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First Team

Hot Off The Press: Fulham

Will Oakley of Fulham Focus previews The Whites

13 December 2019

It’s fair to say that Fulham’s return to the Premier League last season didn’t quite go to plan, as they finished second-bottom of the pile with just 26 points from 38 games. With that in mind, have you been surprised at how they’ve reacted to life back in the Championship?

Obviously staying in the Premier League was what all Fulham fans wanted at the start of the season, but a few games in they got a real feel of what the Premier League was like and we could all tell that they needed to go back down and restart. They came down with a strong squad and the new additions that were brought in have helped a lot, as well as managing to keep Aleksandar Mitrovic and Tom Cairney. The squad, on paper, should be fighting for top spot, so in that case you could say it’s not that alarming. However with the slow starts Fulham usually have, they are doing very well at the moment and are in top top form.

Former club captain Scott Parker took over from Claudio Ranieri in February and is now in his first full season in management. How would you summarise his tenure so far?

They didn’t start off that well, losing to Barnsley on the opening day, and, while getting a few wins, struggled to obtain a series of wins in a row. They’ve looked pretty good attacking, but very shaky at the back, for example the 94th minute equaliser they conceded to Sheffield Wednesday; it seemed as if they needed to score three or more to even win a game because of how the defence was. In the last few games Parker has seemed to have found players that suit his system best, and has managed to start stringing results together, while making the defence a lot more reliable than it was at the start of the season and still playing attractive football. They are currently in a very good position and the majority of fans are very happy with having him manage this side.

After the first 21 games of the 2017/18 season, where Fulham were promoted to the Premier League via the play-offs, Slavisa Jokanovic’s side had 29 points on the board. Having already exceeded that at the same point, is there a bigger sense of confidence they can replicate that feat?

The squad seems to be gelling together really nicely at the minute. The team are working very well together and the most important thing is that the players are putting in 100 per cent effort - they want to get promoted. Jokanovic is an amazing manager, and he’s held in the highest regard. The unbeaten run he oversaw at the end of the 2017/18 season was sensational but, of course, that is very hard to replicate. At the halfway point with Jokanovic there was very little hope with the league position that we were in, so there is definitely more hope this season so far. We’re not halfway through the season yet, however hopes are high, and there is positivity around the club, which is really going to help us push for automatic promotion spots.

Which player has impressed you most this season?

Cairney has had some extraordinary games and has scored a few worldies, as he usually tends to do. However, the two players that really stand out for me are Marek Rodak and Mitrovic. Rodak has made some exceptional stops after replacing Marcus Bettinelli. He commands his box well and shows he is a class keeper at this level and having turned 23 yesterday, he can only get better. Mitrovic is not just the one of the top scorers in the division, but also an exceptional leader. He really shows commitment on and off the pitch and it is honestly unbelievable that Fulham managed to keep him.

How is Parker likely to set up his side?

Parker is most likely to use a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation. The line-up has stayed relatively similar throughout the season, with the only unsure spots being the wingers and occasionally the deep-lying midfielder/midfielders. Aboubakar Kamara is currently playing well, as well as Bobby Reid, but Ivan Cavaleiro and Anthony Knockaert are class as well on the wings.

Brentford won the penultimate meeting between the two sides at Griffin Park in December 2017 - what’s your score prediction for the final game?

The boys and I at @Fulham_Focus would love to say 8-0, but we’re going to go for a 3-1 win.

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