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Monday Fulham Stuff - 08/02/21...

Started by WhiteJC, February 08, 2021, 08:32:16 AM

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West Ham will appeal Tomas Soucek's controversial red card for elbowing Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic after David Moyes said he was 'embarrassed' for referee Mike Dean and Jamie Redknapp slammed VAR

    Tomas Soucek was sent off at the death in West Ham's goalless draw at Fulham
    Czech midfielder was adjudged to have elbowed Aleksandar Mitrovic in the face
    Referee Mike Dean made the decision after checking replays on VAR monitor
    There was widespread criticism of the red card and West Ham will appeal
    Hammers manager David Moyes said he felt 'embarrassed' for Dean afterwards

West Ham will appeal Tomas Soucek's controversial red card in their goalless draw at Fulham on Saturday night.

Mike Dean dismissed the Czech defender for violent conduct in stoppage time after he apparently raised his elbow into Aleksandar Mitrovic's face as they stood on the edge of the box.

VAR official Lee Mason advised Dean to look at replays on the pitchside monitor, leading to the red card that left pundits, fans and Hammers manager David Moyes exasperated.

West Ham's Tomas Soucek (centre) was shown a red card in Saturday's 0-0 draw with Fulham for appearing to raise his elbow into the face of striker Aleksandar Mitrovic

The Czech midfielder's elbow made contact with Fulham striker Mitrovic's face on Saturday

Czech midfielder Soucek protests to referee Mike Dean after being sent off at Craven Cottage

But West Ham will appeal the decision in an effort to get Soucek's ban overturned.

It could free Soucek to play for the Hammers in their FA Cup fifth round tie with Manchester United on Tuesday night. 

Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp was left fuming by Dean's decision, saying that Soucek caught Mitrovic, who went down clutching his face, accidentally.

He said: 'What's happening to our game? We all love football but what is Mike Dean seeing there?

'He [Soucek] is trying to get his arm out of the way and completely by accident he catches him [Mitrovic] with his elbow.

'You can see in his face there is completely no intention to hurt an opponent - the fact Mike Dean thinks that's a red card is a genuine worry to me.

'VAR has to find a way to stop interfering with the game. They're making so many bad judgement calls.

Dean (third right) was questioned by angry Hammers coaching staff at the end of the match

'I cannot believe there are two respected officials, they know the game, how they've got to the result where that's a red card is beyond me. It's killing the game.'

BT Sport's Rio Ferdinand was also left baffled by Dean's decision and called for greater transparency of the VAR process.

He said: 'I was thinking of the right word so I wouldn't get in trouble when explaining this but Mike Dean, this is an embarrassment. He had 22 opportunities to look at it when he went to the side and he still got it wrong. It is a disgrace.

'What will help us out here, fans and pundits alike, is like in rugby, when the decision is being spoken about - at Stockley Park and with the referee on the side of the pitch - open the airwaves and let us hear that. It might give us then a bit of insight how they're getting to those decisions and help us understand.

'This is an educational piece for all of us. VAR is new and we're coming to terms with it. Let us in.

'This has to be rescinded and put as a yellow card or something.'

His fellow BT pundit Glenn Hoddle added: 'That is simple. Any Sunday morning referee will look at that and say, "well, he's just trying to shrug him off, he hasn't deliberately put his elbow into his face."

'Mitrovic has got hold of him and he's just saying "get away, get off me" and he's just clipped him. He's saying, "that was a mistake."

'If you can't see that as a referee and show some common sense, you shouldn't be out there refereeing a Premier League side. That is ridiculous.'

Moyes said he felt 'embarrassed' for Dean in the latest contentious incident involving him and Mason this week.

The pair were also involved in another controversial decision earlier this week, when Dean sent off Southampton's Jan Bednarek during a 9-0 defeat by Manchester United, with the club launching a successful appeal that saw the red card rescinded.

'No, because I think both are good referees and have been throughout their careers,' Moyes said when asked if the refereeing duo should work together.

Soucek watches the final moments of the goalless draw from the tunnel after his red card

'That worries me even more that they've made that decision tonight. I'm amazed they've even sent them to look at it.

'Even more amazed that Mike chose to do something with it. What can we do? I don't think anyone in football or football management are convinced by the rulings we're involved in.'

He added: 'I think the referees could easily put an end to this and they're probably the ones who could do it, by saying "no we're not going to continue to give soft free-kicks, we're not going to react to screaming, we're not going to react to some of the decisions that are going on".

'But they look as if they're a bit frightened not to do what they think is correct at the moment.'

Moyes said he did not ask Dean to explain himself, adding: 'I'm actually quite embarrassed for Mike that he would have made that decision.'

It was just the latest controversial decision made following a VAR check in the Premier League

Moyes said that Mitrovic had gone up to tell Dean it was accidental and criticised the decision further.

'(It was) an accidental coming together which, to show a red card I think was an embarrassing decision.

'I'm more embarrassed that it would happen and VAR would go and ask him to look at it because I thought it was just a simple accident which should have just said get on with the game and nothing more.'

Taking to Twitter after the game, Soucek wrote: 'I spoke with Aleksandar Mitrović in and after the game and he said to me that our duel was fair, I thank him for that. Unfortunately, the referee had different opinion.

'Anyone who knows me knows i would never mean harm to another player. I am sorry for this moment in the otherwise great season. Really nice fair play moment from Aleksandar.'

Several former players, including Gary Lineker, Ian Wright and Jamie Carragher added their thoughts on the Soucek red card on social media after the game.

Match of the Day host Lineker said: 'You have got to be kidding? That's not a red card in a million years. So clearly accidental. A nonsense.'

Wright tweeted: 'All about Mike Dean. Just how he likes it!' followed by an angry emoji, while Jamie Carragher said: 'What is going on! That's not a deliberate elbow!!'

Michael Owen added: 'Oh no...twice in a week. These monitors seem to somehow make decisions harder to work out,' while former Bolton striker Kevin Davies tweeted: 'Wow game has gone if that's violent conduct, I got out at the right time!'

Referee Dean and VAR Mason came under fire after the former gave Southampton defender Bednarek a straight red card for a foul in the Saints' 9-0 defeat against Manchester United.

Bednarek made minimal contact with United striker Anthony Martial but was nonetheless sent off after Dean looked at the pitchside monitor, and the club succeeded in having the Pole's suspension overturned.

As Sportsmail reported on Wednesday, Southampton were furious about decisions made by Dean and Mason in losses against Aston Villa and United and felt it was unwise for the pair to referee one of their games in the near future.


Tete: Points Will Come

Kenny Tete felt his side were more than good value for a win but were forced to settle for a draw against West Ham.

Fulham registered a dominant display, notching up 20 shots with 61 per cent possession, without converting.

"We played a really good game against West Ham," he started. "They are fourth or fifth in the league and we showed our qualities and played really well.

"We created lots of chances and the only disappointing thing is we couldn't finish the game. Football is all about details and we have to finish our chances. We need to find the net."

The result won't deter the Dutch full-back, who knows these controlling displays will turn into wins before long.

"The main positive is we outplayed a top-six team," he continued. "We have to think about that and keep going. It's always doable. We are in every game we play; we create enough chances and we'll believe until the last.

"We came out in the second half looking for a win. We were controlling the game and we were waiting for the goal, it's a shame it didn't come.

"Mentality is really important; we keep saying that to each other. We're all behind each other waiting for the three points. Hopefully we can keep building."

Scott Parker's side have a slight respite in schedule which allows a seven-day break before a trip to Everton. When the time comes, Tete thinks the team will be raring to go.

"It's true we have a more favourable next few games," he admitted. "All these games are tough, but we have a lot of quality. We will never give up.

"It's been a heavy month. We had a lot of games, it's time to recharge and get ready for our next test."


Tete encouraged after Fulham 'outplayed' West Ham

Kenny Tete took the positives from Fulham's goalless draw with West Ham last night – focusing on how Scott Parker's side dominated much of the London derby.

The Dutch defender, restored to right back after Fulham switched to a back four, was delighted with most of his team's display against David Moyes' in-form outfit as the hosts enjoyed most of possession and the better chances but couldn't find a winner. Tete told the club's official website after the final whistle:

We played a really good game against West Ham. They are fourth or fifth in the league and we showed our qualities and played really well. We created lots of chances and the only disappointing thing is we couldn't finish the game. Football is all about details and we have to finish our chances. We need to find the net.

The main positive is we outplayed a top six team. We have to think about that and keep going. It's always doable. We are in every game we play; we create enough chances and we'll believe until the last. We came out in the second half looking for a win. We were controlling the game and we were waiting for the goal, it's a shame it didn't come. Mentality is really important; we keep saying that to each other. We're all behind each other waiting for the three points. Hopefully we can keep building.

Fulham now have a rare week's rest before a trip to Goodison Park next weekend – and Tete knows that the Whites need to turn draws into victories if they are to have any hope of beating the drop.

It's true we have a more favourable next few games. All these games are tough, but we have a lot of quality. We will never give up. It's been a heavy month. We had a lot of games, it's time to recharge and get ready for our next test.


Five Thoughts: Fulham 0-0 West Ham United
Read it and weep, Fulham still haven't won a top-flight 'London Derby' since 2014, 19 capital meetings and counting, and Saturday's bore score draw against West Ham United was arguably the closest we've come to exiling that embarrassing record, a statistic we just can't shake for love, money or survival.

Ironically, our last derby day triumph was at the Hammers' expense, although Scott Parker's plateaued Whites weren't up to the task, David Moyes' men weathered a muted storm in dismal conditions and now, one point better off than we were before, two away days at Goodison Park and Turf Moor awaits. 8 points from salvation, teams around us picking up the pace, this uphill battle's only getting bleaker, steeper and slipperier.

Shapely Defensive Pluses
Well, one massive plus we have to take stock of his the solidity of our defence, no matter how we shape up. A back three, a straight line of four, whatever or however, Fulham are still a tiringly stubborn entity to deconstruct, and even against a "Champions League-chasing" side in West Ham, Tosin Adarabioyo, Joachim Andersen, Kenny Tete and Anthony Robinson cooperated superbly to withstand and suppress the visitors' inhuman attacking power, pledged by a vamped up Sunday League swashbuckler in Michael Antonio. There is a compelling element of discipline within our defensive ranks, a regulation that's abided by, painstakingly, and for all of our offensive inadequacies, those that battened down the hatches have to be credited.

With 34 goals, the Hammers aren't the most prolific outfit in the division, although their attack, also a makeshift body following Sebastien Haller's departure, does pack a punch, and we fervently held our guard to limit them to just 1 registered shot on target. The Whites played out from the back considerately, Andersen and Tosin were strict with their standards and out wide, through Tete and Robinson, neither Said Benrahma or Jarrod Bowen could practice their usual dark arts. They've been hard to come by this season, but another clean sheet is a supportive takeaway and our defensive representatives, alive to the grossly unfavourable position we inhabit, are certainly worth their collective weight in salt.

I-Maja-ning Mitro's Partner
Who would've thought it, Ivan Cavaleiro is ahead of Aleksandar Mitrovic in Parker's pecking order and none of us, not even the Portuguese choker himself, can understand why. Fulham, moving forward, functioned off the faintest of pulses with Cav' up top, and even with an energised Ademola Lookman by his side, clear-cut, convincing opportunities were few and far between. The Whites were broadcast, predictable, a nonsensical free-for-all without a purpose and though the Hammers carried very little in the final third themselves, this has been an unwelcome conundrum all season for the Whites, and Parker has to recognise the difference between the pairing that started the game up top, and the duo that ended it, an overlooked Serbian and Josh Maja.

Both Mitro and Maja entered proceedings in the 79th minute, far too late if you ask me and, in fairness, we didn't actually get a very clear idea of what the Bordeaux loanee can really offer, although we do know exactly what last season's top-scorer's capable of, and with a focal point, Fulham's initiative was purposeful. Mitro's blown hot and cold and on Saturday, we witnessed a warming variation, one that snapped a half-volley inches wide, and one that introduced his teammates with deft lay-ups and practical offloads. There's no contest or debate, Mitro has to start and whoever partners him, Maja, Cav', 'Mola or even our leading marksman Bobby Decordova Reid, for that matter, has to feed off the discarded striker's incorporative fabrication. We're cursed offensively, we've only 17 goals to our name, but with a slight change of shape and impetus, the Whites will vanquish the long-standing hoodoo that's blighted their progressive prosperity.

Safely Secure Spine
Honestly, in all transparency, the sitting midfield coalition of Harrison Reed and Mario Lemina operated with a coefficient balance and, dare I say it, made me totally forget about the Covid-stricken Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, who's been a shadow of his former self since 'recovering' from the virus. I've no reservations where the spine of our set-up's concerned, it's powerfully reinforced, and with Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek and Jesse Lingard threatening to run riot, Reed and Lemina shared an understanding that suppressed the Hammers' multifaceted trio. For the first time in an ice age, the Whites won the midfield battle, a third that could've rendered our weaknesses if we weren't readily equipped and prepared. Lemina pressed, Reed patrolled and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, though he laboured to trudge out of a comatose state, probed.

Our midfield triple alliance was balanced, assured, and whilst it isn't particularly flamboyant, staple signs of competitive moderation are present. We were safe and secure with Reed and Lemina in cahoots, and as Zambo's currently crashing at 47% of his optimum capacity, I'd continue with their complimentary relationship. The base of the triangle's reliable, but what of the tip? One of these days, RLC is going to retrieve possession and he's actually going do something worthwhile with it, because barring one focused foray in a forward trajectory that won a free-kick, the vastly underperforming Chelsea loanee subdued Fulham's rhythm. Tom Cairney's back in training, we don't want to rush him back too soon, however he's the playmaker our flummoxed attack's been feening for, and I'd have to guilt in omitting Loftus-Cheek, if it meant we could comfortably accommodate the crocked skipper's ingenuity.

Mike Dean's VARcissism
A narcissist and a conman, Mike Dean has to be handed marching orders of his own following his diabolical adjudication of an incident that doesn't even deserve to be labelled as such. The game is softer than freshly coiled poo, and Dean is the sphincter that dispenses endless controversy from a standing of corrupt authority. Of all the weak calls this week, Soucek's 97th-minute dismissal was ill-advised and hideously deplorable. Mitro made a meal of the Czech's accidental brush of the elbow, I won't condone or pardon his play-acting, but once the affair had been escalated further, he was adamant that Soucek's part in the melodrama was completely coincidental, and didn't need additional punishment. Dean, however, was determined to rewrite headlines and sully a perfectly equitable game, and as a so-called professional sponsor of the law, he should admit his misdemeanours.

In real time, the occurrence is barely noticeable, but on the flipside, for argument's sake, there's no need for his elbow to be above head height, at all, and that's a hill that some fans, pundits and experts will ultimately die on. Soucek was reprimanded for owning limbs, and to even deliberate his intentions is absurd. There's no malice or spite involved, but sadly for Soucek, much like David Luiz's hilarious dismissal earlier in the week, accredited VAR specialists deemed him dangerous and I can only hope in hindsight and retrospect, his red card will be abolished. The only man that's worthy of sentencing is Dean, a regular culprit of controversy, and as long as this clown proceeds take charge of meetings on the grandest of scales, disputable moments of dishonourable significance will continue to plague our screens and muddy the English game's reputation.

Passing Up Victories
Drawing, drawing, drawing. It was fairly obvious that the Hammers didn't want three points and we refused to capitalise on their reluctance. We're never really outplayed, outclassed or drubbed to kingdom come, we just make an absolute hash of being in the ascendency, and as I'd alluded to in our previous edition, we've forgotten how to express ourselves and we're going to cough up a hefty debt if we can't cash in on our opponent's hesitancy. Vladimir Coufal cracked a header off the crossbar, that was it for the visitors, whereas the Whites skied sitters, skewed certified strikes and mistimed vital passes in advantageous areas.

With a monopolising 61% of possession, 550 passes administered, Fulham still couldn't take ownership of a game that dangled three points on a string, a carrot that was in sight, but just out of reach. We were 9 points off safety before kick-off, the importance of a victory was pronounced and consequential, and against an over-achieving side enduring an off day, we simply didn't invest enough to compound what should have been the Irons' 7th defeat of the campaign. Asserting ourselves, stamping our credentials and whittling down the deficit is, and has been for some time now, top of the club's agenda but, on the pitch, we're making a mockery of our unsound objectives. The incentives are there, we've 16 games to play, a total of 48 points up for grabs and gaining two extra against the Hammers could've sparked a revival. Instead, we're back to our old tricks of spurning and squandering, and though there's a very long way to go yet, our self-inflicted plight's as ominous as ever.


The Chelsea audition at Craven Cottage, Josh Maja scouting report & Scott Parker's big decision

The Chelsea audition at Craven Cottage
With just three shots on target between Fulham and West Ham, it's safe to say the match wasn't always the most entertaining in damp conditions. However, each side had some class that stood out above the rest.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek had a slow start to time at Craven Cottage but finally appears to be finding some momentum in a Fulham shirt. The closer he plays to Scott Paker's most advanced forward, the more involved and alive the Chelsea loanee appears to have become.

Loftus-Cheek drove well, and found gaps in the centre of the pitch that others often didn't despite being up against a player often linked to Chelsea in recent transfer windows in Declan Rice. The 22-year-old midfielder oozed class in his delivery to Vladamir Coufal, who hit the bar, in his ability to ride a challenge and in his ability to disposses.

For Loftus-Cheek to still stand out shows the kind of afternoon he had. Perhaps even his best since joining.

Scott Parker said: "We've seen a performance from the boy that is nothing short of incredible. I thought he was fantastic today. Taking us up the pitch, control, his whole game and I understand he's missed a couple of chances but this is a young player, like a lot of them in the team that is developing. Do I see a progression? One million percent I do.

"When you've got young players there's always levels you need to get to. Ruben is the first to understand if he can add goals to his game, that's where he needs to be."

Loftus-Cheek's performance was indicative of Fulham's display, one that was only missing the clinical edge to earn three points.

(Brief) Josh Maja scouting report
It was a brief cameo in some pretty heavy conditions for the signing from Bordeaux. What we did see was a forward who seemed to keep things simple and sensible.

The former Sunderland forward appeared to situate himself more towards the right in deeper positions but trended left the closer he got to goal.

With a lot of attacking players on the pitch there was definitely competition for who was generating Fulham's chances in the final 10 with Aleksandar Mitrovic probably having more of an impact. That is to be expected at this stage with familiarity.

Parker maybe waited too long to bring on a forward, which given another lacklustre showing in finishing chances from good positions was surprising and maybe indicative of Maja not being quite up to speed. Whether that is physically or tactically.

The Fulham boss ahead of the game said: "(He can offer a) finishing touch really. We do (already) have that, but we don't have many and I think that's clear for everyone to see in our squad.

"We only have really one in the sense of a striker and that's Aleks (Mitrovic), so in terms of competition and I just think that extra help that (Maja coming in) is going to be helpful.

"The boy's a finisher, we were seeing that this morning, he's a very clean good finisher off both feet. So yeah, I think it's clear that we can get scoring some goals to win matches here and hopefully Josh can help us with that."

Given that endorsement it seems likely we'll only learn more against Everton.

Big decisions
The big question remains - how can Fulham score enough goals to win matches?

Ademola Lookman and Loftus-Cheek both had opportunities on Saturday. Though both had lively displays, they did not manage a shot on target despite having five efforts each.

Even with a change in system there was no place for a forward as Ivan Cavaleiro returned to the first XI. So you might say it's time to start a striker regardless of the impact elsewhere.

That alone might not be enough. Mitrovic has struggled when he has started this season for the most part. His most impactful moments have been from the bench where he has provided a target and a different option.

When the Serbian has been afforded a greater opportunity he tends to start well, and has linked up with Loftus-Cheek with some success, but can't sustatin his output for the full game. Is this because of his form or because the Cottagers aren't set up to play through the striker? It feels like both.

Can the 4231 Parker utilised yesterday be more threatening with a true forward? You would hope so but whenever Fulham play a top team, it's difficult to see last season's talisman starting.

While the run without a win has been frustrating, eight draws from 11 fixtures has included taking points from Liverpool, Totteham and West Ham. If the Whites hadn't started so slowly perhaps it would have been enough to keep in contention to continue at that rate for the rest of the season. Brighton, Newcastle and Burnley have upped the ante however, and wins are a more valuable currency.

With just six goals in those 11 matches, playing a forward might just be a necessity.

Josh Maja is young and Parker has sounded the 22-year-old out for development but for survival, you have to hope the prospect is the missing piece.

The next seven days may be the most valuable for the season. Parker has a week to plan and train and embed his plans in the squad, and Maja has his chance to settle in.

Who starts, which system is used and whether you gamble it all against Toffees are all big decisions to make. Let's hope there is a right answer.


Aleksandar Mitrovic and Anthony Martial are the villains - not Mike Dean

West Ham's Tomas Soucek will probably get his red card against Fulham rescinded but while Dean might have made a mistake, the guilty men are the play-actors

The one unfortunate thing about the Mike Dean pile-on is that the scheming, chiselling, diving, playacting antics of the footballers involved have been have been relegated to afterthoughts.

Instead, Dean is the villain for being fooled by Anthony Martial's dive against Southampton at Old Trafford.

Dean is the villain for being hoodwinked by Aleksandar Mitrovic's histrionics at Craven Cottage.

Dean is football's enemy for being conned by a player simulating a foul in the penalty area when his team were SIX-NIL up with five minutes left.

Dean is football's enemy for being duped by a grown man going down as though Anthony Joshua had landed one on his chin rather than having taken a gentle elbow-tap to the boat race.

Mitrovic's father once said his son would have been a 'criminal or a kick boxer' had he not been a footballer.

He would have been lousy at both, judging by his collapse on Saturday evening.

Of course, the problem is that when Dean looks at the pitchside monitor, he should be able to realise Martial and Mitrovic are both trying it on.

But, understandably, he becomes obsessed by the letter of the law. Having seen the video, he still believes Jan Bednarek has made contact with Martial (it is a decent dive, to be fair) so, by the letter of the law, has to send him off.

Having seen the video, he reckons Tomas Soucek has deliberately raised his elbow and made contact with Mitrovic's face so, by the latter of the law, has to send him off.

After all, it is not Dean's job to make judgement calls on Mitrovic's machismo.

The theatricals of Mitrovic also came late in proceedings and it is not as though he was trying to win a penalty or that he thought getting Soucek sent off might win Fulham the match.

It was just the very disagreeable, modern instinct. The default reaction of so many of today's players is to try and fool the officials, full stop.

If that is a sweeping generalisation unfair to those who like to play the game honestly, then tough, because every team has plenty of con-artists.

If that means there might be inconvenient injustices in so many games, then tough, because no manager, no team-mate, has the backbone to get a grip of those con-artists.

Have any of Soucek's colleagues grossly exaggerated the effects of a casual, probably accidental, flick? Of course they have.

Have any of Bednarek's colleagues taken a dive to try and win Southampton a spot-kick? Of course they have.

What goes around, comes around.

Bednarek had his red card rescinded and, considering the furore on social and in mainstream media, there is every chance Soucek will be reprieved.

But while having a go at the easy target that is a demonstrative referee, remember one thing.

He may have got it wrong a couple of times but Mike Dean is NOT the villain here.

The villains are the men who have conned him.


Anthony Knockaert at Nottingham Forest: How's it gone so far? What issues does he face? What's next?

Nottingham Forest had a ridiculously busy transfer window in the build-up to the current season, and their plans changed when Chris Hughton was appointed as manager back in October.

One of his first acts saw Anthony Knockaert arrive at the City Ground on loan from Fulham, to link up with the experienced boss again after playing a pivotal role in Hughton's Brighton side that won promotion.

Given his pedigree at this level, signing the 29-year-old winger was considered a real coup for the Reds, and Forest managed to extend his loan until the end of the campaign just last month.

And, here we assess how the deal has worked on and check what could happen moving forward...

How's it gone so far?
It's getting better!

Knockaert didn't really stand out after joining initially, although it should be said that the Frenchman was going into a side that was low on confidence.

However, Hughton kept faith in the 29-year-old, and he's starting to repay that as he has improved considerably in recent weeks.

A goal in the win over Wycombe yesterday was Knoackert's second for the Reds, but his overall performance was excellent. He was sharp, dynamic and showed signs of the player that has starred at this level previously.

What issues does he face?
There aren't too many issues for Knockaert right now.

He is playing under a manager he clearly respects, he is starting games, and his future is sorted until the end of the season.

The only potential issue is the competition for places that Forest have. With Luke Freeman, Joe Lolley and Sammy Ameobi available, Knockaert knows that his standards can't drop, but he thoroughly merits his place in the XI.

What's next?
The big question surrounding Knockaert is where his long-term future lies, but there are several factors that will come into play when the campaign finishes.

Firstly, will Fulham sell to a fellow Championship side if they go down? Can Forest afford him on a longer deal?

There's no doubting that Hughton will want the player, and that Knockaert would play under the ex-Newcastle chief, but it could be complicated in the summer, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.


Cottage Talk Post Match Show: Fulham Play Another 0-0 Draw

Take a listen to a podcast that focuses on Fulham Football Club.

In this episode, we look back at another 0-0 draw for Fulham.

You can also listen to the show by following this link...


Super-sub Mounie scores, Seri makes debut as Brest see off Bordeaux

The Benin international was on the scoresheet while the Ivory Cast midfielder made his maiden appearance for the Girondins at Stade Francis-Le Ble

Steve Mounie scored while Jean-Michael Seri made his debut in Brest's 2-1 victory over Bordeaux in Sunday's Ligue 1 game.

Mounie continued his impressive form in his debut campaign for the Pirates, helping them to clinch their ninth win of the season.

The Republic of Benin international was afforded his 21st league appearance as a second-half substitute and impressed in the encounter. 

Seri, meanwhile, made his first appearance for the Girondins since teaming up with the side on loan from Premier League club Fulham.

The game started with both sides aiming to get an early goal, despite their efforts, however, the first half ended 0-0.

After the restart, Bordeaux manager Jean-Louis Gasset made a number of substitutions, including introducing Seri into the game.

Ui-Jo Hwang opened the scoring in the 55th minute of the encounter for the Girondins after benefitting from Remi Oudin's assist.

In an effort to try and avoid defeat at Stade Francis-Le Ble, Brest manager Olivier Dall'Oglio brought on Mounie in the 76th minute for Gaetan Charbonnier.

The Benin international hit the ground running, levelling proceedings for his side three minutes after his introduction.

With nine minutes left to full-time, Romain Faivre scored the match-winning goal for Brest with a deflected shot.

Besides Seri and Mounie featuring in the encounter, Algeria international Haris Belkebla was also on parade for 73 minutes before he was replaced by Franck Honorat.

Nigeria international Samuel Kalu was not listed for the encounter but will be expected to return when Bordeaux take on Toulouse in their next game on February 10.

Brest are now 12th on the league table after gathering 30 points from 24 games while Bordeaux dropped to 10th with 32 points from the same number of matches.

The Pirates will square off against Rodez in their next outing in a Cup tie on February 10 at  Stade Francis-Le Ble.


Villain Mitrovic gets off scot free

As we move into February the Pantomime season should be well and truly behind us. Sadly that appears not to be the case because what we saw on Saturday night at Craven Cottage was a panto in every sense of the word.

As we all know you need either a Prince Charming, a Principal Boy a Villain (or two) or a couple of Ugly Sisters. No prizes for guessing which duel roles messrs Mike Dean and Lee Mason filled!

Universal condemnation today from past and present players, together with every section of the media will 'hopefully' persuade the FA to do the right thing and overturn Tomas Soucek's disgraceful red card.

Sadly, expecting the football authorities to actually hold their hands up and admit their boys not only got it wrong, but hopelessly wrong, is probably too much to expect.

But while the anger has rightly been directed at both Mike Dean and Lee Mason for their starring roles, the part played by Aleksandar Mitrovic shouldn't be overlooked.

He was part of the supporting cast, and certainly played his part in the evening's performance. His remarkable 'recovery' and futile attempts to persuade Dean he was okay really didn't wash with the official – and shouldn't wash with the rest of us either.

There was contact with Soucek's arm – we could all see that – but it was a mere accidental brush, no more, of the Czech's arm.

Was it enough to send the big Serbian – who has had brushes with authority on several occasions for his own 'strong-arm' tactics – crashing to the ground clutching his face as if he's been poleaxed? No way! Never! He was at it! Looking to gain an advantage – defuse a dangerous situation for his side, win a free-kick and hang on to a valuable point.

Trouble was his performance was too good! It went too far! A couple of inept official were influenced beyond belief – and the rest, as they say, is history. During the week Anthony Martial played a similar supporting role in another contentious decision from the dynamic duo of Dean and Mason.

His trademark dive was enough to secure Manchester United a penalty, not for the first time it has to be said, and also a red card for Southampton defender Jan Bednarek. Thankfully that card has been swiftly overturned.

Dean and Mason deserve every ounce of condemnation and all the derision that continues to come their way. But Aleksandar Mitrovic needs to look in the mirror and question the role he has played in all this, as do other players whose 'acting' is a blight on our game we could do without!

Are you listening Mr Grealish?


Football clubs sent financial warning as Government plan sponsorship clamp down

Football clubs could face significant financial changes with the Government ready to clamp down on betting sponsorship

Football has been warned it faces a "significant impact" with the Government ready to impose a major crackdown on betting sponsorship.

Ministers could impose a complete ban on shirt sponsorship with gambling firms as part of their review with teams from the top two divisions making around £110m-a-year from the tie-ups.

But there are growing concerns about addictions and football's relationship with the multi-billion pound gambling industry in terms of advertising and commercial deals

Now one of the major firms, the Kindred Group - which oversees UNIBET and 32Red in the UK among nine brands - has taken the revolutionary step of opening up its books.

Neil Banbury, UK General Manager at Kindred Group, says their figures show and in-depth research show that "high risk" customers make up four per cent of their business and their target is to reach zero levels.

But Banbury did admit that the financial implications for football could be huge if the Government tries to pull the plug as 32Red sponsor Derby in the Championship.

While eight top-flight teams out of 20 - Burnley, Crystal Palace, Fulham, Leeds, Newcastle, Southampton, West Ham and Wolverhampton Wanderers - have their shirt sponsored by betting firms.

Banbury said: "Clearly it's not a good time for football clubs with commercial income streams and the huge pressure, certainly outside the Premier League, partners and sponsors make up a significant part of football clubs' income. It's clearly not a good time from that perspective.

"To some extent we would welcome some intervention or some changing in the rules. There should be a much higher bar for being able to get involved in such a visible property within the UK.

"The vast majority of brands sponsoring the Premier League don't have a UK business, have no interest in UK consumers.

"That has created the toxicity around the debate when actually what we should be talking about is a high bar to get involved and then let's talk about the good work we can do together.

"Ultimately, if the buyers in that market get heavily restricted then the price will go down. So clubs will be facing reduced income streams at a time where they've got plenty of income stream challenges outside of the sponsorship world so there's potential for significant impact."

But Kindred are stressing that by identifying the number of problem gamblers, they can flag up issues and take action. It comes at a time when ex-Crystal Palace and Tottenham defender Steven Caulker, a self confessed gambling addict, accused firms of being "ugly" and "preying on the weak."

Banbury added: "Ultimately, we are talking percentages and statistics but it's people that are impacted when harm is caused and it's not just the gambler, it's their family and friends. We recognise there's a wider impact as well and we recognise why we get this right.

"Where we need to get to is a position is our ability to identify and the effectiveness of how we interact to a level where we can significantly reduce and ultimately our goal is zero percent.

"That's obviously a lofty target but that depends on the direction we take but we have to find a sensible balance in terms of regulations because tens of millions of people bet now and tens of millions of people will bet in the future and that's all happening within a licensed and taxed environment to make sure the protection levels are at the highest."


Bungling Mike Dean added a new chapter to the VAR farce... it was screamingly obvious that Tomas Soucek did not mean to elbow Aleksandar Mitrovic after controversial red in West Ham's draw against Fulham

    Tomas Soucek was sent off at the death in West Ham's goalless draw at Fulham
    Czech midfielder was adjudged to have elbowed Aleksandar Mitrovic in the face
    Referee Mike Dean made the decision after checking replays on VAR monitor
    There was widespread criticism of the red card and West Ham will appeal

An appeal against the nonsense of Tomas Soucek's red card has been lodged, so the goalless draw between Fulham and West Ham cannot be fully banished from memory just yet.

It wasn't an abysmal game, but it is telling that its one distinguishing feature came in stoppage time with another ludicrous VAR decision.

It was a freeze-frame that would have you believe a violent man was lurking inside one of football's gentler souls, and that Soucek had intentionally elbowed Aleksandar Mitrovic's forehead.

While contact was clear, it was also screamingly obvious from Soucek's body movement that an attack was not his intent. For whatever reason, the combination of VAR Lee Mason and referee Mike Dean struggled with such a distinction. Alas, technology will only ever be as effective as the officials interpreting it.

'I spoke with Mitrovic and he said to me that our duel was fair,' said Soucek. 'Unfortunately, the referee had a different opinion. Anyone who knows me knows I would never mean harm to another player. Really nice fair play moment from Aleksandar.'

While Soucek can hope with some optimism that he will be spared a three-game ban, there are grounds to doubt the altruism of the other man he mentioned there.

Indeed, Mitrovic may have cleared him of wrongdoing, but this was the same player who rolled on the ground upon impact, starting the whole sorry business.

Prior to the incident, there was a sporadically decent match. Fulham should have won, but as with so many games in their winless run of 12, they failed to finish what they created. From 20 shots, only two required a save.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek missed their best opening, but his wider performance supported the idea that the 25-year-old is blossoming on his loan from Chelsea.

Scott Parker said: 'He has been excellent. I see a boy who has huge quality and understands where he needs to get better.'

After five wins in six, West Ham were uncharacteristically flat. There was a brief concern about Michail Antonio's problematic hamstrings, though Moyes insisted his substitution was precautionary.

Tomas Soucek was very unlucky to be sent off for this clash with Aleksandar Mitrovic. The Czech's elbow striking Mitrovic was a complete accident. He was trying to move his arm above his opponent's arm to free himself. It was not a deliberate elbow and had no brutality, so it did not meet the threshold for violent conduct.

VAR Lee Mason saw that the fist was clenched, which is a sign that a player is using force in his elbow. He saw it in slow motion which, in this case, did not give the full picture. That gave a false impression to referee Mike Dean when he reviewed the incident on the monitor.

I am not surprised West Ham have appealed the decision.


Blackburn Rovers boss comments on West Ham United, Fulham links to striker

Blackburn Rovers boss Tony Mowbray has admitted his surprise at the lack of interest in Adam Armstrong in the January transfer window, as per a report by the Lancashire Telegraph.

The attacker is now being linked with a move to Premier League trio West Ham United, Everton and Fulham this summer, as reported by The Sun, and Rovers could face a battle to keep hold of him at the end of the season.

Armstrong, who is 23 years old, has caught the eye in the Championship this term and has scored 18 goals in all competitions.

Blackburn are keen to tie him down on a new contract with him currently only having 18 months left on his deal at Ewood Park.

Mowbray has said: "Am I surprised? Probably yes. I'm not disappointed, but am I surprised. I thought the phone might have rung. I've had a conversation with a couple of Premier League managers but they've not been pushy, just enquired."

Armstrong joined Blackburn in 2018 on an initial loan deal that was made permanent after they gained promotion from League One. He has scored a total of 53 goals in 146 games for the Lancashire outfit so far.

The pacey attacker started his career at Newcastle United and went on to play 21 times for their first-team, as well as gaining experience out on loan with spells at Coventry City, Barnsley and Bolton Wanderers.

Armstrong is now being linked with a summer switch to the top flight and it will be interesting to see who moves for him.


Fulham boss is 'rated highly' by Bournemouth's hierarchy

Fulham boss Scott Parker is 'rated highly' among the Bournemouth hierarchy, as per a report by The Athletic.

The Cherries are searching for a new permanent manager to replace Jason Tindall and are believed to be fans of the current Premier League boss.

However, there is no suggestion that his position at Craven Cottage is under threat despite Fulham being in the relegation zone and he is unlikely to depart for a Championship club.

Parker, who is 40 years old, guided Fulham to promotion from the second tier via the Play-Offs last season in his first full campaign as a manager.

His side beat Brentford in the Play-Off final at Wembley and are currently now battling relegation in the top flight.

Bournemouth face a big decision to make on their new boss and Parker would be ideal for the Dorset club. However, he is an unrealistic target for them at this moment in time and they will have to look elsewhere.

Jonathan Woodgate is in caretaker charge and oversaw their 3-2 win over Birmingham City last time out. The Cherries are next in action tomorrow night against Burnley at Turf Moor.

Bournemouth are currently 6th in the table and their win over the Blues on Saturday saw them go five points clear of Middlesbrough in 7th.


Jack and Loz Not at the Cottage - Blog 165
Date: 6th February 2021

Opposition: Wes Ham

Score: 0-0

Fulham Goal scorers: were mainly left on the bench

MOTM: After a feeble performance against Leicester, Ademola Lookman was at the heart of every attack driving forwards and wriggling through gaps. If the desire for redemption could be converted into goals, we would have won the match. For the first time, a shout out to Ruby (as we now think of him) who seems to have simultaneously remembered how to play football and decided he wants to play it for Fulham

Snacks: Loz - Wasabi peas and a Small Beer; Jack - salt and vinegar crisps and a Large Wine

When football historians look back at the strange season of 2020-21 they will debate which of Fulham's matches epitomises the club's season. Surely we now have the answer: Fulham v West Ham at Craven Cottage on a very wet February evening. This one had it all:-

- a confusing starting line up. Was it 5-4-0 or 4-3-2-1? Where was BDR playing? Why were there no strikers?

- some exquisite passing and confident possession

- some faffing around at the back

- a tendency for a fast counterattack to peter out in the final third

- many, many wasted chances. It would be hard to tell whose miss was worst: Tosin from the corner (again), Bobby over the bar, Frank at the keeper, Mitro inches wide, Lookman more than once, Ruby more than twice.

- the unusual ability to turn a promising attack into desperate defence. Tete, who had a fairly good game overall, is particularly guilty of passing the ball backwards more often than forwards

- the right subs at the wrong time

- solidity at the back completely unbalanced by waywardness up front

- most of all, the tedious and heart wrenching fact that we can dominate and outfight yet another top side but come away with a draw

If we were at a different point in the season, or a different place in the table there would be much to applaud in Saturday evening's performance. We wanted a reaction to the disappointing defeat to Leicester and we got one. We wanted the players to attack with intent and verve and they did. We asked if there was any fight left in a team teetering on the brink and were answered with a resounding yes.

In short, the players did nearly everything right and were almost the undoing of a very good West Ham side. As expected of a team called the Irons, our opponents pressed very well but couldn't take control of the game. They also defended well but Scott Parker forced David Moyes into a double sub and Fabianski was booked for time wasting - here was a team and a manager hanging on for a draw. In a marked improvement, Fulham made few mistakes with the ball (other than when trying to shoot with it) and played for 90 minutes with pace and resilience.

After several weeks of fading form it was refreshing to see most of the players back to their best. Lookman was everywhere - creative and driven, even if his decision making in the box let him down. Cav showed some tremendous skill and ball control even if everything he did in the box let him down.

Ruby held the ball up, linked up with his colleagues and finally seems to be showing us what he can do. BUT his shots let him down and as he improves he becomes no less frustrating to watch - he is such a nearly man and that's not what we need. Mitro was, once again, excellent as an impact sub, jumping into the mix as soon as he came on and trying to create chances for others as well as spearheading the attack know the rest.

Frank made a difference straight away – so imposing and hard to rein in, Harrison Reed was as busy and effective as ever and it was good to see Maja who looks to have slotted in well.

Whilst Scott making attacking subs – adding to Cav rather than replacing him - was the right thing to do it doesn't make sense that they were made so late. Surely either Mitro or Maja, if not both, could have come on much earlier. However, hopefully Scott has seen the way forward: 4 at the back and 2 strikers. Give Mitro time, get the ball to him in the box and he will start scoring again.

This was anything but a bore draw; the players are playing for Scott and each other and trying to survive by playing attractive football. But, of course, that's not enough - you don't get points for style, or for trying, and more than anything else the result feels like yet another missed opportunity.

Random Musings

- Do Lemina and Benrahma have the same hairdresser?

- was Harrison Reed playing left back at the end?

- it was nice to see Bobby Zamora in studio but he did seem to be rooting for West Ham

- the commentators let themselves down as soon as they opened their mouths

- we didn't think much of Ryan Fredericks

- The pitch looks like it had hosted the Six Nations. It needs a rest as much as many of the players

- the last time we saw David Moyes it was in person, in the OSP after we had beaten Leeds in December 2019 when he was unemployed and, although we didn't know it that night, Fulham were on the rise again

- the red card incident was like something out of a parish council meeting. Credit to Mitro for trying to tell Mike Dean it wasn't a red but the ref had read the standing orders and thought he had some authority. Soucek needs to learn to put his arm back without lifting his elbow though.

Although there are positives to take from the match we are still staring at an incontrovertible fact: that the rest of the season will be a long goodbye to the Premier League and barring a miracle, Fulham are going down. But at least now it looks like we're going down fighting.