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Tuesday Fulham Stuff - 29/09/20...

Started by WhiteJC, September 25, 2020, 12:31:39 AM

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Fulham 0-3 Aston Villa

All four of Jack Grealish's Premier League goals in 2020 have been away from home

Aston Villa cruised to a comfortable Premier League win as they took advantage of another horrific defensive performance by Fulham.

Villa are now unbeaten in eight games, including six wins, stretching back to last season.

Jack Grealish put them ahead with a shot on the bounce after John McGinn's clipped ball over the top caught Fulham out.

Conor Hourihane doubled their lead when McGinn laid the ball into his path.

And Tyrone Mings wrapped the game up early in the second half when he snuck in behind a high Cottagers line to stab home Hourihane's free-kick - Villa's third shot on target of the game.

That means Fulham have conceded 10 goals in their opening three games, which would have been a joint record in Premier League history - if West Brom had not conceded 11 this season.

Fulham had a Bobby Decordova-Reid goal disallowed after a video assistant referee review for a foul, but that was one of their few clear chances at goal.

Villa keep their momentum going
Villa stayed up last season thanks to eight points in their final four games. Dean Smith's side have carried that good form into this season with four wins from four games, including two in the Carabao Cup.

They will face much tougher tests than this one though.

Villa were clinical and scored with three of their five shots on target, all the result of good play.

BBC Radio 5 Live's Matt Upson called the link-up play between McGinn and Grealish for the opener "almost like telepathy".

The second came from a nice passing move as Grealish found McGinn, who passed to Hourihane, with the midfielder slotting into the bottom corner.

That was the earliest Villa have gone 2-0 up in a Premier League game since May 2011 - and the first time McGinn has set up two goals in a game for Villa.

Dean Smith's side did not create too many clear opportunities, but still managed a third goal.

Mings had the freedom of the penalty area to tuck home a left-wing Hourihane free-kick.

They never looked back and move onto six points from two games.

The unusual 17:45 BST kick-off time was so it did not overlap with the late game between Arsenal and Liverpool, which was changed so it was finished before pubs have to shut in England at 22:00 BST.

Fulham need to sort it out quickly
Fulham are only the fourth team to concede at least three goals in each of their opening three Premier League games - following West Brom this season and West Ham in 2010-11 and 2017-18.

Scott Parker tried a five-man defence instead of his usual back four, but it did not work. Perhaps the problem is the personnel and not the tactics.

Only one of their starting line-up - Ivan Cavaleiro, with Wolves in 2018-19 - has ever played in a Premier League team who have not been relegated.

There are a combined 10 Premier League relegations in 11 seasons (six with Fulham and four with other teams) among the rest of the team.

They were sloppy for all Villa's goals and their attacking tactics were one-dimensional.

Fulham ended the game with 36 crosses from open play - by comparison Villa tried two.

They thought they had a goal when Decordova-Reid pounced after Emiliano Martinez spilled Aboubakar Kamara's shot. But after viewing the screen, referee Stuart Attwell decided Mitrovic had fouled Konsa as the first shot came in.

Bryan went close late on when his shot was tipped onto the bar by Martinez.

Parker will have to go back to the drawing board again if Fulham are to stay up this season. The transfer deadline is in a week's time.

Match stats - Villa's best start since 1999
    Aston Villa registered a clean sheet for the first time in their last 27 away Premier League games, since a 0-0 draw with West Brom in January 2016.
    Villa have opened a Premier League campaign with back-to-back victories for just the third time, also doing so in 1995-96 and 1999-00.
    Fulham have failed to find the back of the net in consecutive home league games for the first time since January 2016.
    Aston Villa found themselves two ahead within 15 minutes in the Premier League for the first time since May 2011, when they led Arsenal 2-0 at the Emirates.
    Jack Grealish's goal in the fourth minute was the earliest goal Aston Villa have scored away from home in the Premier League since Christian Benteke against Everton in February 2013 (second minute).
    Five of John McGinn's eight goal involvements for Aston Villa in the Premier League have come in London (two v Fulham, one v West Ham, Arsenal and Spurs).
    Aston Villa midfielder Conor Hourihane scored for the first time in his last 17 Premier League appearances, since netting against Norwich on Boxing Day 2019.
    Half of Aston Villa defender Tyrone Ming's Premier League goal involvements (six in total in 52 games) have come in his last four appearances (one goal, two assists).

What's next?
Both these sides are in Carabao Cup action against Championship sides on Thursday, before Premier League matches on Sunday.

Fulham visit Brentford (17:30 BST) and then Wolves (14:00 BST), while Villa host Stoke (19:00 BST) and then Liverpool (19:15 BST).


Post-Aston Villa Press Conference

There were parts of Monday evening's match that pleased Scott Parker, but he confessed that the defending was not up to scratch.

Fulham had more possession and efforts on goal than Aston Villa, but three lapses at the back meant the visitors left Craven Cottage with a 3-0 victory.

"In terms of defending, yeah we weren't good enough tonight," Parker admitted. "We've not been good enough for the first three games this season, and we need to address that. It's an area that I think everyone at the football club can see.

"There were a lot of positives from tonight, I thought we played very, very well and dominated for large parts, but the first time they went into our box they scored a goal, second time they scored another goal.

"You can't give up goals the way we did in this division and expect to win football matches. We put in numerous crosses tonight and got up to their goal pretty well, but their two centre-halves defended it."

The Club's plans to reinforce the squad in the centre-back area have been well documented, and Parker reaffirmed his desire to get some new faces in.

"We need to work out if we want to compete this year, otherwise it's going to be a tough year," he said. "This team needs to evolve, this team needs to get better and get stronger. And to do that, we need players in.

"That would give us a chance to be successful. If not, we'll work like we have worked and we'll try and improve things and try and keep pushing along.

"But it was the same the last time we were in this division, and I certainly learnt from that."


Report: Sassuolo defender Marlon fails Fulham medical, Tottenham Hotspur's Juan Foyth identified as plan B

According to The Athletic's David Ornstein, Sassuolo defender Marlon has failed a medical, dealing a blow on Fulham's chances of landing the Brazilian this summer.

The former Barcelona centre-back was in advanced talks with the Craven Cottagers and on the cusp of joining the club for a reported £13 million.

However, the move has now fallen through as a result of his failed medical, and Fulham are looking at other options.

Manager Scott Parker is keen on Tottenham Hotspur defender Juan Foyth, while Torino's Gleison Bremer and Watford's Craig Dawson are other options.

Parker and Fulham co-owner and director of football operations Tony Khan have made it clear of recent that signing a defender is top priority this summer after the side shipped seven goals in their opening two Premier League games of the campaign.

They are without a point ahead of tonight's clash with Aston Villa, and they will need to get a victory if they are to allay early fears of relegation.

Fulham have brought Antonee Robinson,
Mario Lemina, Harrison Reed, Alphonse Areola, Kenny Tete and Ola Aina to west London so far this summer, but they need to strengthen in central defence, and they have just a week left to do that.


Exclusive: Fulham make approach to sign Norwich City first-team star

Fulham have made an approach to sign Norwich City defender Ben Godfrey before the window shuts, Football Insider can exclusively reveal.

The Cottagers are in the market for a centre-back and are keen to land someone with Premier League experience.

A Norwich source has told Football Insider that the club are not keen to let Godfrey, 22, leave as they look for instant promotion back to the top flight.

The Canaries youngster has three years remaining on the contract that he signed last summer and the club also have an option of a further 12 months.

Godfrey has previously attracted interest from Premier League big guns Arsenal and Tottenham, who were keen on him in January.

Fulham have been keeping tabs on the three-times England Under-21 international but face competition over the coming week.

Football Insider revealed earlier this month that Fulham have held talks with Huddersfield over re-signing Terence Kongolo.

An agreement has yet to be reached between the two clubs, and the Londoners are assessing alternative targets.

Godfrey has established himself as a key player in Daniel Farke's side after making huge progress since joining Norwich from York City in 2016.

He made 30 league starts last season and made a strong impression despite Norwich finishing bottom of the table.

Godfrey has also played the full 90 minutes of each of his club's three Championship matches this season.


Development leaves door open for Everton, Fulham in race for reported Watford target

Earlier in this transfer window, we saw Watford linked with a move for Barcelona man Jean-Clair Todibo, as per Mundo Deportivo via Sport Witness.

The Hornets are looking to bounce back into the Premier League at the first time of asking this season and have added to their squad, which is certainly full of quality right now.

Whether Todibo joins remains to be seen, though, with a new development in the chase for him appearing to pave the way for Premier League sides.

According to Footmercato, Rennes have pulled out of the race to sign him this transfer window and that means Everton and Fulham are ready to battle it out for him, alongside Italian giants Napoli.

Of course, if Watford also retain their interest in him then this news will be of significance to them but it remains to be seen just what is going to happen here.

The Verdict

Watford fans will be pleased with what they have seen so far this transfer window and season, with them starting the campaign well.

If they can add further then they surely will but whether Todibo is a player that they manage to get remains to be seen.

Clearly, some very decent sides are looking at him right now.


Marlon move collapses

Marlon's proposed Fulham move has collapsed after the Brazilian defender failed his medical, according to a report in the Athletic this morning.

Fulham had agreed a £13.75m transfer with Sassuolo for the 25 year-old, who it was hoped would help ease their defensive worries after a shaky start to the season, but the 25 year-old centre back did not pass his Motspur Park medical after travelling to London to complete the deal, despite conflicting reports last week from Italy. The Athletic suggests that Fulham are now attempting to bring in other targets, including Bremer from Torino, Tottenham's Juan Foyth and the Watford centre back Craig Dawson.


Ornstein reveals Fulham have turned attention to unsettled Tottenham star

Fulham have entered the race for unsettled Tottenham defender Juan Foyth after their top target Marlon failed a medical, according to reports.

Scott Parker wants to sign a defensive reinforcement before the transfer deadline, as he looks to complete his squad for their first season back in the Premier League.

The Cottagers were keen on Sassuolo's Marlon, but the Brazilian has failed a medical, according to The Athletic's David Ornstein.

The former Barcelona defender had been on the verge of a £13m move, but that has now fallen through.

Therefore, Fulham are now having to look elsewhere for a defensive reinforcement. And Ornstein claims the answer could come from a London rival.

The player in question is Juan Foyth. The Argentine defender has fallen out of favour under Jose Mourinho, and is looking to leave Spurs before deadline day.

When there was interest from Boca Juniors, Foyth said in July: "I don't think about going back to Argentina. Right now it's best to stay in Europe.

"It's what I want and what the club will surely look for, either with a sale or a loan.

"For my future and because the dream of every player is to be in Europe, the best thing is to stay here and seek continuity."

Leeds, Villarreal linked with Foyth
Reports then emerged that Leeds were considering a move as they looked to replace Ben White. But instead of signing his compatriot, Marcelo Bielsa opted for Robin Koch and Diego Llorente instead.

That does not mean Foyth won't stay in the Premier League, though, as Fulham are now keen on him.

Alternative centre-back targets are Watford's Craig Dawson and Torino's Gleison Bremer.

Foyth has also been identified as a top target for Villarreal, who are now managed by former Arsenal boss Unai Emery.


Report: West Ham leading chase for £18m Serie A champion; Fulham also keen

West Ham United are the only club to make an approach for Juventus defender Daniele Rugani so far, although London rivals Fulham are also interested in the £18 million-rated Serie A champion, according to Alfredo Pedulla.

If Angelo Ogbonna and Fabian Balbuena had a point to prove during Sunday's Premier League clash with Wolverhampton Wanderers, then prove it they most certainly did.

While Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen will dominate the headlines after a 4-0 beating of Nuno Espirito Santo's side, Ogbonna and Balbuena provided the platform with a fine defensive performances which restricted Raul Jimenez to spectator status.

If Rugani does finally arrive in England this summer, do not assume the Italy international will simply stroll into David Moyes' XI.

Especially when you consider that, having started just seven Serie A games last term, Rugani will be a little rusty.

Alfredo Pedulla reports that, despite reported interest from multiple clubs all over Europe, West Ham are the only club to show serious interest in a five-time Scudetto winner valued at £18 million.

Fulham are keen too however, and it remains to be seen whether Scott Parker's side step up their interest with a deal to sign another Serie A stopper – Sassuolo's Marlon Santos – in doubt.

Rugani is now the fifth-choice centre-half in Juventus's pecking order.

But, as Alexis Sanchez, Yaya Toure and now James Rodriguez have shown, no one should be written off just because they are struggling for game time at a bona fide European super club.


Barcelona May Lower Asking Price Of Everton Target

Barcelona could lower their asking price for Everton and Fulham target Jean-Clair Todibo in a bid to sell him before the transfer window slams shut next week.

The Frenchman is one of the fringe players La Liga giants Barcelona are looking to offload and they have slapped an asking price of €25m on his head.

Todibo has attracted interest from the Premier League over the course of the transfer window, with both Everton and Fulham linked with a move for the 20-year-old defender.

However, none of the clubs interested in Todibo are willing to pay Barcelona's asking price, which they have deemed too high.

And, according to Spanish daily Mundo Deportivo, Barcelona could lower the asking price in a bid to sell Todibo before the window closes.

A potential loan has been floated, but Barcelona would prefer to guarantee cash from the player's exit.

It remains to be seen if the Spanish club lowering their asking price would tempt the player's suitors to agree to a permanent transfer deal.

Both Everton and Fulham want to land another centre-back before the window slams shut; it will stay closed for just over 12 weeks, until it reopens again in January.


A Year In The Making: Season Review DVD

2019/20 was a season like no other, with Fulham's campaign spanning an unprecedented 367 days.

From a disappointing opening day defeat at Barnsley, to victory in the most glorious of fashions at Wembley Stadium more than a year later, relive every high, every low, every goal and every key moment, as Fulham returned to the Premier League at the first time of asking.

Priced at £15, fans can Pre-Order the limited edition 19/20 Season Review DVD today online.


Roy Keane makes brilliant Bayern Munich claim as Aston Villa seize control at Fulham

Roy Keane was not holding back when dissecting Villa against Fulham

Roy Keane compared Aston Villa's performance against Fulham to Bayern Munich, with their free-flowing football giving them a 2-0 lead at half-time.

Whilst Fulham were woeful in defence, it was still up to Villa to put them to the sword and early goals from Jack Grealish and Conor Hourihane did just that.

Speaking on Sky Sports at half-time, Keane blasted Fulham's performance and said Villa looked several notches above them.

He said: "Fulham have made Aston Villa look like Bayern Munich.

"Unless Aston Villa take their foot off the gas, there's more goals from them here. Scott Parker will be disgusted."

Sky Sports co-commentator Alan Smith was similarly effusive in his praise for Villa.

Speaking after Grealish's opening goal, Smith praised the way that Dean Smith's side were able to cut through their opponents.

Whilst adding the caveat that Fulham's marking was poor, Smith said that Villa still had to take advantage of it.

He said: "Well, Villa have just cut a path through Scott Parker's defence there, in a way he hoped would not be happening with the extra man in defence.

"Listen, give John McGinn plenty of credit for lifting his head and finding his team-mate, and the timing of the run by Grealish and the timing of the pass was perfect.

"Grealish does the rest, but look at that running off Odoi, it's so slack. What a start for Villa."


Everton Set To Rival Fulham In Pursuit Of This Barcelona Defender: Right Fit For The Toffees?

In a recent tweet, renowned journalist Fabrizio Romano has revealed that Everton are set to be rivalled by Fulham in pursuit of Barcelona defender Jean-Clair Todibo during this transfer period. It is understood that the Toffees have made a loan offer with an option to buy but are yet to reach an agreement with the Catalans.

Todibo's Lack Of First-Team Action In Spanish Football
The Cayenne-born talent struggled to earn regular first-team football at the Nou Camp last season. Hence, he went out to play for Schalke on a six-month loan back in January. Todibo appeared in ten matches for the German outfit in the previous campaign, picking up two yellow cards across all competitions.

The 20-year-old should be praised for finding a run of consistency during his time at Gelsenkirchen as he averaged 1.9 tackles, 1.9 interceptions, 2.6 clearances and 1.4 dribbles per match in the 2019-20 Bundesliga season. He even managed to distribute possession relatively well after making 84.8% of his attempted passes in the top tier of German football (stats via whoscored).

Todibo is not in contention to secure a regular starting berth under Ronald Koeman's stewardship this season. Hence, the French whizkid needs to seek a move away from Catalonia in search of greener pastures before next month's transfer deadline. The Barca youngster can benefit from making a fresh start, so he should consider sealing a move to Goodison Park even if it is on a loan deal this summer.

What Will The French Starlet Bring To The Table?
If Todibo can build up some confidence by playing regularly, then he could potentially serve as a reliable defensive presence inside his half. During his loan spell with Schalke last season, the French prospect proved his worth as a capable tackler and has made a habit of earning possession back for his side. Standing at 1.90m, he has got the strength to outmuscle the opposition in the air and win a lot of aerial duels in and around his penalty box.

Is Todibo The Right Choice For The Toffees?
Todibo's incredible strength, coupled with his hunger to succeed, make him an ideal choice for Carlo Ancelotti to consider over the coming weeks. He will undeniably add more depth to the Italian tactician's squad this season if Everton can get a deal over the line for him before the transfer window slams shut in October.

The French centre-half will add some serious competition for the likes of Michael Keane, Yerry Mina and Mason Holgate at Goodison Park during this campaign. All in all, the Toffees should try their best to bring Todibo to Merseyside as he could help them compete for a silverware this season.


Woeful Fulham crushed by Aston Villa

Fulham 0 Aston Villa 3

Fulham slumped to a third successive Premier League defeat with a poor display at Craven Cottage.

The Whites again got off to a slow start – now having conceding within the opening 10 minutes in each of those defeats – when John McGinn clipped a ball over the top the defence and Jack Grealish got to it ahead of Alphonse Areola to slot in at the near post.

Captain Tom Cairney was restored to the starting line-up after dropping to the bench at Leeds last weekend, and Fulham enjoyed the lion's share of the possession in the early stages.

But they were undone again by some neat interplay between Grealish and McGinn, who set up Conor Hourihane to double the lead from close range only 15 minutes in.

With the home side shifting to a new-look 3-4-3 formation, Aleksandar Mitrović then flashed one of his many headers wide as Kenny Tete and Joe Bryan supplied several crosses from wide positions to no avail.

And it only took Villa three minutes after the restart to find their third, courtesy of some more woeful defending.

Denis Odoi recklessly brought down Grealish, who was a nuisance throughout, and Hourihane whipped in the resulting free-kick for an unmarked Tyrone Mings to poke the ball past Areola.

The Whites thought they pulled one back when Aboubakar Kamara, a first-half substitute for the injured Tete, tested Emiliano Martinez with a drive from range and Bobby Decordova-Reid tapped in the rebound, only for VAR to chalk the goal off for a foul in the build-up.

Bryan went close in the dying minutes, when Martinez had to tip his curling effort onto the bar, but the result was a forgone conclusion by then and Fulham have lost their opening three league fixtures for the first time since 2014.

Fulham: Areola, Odoi, Hector (Le Marchand 58), Ream, Tete (Kamara 39), Zambo-Anguissa, Cairney, Bryan, Decordova-Reid (Kebano 79), Cavaleiro, Mitrović


Aston Villa keep up winning start and leave Fulham looking out of their depth

It was hard not to feel sorry for Bobby Decordova-Reid as he saw the claret and blue shirts swarming towards him. The Fulham winger knew his hopes of sparking a counterattack were fading. Decordova-Reid had no support from his teammates and he could do nothing more than boom an up-and-under towards Emi Martínez, Aston Villa's underworked goalkeeper.

It was the kind of thing you see from a player looking to protect a lead in the closing stages. Only Fulham were 3-0 down and there was more than half an hour left. Villa had played them off the park and there was no sign that any of Scott Parker's players believe they belong at this level.

Three games in and Fulham, promoted after winning the play-offs, already look destined to return to the Championship. They are yet to pick up a point, have conceded 10 times and have a goal difference of minus seven, underlining the need for Tony Khan, Fulham's director of football operations, to strengthen the squad before the transfer window shuts next Monday.

"I apologize to @FulhamFC supporters for our performance tonight," he tweeted at full-time. "We've looked to add centre-backs since Wembley, I'm sorry we haven't yet as 2 got COVID + we lost a Free we thought was close + had another issue with a 4th CB. I promise players in + better efforts from this squad."

Parker was diplomatic about Khan's post. But Fulham, whose hopes of signing Marlon are over after the Sassuolo defender failed a medical, were lucky it ended 3-0.

After staying up on the final day last season, Villa are feeling quietly optimistic after opening with two wins. Jack Grealish ran the show, John McGinn oozed class in midfield and although sterner tests lie in wait, it was impossible to pick any holes in a purposeful performance.

Villa exposed Fulham's defensive deficiencies after four minutes. None of the home players were alive to the danger when McGinn received a pass 30 yards from goal. There was no push to close the space from Fulham's frail midfield and McGinn had time to lift a pass through to Grealish, who drilled a low shot through Alphonse Areola's legs.

McGinn, who took the breath away with a glorious dragback as half-time approached, provided the assist for Villa's second in the 15th minute. This time, though, the spark came from Grealish, exchanging passes with Ollie Watkins and slicing Fulham open with a sharp burst before playing a clever pass to McGinn, who teed up Conor Hourihane for another emphatic finish.

"In terms of defending, we weren't good enough," Parker said. "It's an area that everyone at the club can see. We played very well for large parts but the first time they're in our box they score a goal. You can't give up goals in this division and expect to win."

Outnumbered in midfield, Fulham were limited in their 3-4-3 system. Aleksandar Mitrovic found it hard to shake off Ezri Konsa and Tyrone Mings, Villa's centre-backs. The visitors were a solid unit and on the one occasion when Mitrovic looked poised to give his markers the slip Matty Cash stormed across from right‑back to dispossess the Fulham striker.

"There was a real desire from the whole team to keep the ball out the net," said Dean Smith, the Villa manager.

Cash looks like a smart buy from Nottingham Forest. Villa have shown ambition. Watkins gives them mobility in attack after arriving from Brentford and Grealish's decision to sign a new deal has given everyone at Villa Park a lift.

Grealish, who will surely be named in the England squad on Thursday, is a special talent. Two minutes into the second half he pushed the ball past Denis Odoi and tore past the centre-back despite giving him a five-yard headstart. Odoi was booked for dragging Villa's talisman down and Fulham capitulated from the resulting free-kick, freezing as Mings converted Hourihane's delivery.

Fulham's misery deepened when Mitrovic had a goal disallowed after a VAR review detected a foul by the Serb on Konsa.

Villa had their clean sheet and Fulham were left to contemplate how to navigate the long road ahead.


Fulham's defense exposed again in 3-0 loss to Villa in EPL

LONDON (AP) - Fulham maintained its unwanted record of conceding at least three goals in each game since the team´s return to the English Premier League by losing to Aston Villa 3-0 on Monday.

It is now 10 goals conceded and three defeats in three games for the promoted southwest London club after midfielders Jack Grealish and Conor Hourihane scored in the first half at Craven Cottage and defender Tyrone Mings added on soon after the break.

All the goals came from dreadful defending by Fulham, which conceded a league-high 81 goals the last time the team was in the top division, in 2018-19.

There looks to be no difference two seasons on.

Villa, on the other hand, has yet to let in a goal in this campaign having opened with a 1-0 win over Sheffield United.

Fulham manager Scott Parker switched to a five-man defense in an attempt to stem the tide of goals conceded after losing to Arsenal 3-0 and to Leeds 4-3 over the first two rounds.

et Grealish was allowed to race through and latch onto a ball over the top by John McGinn, before the Villa captain directed his low shot past goalkeeper Alphonse Areola after just four minutes.

Ollie Watkins, Grealish and McGinn combined to set up Hourihane to slot into the corner from 10 yards (meters) out in the 15th, with Fulham´s defenders flat-footed from a throw-in and simply pointing at each other to pick up runners.

Mings´ goal might have been the worst of the lot, from Fulham´s point of view.

Hourihane swung in a free kick from the left and Mings was left completely free to slide in and direct home a finish with his studs in the 48th.

"I apologize to Fulham supporters for our performance tonight," tweeted Fulham owner Tony Khan, who added that his club has looked to add center backs to the squad since winning the Championship playoff final at Wembley in August.

"I promise players in (and) better efforts from this squad."

Fulham pressed in the second half without ever looking threatening, and was denied a goal by Bobby Reid because Aleksandar Mitrovic was adjudged to have bundled over Ezri Konsa before Reid tapped in following goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez´s fumble.

Martinez also tipped a fierce shot from Joe Bryan onto the crossbar in stoppage time.


Three and easy for Villa

Aston Villa cruised to a comfortable three-goal win at Craven Cottage tonight as Scott Parker's switch to a back three failed to end Fulham's defensive frailties. Any solace that might have arrived courtesy of a deal to bring in Brazilian centre back Marlon evaporated before kick-off, with the news that his proposed switch from Sassuolo has fallen through, and – even after just three games – the task to survive the drop appears pretty herculean.

This was another hefty defeat that felt self-inflicted. Parker seems to have been dealt a hospital pass as Fulham haven't strengthened in central defence, not just their achiles heel in the top flight two seasons ago but a consistent problem even during their ultimately successful Championship campaign last year, but the switch to three centre halves only exacerbated the problems in front of Alphone Areola, who is the club's seventh goalkeeper in their last fifty top flight matches.

Fulham's new shape did allow Kenny Tete to advance into promising positions from right wing back before he was forced off with an untimely calf injury, but by that point the game looked well beyond the home side. Michael Hector did manage to block a powerful early drive from John McGinn, but Dean Smith's side hit the front in the fourth minute through a simple move. McGinn floated a through ball between the Fulham centre backs for Jack Grealish, who had glided away from Denis Odoi far too easily, and the England international kept his composure to slide a cool finish past Areola. That Fulham were the architects of their own downfall, with Joe Bryan opting to try and play out from the back rather than clear his lines would not have improved Parker's mood.

The hosts' best source of an equaliser appeared to be through Tete down the right, but try as he might Aleksandar Mitrovic was unable to beat the excellent Emiliano Martinez in the visiting goal. The closest he came was probably with his first effort of the evening, a header that deflected off Matty Cash and looped up for the goalkeeper to claim easily.

Fulham looked a bundle of nerves when they were attacked and the next time Villa moved into the final third it was 2-0. They were unlocked far too easily from an attacking throw-in with Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Tom Cairney affording Grealish far too much time to cut in from the left flank. There was too much space for Villa's talisman to pick a pass and, even when McGinn took a heavy touch as he turned away from a defender, Conor Hourihane was there to sweep into the far corner from eight yards.

Ollie Watkins spurned a glorious chance to grab his first Villa goal since a move from Brentford after Grealish had played him in on the edge of the box after Fulham were caught on the break again, whilst Fulham's pretty approach play faltered when they reached the edge of the Villa box. Mitrovic toiled manfully with most of his efforts off target, but the futility of a dispiriting first half was summed up when Ivan Cavaleiro lashed a pretty presentable opening high into the Putney End after Grealish had attempted a risky switch of play on the edge of his own penalty area.

Any hopes of a rousing second half to match Fulham's spirited comeback at Elland Road last week evaporated within three minutes of the restart. Odoi conceded a free-kick for hauling down Grealish as he looked set to break away down the left flank, but the marking was laughably non-existent when Hourihane's delivery found Tyrone Mings bursting away from a clutch of players at the edge of the penalty area to prod a finish past a helpless Areola. No amount of tactical tweakery will rescue a side that keeps making such elementary mistakes.

Villa might have had more and to their credit Parker's charges continued to push. Their lifeline – handed to them when Bobby Decordova-Reid pounced after Martinez had spilled a speculative shot from Kamara – was snatched away after the video assistant referee spotted a foul by Mitrovic on Erzi Konsa. Mitrovic sent further headers wide of goal before an Anguissa piledriver was scrambled off the line and, just to underline that it wasn't going to be Fulham's night, Martinez made a splendid save to turn a curler from Bryan onto the crossbar in stoppage time. This could be a very long – and painful – season indeed.

FULHAM (3-4-3): Areola; Odoi, Hector (Le Marchand 58), Ream; Tete (Kamara 39), Bryan, Anguissa, Cairney; Decordova-Reid (Kebano 78), Cavaleiro, Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Rodak, Robinson, Onomah, Knockaert.

BOOKED: Decordova-Reid, Cairney, Bryan, Odoi, Le Marchand, Kamara.

ASTON VILLA (4-3-3): Martinez; Cash, Targett, Mings, Konsa; Luiz (Nakamba 87), Hourihane (J. Ramsey 77), McGinn; Grealish, Trezeguet (Traore 84), Watkins. Subs (not used): Steer, Hause, Elmohamady, Davis.

BOOKED: Targett, McGinn, Mings.

GOALS: Grealish (4), Hourihane (15), Mings (48).


Tony Khan issues Twitter apology to Fulham fans after Aston Villa defeat and promises to sign new defenders

Fulham's director of football Tony Khan has taken to Twitter to apologise for their performance against Aston Villa, and claims two potential defensive deals have been lost due to coronavirus.

The Cottagers were abject as Villa ran out 3-0 winners at Craven Cottage, with Fulham's back line desperately struggling to cope.

Only this week Scott Parker has seen his latest target - Marlon Santos - fail a medical ahead of his move from Sassuolo as the west Londoners look to add another defender before next week's deadline.

And Khan has claimed they have now missed out on four defenders since winning promotion through the play-off final at Wembley in August.

"I apologise to Fulham's supporters for our performance tonight," Khan said.

"We've looked to add centre-backs since Wembley, I'm sorry we haven't yet as two got COVID and we lost a Free we thought was close and had another issue with a fourth centre-back.

"I promise players in and better efforts from this squad.

"I should and will apologise repeatedly for that performance. I'm sorry everybody. We all need to do a better job.

"Everyone at the club for the past year worked really hard to get the team up, & now we need to work significantly harder to stay up. I promise better efforts than today."


Fulham's latest defeat could force Tony Khan and Scott Parker to row back on transfer promise

The 3-0 loss to Aston Villa showed that defence needs strengthening if they are to stand any chance of surviving in the Premier League

Fulham's season is at risk of being over before it is allowed to really start. If Scott Parker's team continue to defend as casually and naively as this then they will be relegated in record time.

The only solace the head coach may be able to take after this latest defensive collapse to Aston Villa is that he has a week to bring in new faces.

Tony Khan, in charge of the purse strings, has stressed Fulham would not make the same mistakes as two seasons ago when they spent heavy but never looked like surviving an immediate drop.

On the back of three defeats in which they have conceded 10 goals, that vow already looks strained.

Within three minutes of full-time this evening Khan had tweeted an apology to supporters and said they are working hard on signing new centre backs with two targets getting coronavirus and another that was close falling through at the last minute.

Going off this evidence they badly need those reinforcements but more troublingly Khan questioned the work ethic of those who were on the pitch. "I promise players in + better efforts from this squad," he wrote.

Parker would not be drawn on whether such sentiments being aired on social media was helpful but has made no secret of his desire for reinforcements.

"We need to bring some defenders in with personality and experience," he said. "It's not new. I don't want to be overly-critical of the boys but it's like anything, when you move up the team evolves. You need to bring players in to make the team better and push the other boys on."

Having shipped three to Arsenal and four to Leeds in their opening two games, it took less than three and a half minutes for Alphonse Areola's clean sheet to evaporate as Jack Grealish finished off a sublime John McGinn pass to put Aston Villa ahead.

It was nicely done by the Aston Villa pair but Fulham were architects of their own downfall time and again. Joe Bryan's clearance down the left was weak, McGinn was too clever for Ivan Cavaleiro, Bryan's intended target, and Denis Odoi was napping as Grealish ghosted past.

Parker, unsurprisingly, turned his back in disgust as the net bulged but it only got worse.

There had been fleeting signs of positivity in attack but Villa's second was another desperate goal to concede, starting from a throw-in and a move that saw Ollie Watkins, Grealish and the eventual scorer Conor Hourihane make untracked runs.

The third, finished well by centre back Tyrone Mings two minutes into the second half, came from a set piece in which Tim Ream lost track of the Villa centre back.

Fulham did show some flickers of promise going forward, registering 16 attempts, but many of them were from long range and off target. No matter the impact in attack, they are not going to win many games until something is done about the defence.

Over to you, Mr Khan.


Fulham's three-week collapse

There comes a point in time where the football stops being enjoyable. When every match is accompanied by a sharp pang of disbelief when Fulham concede early. When you hope against hope for the referee to blow the final whistle half an hour early because the game's already gone. When the post-match Twitter discourse is so toxic you can't help but doom-scroll endlessly.

In typical fashion, it only took three weeks for Fulham to hit this low point. When the director of football took the unprecedented step of apologising to fans following the 3-0 home defeat to Aston Villa, it was just a tad too late. A feeling of dread had already enveloped the Cottagers fanbase.

The brutal loss was all too predictable. For months, I and others have beaten the drum consistently, warning that a failure to bring in central defensive reinforcements would doom us in the top flight. Tony Khan appears to understand this too. He offered up a variety of explanations for why we haven't yet secured a centre back, spanning from Covid complications to an unspecified "issue."

At the very least, Khan has publicly acknowledged he and the squad haven't performed. That's a start. But spare me the public mea culpas. We need action. Action that should've happened more than a month ago. Let's buy some players and at least give Parker a fighting chance to stay in this division. Barring that, Fulham fans are in for an extended relegation party.

Any reasonable person can see that we would have a far easier time buying players if we had a director of football who wasn't also an NFL executive and a wrestling start-up leader.

But in our less than ideal situation, we faced Premier League opposition on Monday evening with a three centre-half system featuring Tim Ream, Michael Hector, and Denis Odoi. Scott Parker thought that maybe playing three Championship centre-backs might help shore up our leaky defence. The gamble, always laughable, backfired.

Instead, the so-called 'defenders' again forgot basic fundamentals of defending. To make matters worse, the paper-thin midfield pairing of Tom Cairney and Frank Anguissa decided to not track runners into the box and ended up being outworked and overwhelmed by Villa.

The simple verdict is that the team is no good. As I've said all along, we have very few Premier League-quality players in our squad. It really is no surprise that we've played three, lost three, and conceded 10.

What is perhaps surprising is that the feeling of anger and depression has united the normally fractious Fulham Twitterverse. The first week, some deluded minds rationalised that we were always set to lose to a dangerous Arsenal side, so there was no need to panic.

The second week, some wishful thinkers claimed we were fine because Leeds would be a top-10 side and our second-half comeback boded well for the season.

This time around, at least there can be no sugar-coating the severity of our predicament. Fulham made a team that barely survived the drop last year look like world beaters. There can be no searching for positives after this.

"We need to work out whether we want to compete this year," Parker said after the match "Otherwise it will be a tough year."

Tough could be the understatement of the decade.