Sone Aluko not far behind. Cairney was our top marksman with 12 league goals, just 14% of our 85 goals that campaign.
Cairney was the next-highest goalscorer this term after Mitrović with eight goals, while new signings Ivan Cavaleiro and Bobby Decordova-Reid each scored six times. A new striker or two (if Mitrović leaves) is a must, whether we go up or not.
Poor form against struggling sides
This has been a theme under both Jokanović and Parker. Simply put, our record against teams lower than us in the table at the time we played them has stopped us getting promoted.
Our results in 2016/17 – 14 wins, 11 draws and seven defeats – meant average of just 1.66 points against these opponents. Disappointing single-goal losses against Birmingham and just one point against QPR in two encounters illustrate our struggles.
We actually fared against teams above us in the league that season, with the highlights coming in thumping wins over Huddersfield, as well as a 5-0 thrashing of Reading and a dominant display against Newcastle at St. James’ Park, where Ryan Sessegnon announced himself with a stunning double.
Overall, we finished the campaign with eight wins, three draws and three losses against these better-placed sides, with an average points tally of 1.93.
Our record in matches where we were the favourites certainly improved in 2017/18, as we upped our points average against these sides to 1.93. Nevertheless, disappointing defeats to Burton and Sunderland impeded our progress. Our record against ‘better’ sides produced an average points tally of 1.88.
This season has seen our record in matches we should win drop back slightly, with an average points total of 1.82. Shock three-goal home defeats against Barnsley and Hull spring to mind, along with a disappointing loss against Reading at the Cottage and a humiliation at Stoke in October. Our record against higher-placed teams this season was our worst of the three campaigns, producing an average of 1.50 points.
It should be achievable to break the two points-per-game barrier when playing sides lower down the league. If we had hit that mark in the last two Championship campaigns, we would have avoided the excruciating play-off tension.
Powers of recovery
One of the things you get used to if you’ve watched Fulham long enough is the squandering of leads and conceding late goals.
This season was refreshing in this respect, with just two late goals seeing us drop points – against West Brom and Sheffield Wednesday on successive September weekends. The only other time we ended up dropping points after leading was away at Millwall in February, and that came courtesy of an incorrect offside call.
We have also managed two turnarounds against QPR, as well as gritty draws at Derby and Bristol City.
In total, we lost only six points after taking the lead, but gained 12 points after letting in first.
Our football under Jokanović was much more expansive, and this is reflected in the unpredictability of matches.
In 2016/17, we lost 16 points after scoring first, but gained 23 points when the opposition drew first blood. Comeback wins over Barnsley, Rotherham, Nottingham Forest, Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday saw us score 15 goals.
Despite 2017/18 seeing us achieve our highest points total of the three seasons (88), we were very susceptible to dropping leads, especially during a patchy first half of the season. In total, we lost 19 points after scoring the first goal. Brentford were our nemesis, as we dropped five points against the Bees, while also conceding late against Norwich, Middlesbrough and Cardiff and throwing away a two-goal lead against QPR.
By contrast, we gained 16 points after going 1-0 down, most notably during wins over Ipswich (4-1), Sheffield United (4-5) and Barnsley (1-3).
While we did not gain as many points from losing positions compared to the season before, this can be explained by the fact that during our 23-game unbeaten run, we took the lead in 20 of those matches, going on to win 16 of those games and draw four.
Parker’s Fulham have certainly not thrilled the fans in the same way Jokanović’s teams did and the current crop don’t play with the sort of dominance exhibited a few years ago.
Clearly, at least one new goalscorer needs to be found and the defence needs to tighten up, as we have conceded 48 goals this league campaign, marginally higher than 2017/18 (46).
However, we are in a good run of form and the class of 2019/20 have taken all three points in 22 of the 25 games in which they’ve broken the deadlock.
This Fulham side has gone under the radar, but they can replicate the heroics of two years ago and emerge victorious at Wembley.
Big thank you to Alex Bowmer for taking the time to write this article for Friends of Fulham, and make sure you give him a follow on Twitter @AlexJamesBowmer
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