In this Special Fulham FC Podcast, we are once again joined by Owen Smith and Gerry Pimm, as we discuss the 2-1 Playoff Final win over Brentford. The show covers the following topics:
Scott Parker’s Tactics – spot on?
First half breakdown v Brentford
Second half breakdown v Brentford
Extra time breakdown v Brentford
Were Brentford to overconfident?
A look into the Fulham Brentford rivalry
Man of the match v Brentford
Thoughts on Parker after Promotion?
Who will stay and who will go?
Anguissa & Seri, do we bring them back?
What Backing does Parker Need now?
Premier League thoughts and predictions.
A message from Shahid Kahn.
This show is about an hour and 11 mins long, but some really good stuff is covered, and well worth the listen. As well as covering the 2-1 win over Brentford, we go into other important stuff that is required for promotion, and our assault on the Premier League – Happy listening
By Alex Bowmer | Twitter: @AlexJamesBowmer | Web: alexanderjamesbowmer.contently.com
The dust has now settled on another regular season in the Championship. While the football was often underwhelming, Fulham finish the campaign on a seven-match unbeaten run, with four of those performances yielding clean sheets. Here, Friends of Fulham casts an eye over some of the key statistics from Scott Parker’s first full season in charge and compares them to the last two years the Whites enjoyed in the second tier under Slaviša Jokanović.
Over-reliance on Mitro
An obvious point, but the statistics are stark. The prolific Serbian bagged 26 league goals in 2019/20 to claim the Championship Golden Boot. This tally represented a mammoth 41% of Fulham’s goals during the campaign.
To put this in context, Ryan Sessegnon was our top scorer in the league back in 2017/18, netting 15 goals. However, this made up only 19% of Fulham’s total, as the team netted 79 times over the course of the campaign compared to 64 occasions this season.
The previous season saw Tom Cairney, Stefan Johansen and Chris Martin make it to double figures, with Floyd Ayité and Sone Aluko not far behind. Cairney was our top marksman with 12 league goals, just 14% of our 85 goals that campaign.
Cairney was the next-highest goalscorer this term after Mitrović with eight goals, while new signings Ivan Cavaleiro and Bobby Decordova-Reid each scored six times. A new striker or two (if Mitrović leaves) is a must, whether we go up or not.
Poor form against struggling sides
This has been a theme under both Jokanović and Parker. Simply put, our record against teams lower than us in the table at the time we played them has stopped us getting promoted.
Our results in 2016/17 – 14 wins, 11 draws and seven defeats – meant average of just 1.66 points against these opponents. Disappointing single-goal losses against Birmingham and just one point against QPR in two encounters illustrate our struggles.
We actually fared against teams above us in the league that season, with the highlights coming in thumping wins over Huddersfield, as well as a 5-0 thrashing of Reading and a dominant display against Newcastle at St. James’ Park, where Ryan Sessegnon announced himself with a stunning double.
Overall, we finished the campaign with eight wins, three draws and three losses against these better-placed sides, with an average points tally of 1.93.
Our record in matches where we were the favourites certainly improved in 2017/18, as we upped our points average against these sides to 1.93. Nevertheless, disappointing defeats to Burton and Sunderland impeded our progress. Our record against ‘better’ sides produced an average points tally of 1.88.
This season has seen our record in matches we should win drop back slightly, with an average points total of 1.82. Shock three-goal home defeats against Barnsley and Hull spring to mind, along with a disappointing loss against Reading at the Cottage and a humiliation at Stoke in October. Our record against higher-placed teams this season was our worst of the three campaigns, producing an average of 1.50 points.
It should be achievable to break the two points-per-game barrier when playing sides lower down the league. If we had hit that mark in the last two Championship campaigns, we would have avoided the excruciating play-off tension.
Powers of recovery
One of the things you get used to if you’ve watched Fulham long enough is the squandering of leads and conceding late goals.
This season was refreshing in this respect, with just two late goals seeing us drop points – against West Brom and Sheffield Wednesday on successive September weekends. The only other time we ended up dropping points after leading was away at Millwall in February, and that came courtesy of an incorrect offside call.
We have also managed two turnarounds against QPR, as well as gritty draws at Derby and Bristol City.
In total, we lost only six points after taking the lead, but gained 12 points after letting in first. Our football under Jokanović was much more expansive, and this is reflected in the unpredictability of matches.
In 2016/17, we lost 16 points after scoring first, but gained 23 points when the opposition drew first blood. Comeback wins over Barnsley, Rotherham, Nottingham Forest, Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday saw us score 15 goals.
Despite 2017/18 seeing us achieve our highest points total of the three seasons (88), we were very susceptible to dropping leads, especially during a patchy first half of the season. In total, we lost 19 points after scoring the first goal. Brentford were our nemesis, as we dropped five points against the Bees, while also conceding late against Norwich, Middlesbrough and Cardiff and throwing away a two-goal lead against QPR.
By contrast, we gained 16 points after going 1-0 down, most notably during wins over Ipswich (4-1), Sheffield United (4-5) and Barnsley (1-3).
While we did not gain as many points from losing positions compared to the season before, this can be explained by the fact that during our 23-game unbeaten run, we took the lead in 20 of those matches, going on to win 16 of those games and draw four.
Parker’s Fulham have certainly not thrilled the fans in the same way Jokanović’s teams did and the current crop don’t play with the sort of dominance exhibited a few years ago.
Clearly, at least one new goalscorer needs to be found and the defence needs to tighten up, as we have conceded 48 goals this league campaign, marginally higher than 2017/18 (46).
However, we are in a good run of form and the class of 2019/20 have taken all three points in 22 of the 25 games in which they’ve broken the deadlock.
This Fulham side has gone under the radar, but they can replicate the heroics of two years ago and emerge victorious at Wembley.
Big thank you to Alex Bowmer for taking the time to write this article for Friends of Fulham, and make sure you give him a follow on Twitter @AlexJamesBowmer
Please also visit the Friends of Fulham Forum, where you can read more interesting topics on Fulham
In this episode of FOF’cast, we are joined by Fulham fan Gerry Pimm, who is also secretary for the Fulham Supporters Trust, and Fulham fan Own Smith, who is also Treasurer for the Fulham Supporters Trust, and Friends of Fulham member.
In this show, we discuss the 2-0 win over Cardiff City. The return of Aleksandar Mitrović. Harrison Reed’s Man of Match. What’s happened to Tim Ream this season? Does Tom Cairney’s absence improve the team? The permanent signing of Anthony Knockhaert. Tuesdays important game v WBA, plus score prediction.
Make sure you also check out the Friends of Fulham Forum for all the latest Fulham gossip
With enough time on my hands lately, I’ve had the opportunity to sit down and watch both the Sunderland ‘Til I Die episodes, and, must admit, that even if you aren’t a Sunderland fan, it’s a very good watch!
Not only does the series give a good insight into how poor ownership can kill a football club, it also gives a good insight as to how it affects a whole community, who rely heavily on their football.
One thing that did spring to mind, is that Sunderland fans are one of the most passionate in the country, and it was sad to watch their demise from the Premier League, to the Championship, and then to League One in consecutive seasons.
Don’t get me wrong, Sunderland as a Club are as much to blame for this, simply because of the business model they put in place, it wasn’t sustainable, and, when the owner lost interest, they were only heading one way.
The new ownership now see the value in Sunderland, they recognise the core values of the club, they understand they need to be self-sufficient, but, for me, I feel the long term damage will make this task a lot harder for them.
Being a Fulham fan, I’ve experienced the high’s and lows of the Club, from the dark days of nearly becoming Fulham Park Rangers, to a wonderful Europa League Final in Hamburg, to the most recent Playoff Final at Wembley.
One thing that does always stick in my mind though, is that Fulham could quite easily end up like Sunderland, not saying that we would, but the potential is there if our current owners lose interest.
Shad Khan is a very wealthy man, he’s worth in region of 9.6B USD, but, he never seems to be at the fore-front of Fulham, with other ventures being more important to him, such as the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Granted, his son Tony Khan has been more hands-on with Fulham over the seasons, has made the odd mistake here and there, but even he has taken a step back lately, to concentrate on his All Elite Wrestling franchise.
The good news thought, is that Riverside Development has now pushed ahead, showing a level of long-term commitment from the Khans, at the cost of 100M+, which has been a relief to a lot of FFC fans.
Not only does this increase the capacity at Craven Cottage, it also increases the in / out of matchday revenues, and certainly adds to the future price of Fulham Football Club.
Having run at a significant loss since our recent relegation from the Premier League, my main concern, is how long Fulham can be sustain this, and how long will Kahn’s continue to invest?
Granted, they are doing a wonderful job right now, but, if circumstances change, then what? What is the long-term strategy of the Kahn’s, and what do they put in place to ensure we don’t end up like Sunderland.
I’d like to think these current owners are here for the life-time of the Club, but, with the likes of Chelsea just down the road, and other big London Clubs like Arsenal, Spurs just around the corner, at what levels are the Kahn’s willing to go with Fulham?
Make sure you check some other interesting articles over at the Friends of Fulham Forum:
The Barnsley match was a rough result. Was it really a bad performance though? The 90-minutes are posted, and I thought I’d approach this topic a bit differently. I wanted to break it down in 20 minute increments, with the 5 minutes to end the half and match. The reason is because it is common to come away with a general feeling, but then mistakenly use that general feeling and create a general assessment of not only our team, players, but overall tactics. I have a problem with this because we miss out on the positives and the areas we need to improve. There is already general talk of “should, would, could”, so why not analyze it and see how the “should, would, could” can be contextually applied to those moments.
Here’s my breakdown vs Barnsley. I will provide my overall thoughts after. (Disclaimer: I didn’t put much effort in researching name of the Barnsley players this go around. I know who they are, for the most part, but wanted to focus on Fulham specifically. Will adjust the next time I do one of these.)
Pace of play is fast, as it should be in the first 5 to 10 minutes. We are just a tad out of sync in making good connections. For example, Knockaert slips from a wide pass by Mitro near the top of the box.
Onomah slips on a one time pass from Cav. Onomah plays in a perfect through pass to Bryan, but the pitch speed has increased significantly due to the weather conditions.
Defensively we struggle via Joe Bryan and KMac. When we get in the attack, Bryan doesn’t drop back fast enough, resulting in exposing Kmac, as Barnsley players get behind our CDM each time.
This forces him to stick out a streteched challenge that misses – and results in Barnsley’s first shot on goal.
The second shot on goal from Barnsley comes from the same combination, but this time the Woodrow simply bulldozes past Kmac and lets off a shot, that goes just high.
The same combo of Bryan not dropping back quick enough happens because the referee doesn’t call a foul on Cav in which the winger gets basically pulled down holding the ball up. Hector cleans up the low ball into the box.
I will bring this up in the overall thoughts, but Barnsley double team tactics on our wingers were crucial, and I feel Parker should’ve figured out a way around this. Unfortunately, in this moment, Knockaert tries to beat 3 Barnsley players, falls down, and a long ball over the top is assumed offsides. Unfortunately, it isn’t, and even more unfortunate, the Barnsley player runs into Rodak, but before that slaps the ball with his hand. That is also ignored, and we know the rest – Rodak pulls him down and the penalty is converted. Some wanted to complain about Ream here, but it’s clear as day that Rodak called him off and went for the ball – but mishandled it. Ream put himself between the attacker and the ball, just as any defender would. 1-0 Barnsley.
In response, we break their double team not once, but twice. First when they pressured high on Sess, who passes to Cairney, then he goes down the line to Knockaert, who is fouled quite hard.
We try to get the ball to Mitro twice, but the first time he doesn’t really put much effort in controlling the ball, and the second he takes a bit too long, but the deflection finds Kmac.
We get a free kick in a dangerous position, but Mitro’s strike hits the wall, and his second is scuffed. Cairney forces the ball wide to Cav, who tries to get the ball on his right foot down the side, but is double teamed (again), and Barnsley break right through and down the sidelines themselves, before Bryan cynically fouls to put a stop to the counter.
A fortunate bounce in the midfield, allows Cav to release Knockaert, but his left footed strike is deflected. Onomah controls, but just gets out of his grasp before it’s cleared away.
We finally get a decent attack that starts from the back where Kmac breaks the double team pressure by sending in a delicate through ball to Onomah, who is then fouled. Onomah plays it quick to Cairney, sends it wide to Bryan, who sends it quickly to Cav. Bryan streaks inside, which drags the defender away from Cav, who gets to strike with his right – but it’s well wild and high.
We manage a free kick that eventually sets up a deep throw in. Cairney gets free at the top right of the box and sends in a vicious cross, but it’s just out of Onomah’s reach.
We are really zipping the ball well now, especially in finding Knockaert, who is doing well to cut inside and be a threat. He manages to find Cairney, who takes a shot, but it’s well deflected by Barnsley again.
We finish off the couple minutes with Cav switching flanks with Knockaert. He holds off defenders, but again, the theme of the double team on our wingers is prevalent. We have no answer for it unless we can find someone central quick enough. We can’t, and Cav struggles to hold them off.
The ball is caught in the wind, but eventually we get control of it. A brilliant little chest pass into the path of Cairney by Mitro allows our captain to get a strike, but not enough conviction and is easily saved. Knockaert visibly upset, but would’ve been a tough pass. However, other teammates, including Kmac, are visibly signaling the pass should’ve gone to Cav who was open on the left. I personally won’t blame our captain for trying to find the back of the net.
First half thoughts:
How anyone can say we are playing poorly is beyond me. How anyone can boo their team is also beyond me. As if the players aren’t going to be hard on themselves already. They know it’s a match that they should be winning.
We are moving the ball at pace. We are building from the back. Yes, it’s risky, but it forces Barnsley to press higher, which in turn gives our wingers more time. Unfortunately, we do not have enough pace centrally, so the wingers have noone to play off of. This is why many times our wingers are forced to hold onto the ball longer than intended. So not only Mitro is isolated, so are our dangerous wingers. We are creating chances, and we are absolutely not dominating possession in a slow pace. People say it’s boring, but that to me is a general assessment that is unchanged by stubbornness more than what is actually happening on the pitch. As I mentioned above, we are just out of sync at times. When we did start to look in sync, we were quite dangerous. However, the biggest issue to address is the double team from Barnsley. In my opinion, it’s time to change the formation to get more numbers centrally so those double teams look more like a risk to Barnsley versus a benefit.
Instantly you can see the aggression by us is there. Bryan shoves Woodrow out of the way, and Mitro holds off two Barnsley players. Eventually a long ball from Hector finds Mitro to feet, which gets defended, but the ball deflects to Onomah. Onomah skillfully cuts back onto his left, and sends in a clever through ball to Mitro, who lets off a low strike that is saved.
Shortly after, we get a corner. Safe to say chaos ensured as their keeper makes a mess of it, tries to recover, but takes out Hector (no foul), and Kmac strikes a low one that is blocked before Onomah’s volley goes over. More momentum.
Kmac is too tight on a throw in, which prevents him from being able to confront a Barnsley midfielder from releasing their forward over the top of Hector and Ream. It’s a brilliant save by Rodak though as the striker tried a deft touch past him – denied.
We go long ball again, and it reaches Cav, but the ball balloons to Mitro, which then is well defended via a diving header by Barnsley. Onomah tries to control the ball that is behind him, but Woodrow dispossess him and sends a long ball over the top. Ream is tucked inside and is expecting to just contain the Barnsley forward down the side, however Rodak has sprinted out of his box for some odd reason – and it’s 2-0 Barnsley. Momentum lost.
In response, we change formation, but not before multiple stands of double team by Barnsley again. Kmac coming off is not surprising now after the match because we switched to a 4-2-3-1 and our CDM would be required to chase down counters all over the pitch, which is why Arter was put in. I did not want to see TC go though because he’s a gamechanger and can hold onto the ball in crucial spots. I would’ve more so chosen Onomah to depart instead because he isn’t as creative as Cairney. I think the early through ball that set up Mitro was a point that swayed Parker’s decision to keeping Onomah in vs Cairney.
Immediately, my preferences were put to the backburner as Onomah was found by Mitro at the top of the box. Onomah sends in a brilliant through ball to Cairney’s replacement, BDR, who takes a soft first touch, but it’s well defended. He will play a crucial role into us not getting goals back unfortunately. Right place, right time, poor execution.
Instantly we are playing 1-2 touches brilliantly in tight spaces, looking quite quality. Barnsley can’t perform their double team because we’ve crowded each side of the pitch that the ball is on. One anchor point such as Reid or Mitro, with the winger in Knockaert or central of Arter or Onomah – fully supporting the attack. Reid’s through ball to Cav is just a bit too hard and is collected by the Barnsley defenders. Momentum is back on.
In the 4-2-3-1, Onomah and Arter essentially set up as a pivot two in the central midfield, but when they’re breached, it’s up to Bryan to track back and press high. Woodrow gets his chance because this is exactly what happens. Arter is just late on his challenge, and the midfield is breached as Onomah is forced to cover from the right side all the way over to the left. Bryan doesn’t press and doesn’t drop back, forcing Onomah even further to drop back, which confuses Ream and he’s given Woodrow too much space.
Last mention of 4-2-3-1 change is that we now have the numbers both centrally and on the wing. Knockaert and Sess overlapping and underlapping, breaking down the double team pressure again and again. Pair that up with the mobility of BDR, and goodness me, we’re a force to be reckoned with.
Against all tactics, ironically, was Barnsley’s next chance where it seemed we were completely surprised by their goal kick that went all the way over our defenders and set them up with a strike just wide.
Kamara subs in for Sess, and now we’re at a true 3-5-2, with Arter basically dropping back in front of the defense. If we’re being picky, it’s more of a 3-1-4-2. What I liked especially about this was how we could now put Cav central and Knockaert on the left. This is something quite rarely seen this season, and I hope it’s enough for Parker to consider going forward as I feel Cav is so strong centrally than he is stuck on the wing. It also gives freedom to Knockaert to push out or in, similar to how he did against QPR at home where his movement off the ball set up Kamara’s goals.
As expected, the 3-5-2 will have some holes defensively, and it’s no surprise we’re exposed when Barnsley take a quick free kick and send the ball over the top of Hector. Another vicious shot, but just wide.
Really nice throw in direct to BDR, who chests it and sends a through ball inside the box to Onomah, who lobs it up for Mitro. Mitro controls it and finds Cav – who’s shot was surely to make it 2-1, but just went wide. BDR is making a huge difference.
After a nice run by Arter to suck in the midfield, he sends a nice pass to BDR at the top of the box. He opts to take a touch, but it’s heavy, and defended yet again. As mentioned earlier, BDR’s touch let him down, but more so his decision making when he was the focal point to score. He was exceptional in movement and creating chances for others though. The deflection bumps its way to Kamara, who cuts inside and tries an outside of the foot shot on goal which is well saved.
A handball should’ve been called on them as we were on the break via BDR, but eventually Kamara blazes down the side and cuts back inside to pass the ball to Cav central – who unleashes a shot that is unfortuantely right at the keeper, and we are unable to get the deflection before he smothers it.
Shortly after we’ve got a free kick at the half via Arter. Ball is sent up to Mitro, his shirt is being pulled by somehow gets to it and finds Hector, who’s left footed shot is off the mark, but it reaches BDR. BDR takes a silky first touch and tries a quick shot from point blank range, but it’s well saved yet again. Another key chance for BDR to score.
Terrible moment for us as Rodak makes a clean grab of their corner, but ambitiously tries a drop kick straight to their player. The driect pass is brilliant to Woodrow, who skirts past Hector, before making Rodak look poor beating him near post. All momentum lost. General assessments and assumptions commence.
Hard to focus on the match after that killer. Mitro got a shot off that went wide. Onomah hits the crossbar. At this point, the match is over, and supporters are leaving early – don’t blame them of course.
Contextually speaking, and reading through the breakdown, does it really sound like we played bad? When I was watching live, I definitely felt that we weren’t quite right, but once I was able to find the source of the issues being us not able to handle their double team – it all came together. I think the scoreline heavily favors Barnsley, and doesn’t give our effort justice. I think it’s unfortunate that there is a linear mindset of scoreline = degree of effort. Our keeper made 3 crucial mistakes, and we paid the price in the scoreline. Tactically we were beat in the stalling of our attacks because of their double team pressure. We answered with the change in formation and bringing on BDR to help Mitro. We further answered with the change to the 3-5-2 that allowed Cav and Knockaert to play close to eachother, but more importantly having Cav play centrally as more of a threat. We broke their double team pressure tactic as a result, and Kamara coming on created a freedom down the sides we did not have before.
I think my thoughts are going to be wildly unpopular, but we simply didn’t find the back of the net, and conceded when our momentum was gaining. To be fair, Barnsley had their chances to add onto the score, but they failed just as much.
Overall, this leads me to think about the consistent argument of results vs how we’re playing. There is a camp that is so focused on how we’re playing, and thus downplaying results. Whereas there are those who are happy with the results, such as 7 unbeaten before this, but understand we’re not playing to our potential. Does that mean Parker In or Out? Hard to say, isn’t it? From a tactical perspective, he didn’t address the double team pressure until after halftime, and after we had conceded already. However, when he did address it, it proved the right move, but has been overshadowed by elements that noone can prepare for – which is not one individual error by one of our best players, but 3 total. I am not sure where I stand. If I was forced to choose, I’d say Parker in, but he’s on very thin ice – especially because his inability to address the opponent’s defensive tactics against us has hurt momentum. I think he’d be a fool not to utilize the 3-5-2 more often, but I have that luxury to say so because I only get to judge the end product.
Anyway, I hope this was worth a read, if anything to pass the time until the next match. I believe that context is everything, and I personally dislike general assessments that aren’t validated without a bit more digging. As mentioned, I have the luxury to judge the end product, so I don’t go out of my lane and judge the elements I’m not privvy to such as office meetings, team drillings, etc. Note: I would’ve put this in a video highlight package if it were allowed, but unfortunately any match footage gets flagged.
It’s very rare that I take to blogging, my forte is running Forums, however, after that pathetic performance against Barnsley today, I thought I’d give it go.
When Parker was appointed full time coach, I was slightly sceptical, and after our car-crash of a season in the Premier League, I honestly thought we’d go for a bit more experience.
Don’t get me wrong, experience doesn’t always gain you success, especially in football, but, when the owners stated that promotion was the target this season, I was once again very sceptical.
I’ve nothing personal against Parker, I’m sure he will make a good coach someday, but, with such high expectations form the owners, was it really a good idea to place this responsibility in his hands?
If Fulham were planning on spending a couple of season in the Championship, and harbouring Parker whilst he learnt his trade, then fair enough, but that isn’t the case.
I can see what the owners have tried to do, they’ve tried to build a strong team around Parker, by keeping the likes of Mitrovic, Cairney, and adding the like Cavalerio, Knockhaert, Reid etc, in the hope that quality would see us though, but, it’s not panning out that way.
Unfortunately, we all know, that you can buy a Ferrari, but if you can’t drive it properly, then you’re not going to get the best out of it, and that is the case this season.
I look at our current squad, and I see an abundance talent there, enough to be challenging for the top two spots, and blowing some teams away whilst we do it.
Frustratingly, and even though we do go on a run of unbeaten games, the team always looks disjointed, and for the quality we have up front, we always lack a cutting edge.
If it wasn’t for Mitrovic and his 20 goals so far, I’d hate to think where we’d actually be in the league, certainly not where we are today.
For me, Parker doesn’t get the best out the squad he has, we always look disjointed, players seem to play out of their preferred positions, and we play a system where Mitrovic is constantly isolated.
On top of this, we don’t press teams enough, we play the short pass all the time, knocking it around the back, and inviting pressure on to us, which leads to mistakes.
When we do attack, the process seems so slow, we don’t utilise the channels very well, opting for inverted wingers, and by the time we do attack, other teams have nullified us.
Parkers ability to also change games also frustrates me, his subs seem odd, and we have an inability to use a plan B if teams come and work us out early.
All in all, this seems a carbon copy of what WBA went through with Darren Moore, and, although we sit third in the Championship, I feel it’s a very false position, and if we are not careful with our up and coming run of games, we could find ourselves slipping out of the playoff positions.
I was never a fan of Parker when he was appointed, nor do I have any emotional attachment to him as a player, or a coach, but I do find his style of football boring, drab, slow, uncreative, and something that doesn’t excite me like it did with Jokanovic.
The Millwall and Barnsley games were a reflection of this, with Fulham not even testing the Millwall goalkeeper after Mitrovic’s 3rd minute goal, and Barnsley today, bottom of the Championship, totally outplaying us at home.
Will the owners dare sack Parker whilst we’re sitting in 3rd position? Highly unlikely, however, I don’t see Parker getting us promoted automatically, or through the playoffs, so I’d take a gamble on someone else, in the hope they can improve things over the final stretch of 13 games.
With the likes of Derby, Forest, Leeds, WBA, Brentford all to come, we could do with all the experience we can get.