We are eight games into Fulham’s return to the Premier League and from an FPL perspective, there haven’t been too many options amongst the squad. With 12 new signings this summer coming in to replace many of the loan players from last year as well as to improve the quality of the squad for the challenging season ahead, it’s still taking time for the side to settle.
For much of last season as well as the start of this season Fulham has played a 4-3-3 formation with one holding midfielder dropping back to help the two centre-backs which allow the full-backs to get forward and provide width. More recently Jokanovic has tinkered with this formation, opting for a 4-4-2 v Everton, a 3-4-3/5-2-3 formation v Millwall in the EPL Cup and versus Arsenal in the last game. This later changed to a 4-4-2 having gone 2-1 down early in the second half. It looks as though Slavisa is looking at moving towards the 3-4-3 formation in possession and 5-2-3 out of possession. The hope is that he has figured out his preferred system for the team and that has been drilled into the players over the international break.
There has been a lot of rotation amongst the Fulham team this season as players settle into the team. It’s still unclear who gets the nod as the holding midfielder between Anguissa and McDonald. Elsewhere Fabri has been dropped for Bettinelli and Sergio Rico warming the bench. The front 3 have remained mainly the same but most of the changes have been in defence. Fulham has had a different back line for every single game this season as either a result of injury or suspension. This is who has started each game so far:
Odoi was suspended for the first two games of the season and Ream was injured up until recently. Timothy Fosu-Mensah is out having dislocated his shoulder v Everton and in the same game Joe Bryan picked up a hamstring injury which will keep him out for a few weeks. This partly explains why there has been so much disruption at the back for Fulham this season. I’d be hopeful that with a settled back line that the defence will tighten up because it’s been awful so far.
Fulham are the only team yet to keep a clean sheet so far this season conceding a massive 21 goals over the space of 8 games. They have conceded at least 2 goals in 7 of their 8 premier league games this season. A look at the stats reveals just why they have been so poor.
The way that Fulham like to play the ball out from the back and take risks has inevitably led to errors. Fulham are second (6) only behind Arsenal (7) for the most defensive errors this season and top for errors which have led to a goal (3). Fulham ran sixth highest for teams that have been dispossessed (97). Often Fulham concede chances due to being dispossessed further up the pitch and being susceptible to the counter-attack.
It’s not just defensive errors which are costing Fulham though. They are allowing far too many shots on goal. Fulham ranks the 3rd worst team in the league for shots conceded (131) behind only Burnley (161) and Brighton (135). They also rank the worst for shots in the box conceded (92), Shots on target conceded (56) and big chances conceded (25).
Given that most teams score their goals from inside the box, the worrying stat is the number of shots in the box that Fulham are allowing their opponents. The highest number they have allowed in a match has been 18 in both the Tottenham and Man City games. Both teams put 3 goals past Fulham in these games as well as Everton who took 13 of their shots from inside the box. Interestingly in the most recent game against Arsenal, Fulham allowed the fewest shots from inside the box (6), a game in which Arsenal were clinical in putting 5 past the cottagers from their 9 shots in total.
Fulham are conceding more chances and crosses down the right-wing. This may be because Fosu-Mensah and Christie have been given more license to get forward in comparison to Joe Bryan on the Left who delivers crosses from deeper. If the poor defensive displays continue it could bode well for any attacking assets you have in your team that play against Fulham down that side.
So on current form, Fulham’s leaky defence is definitely not an area you would want to invest in but you may be licking your lips at the prospect of one of your attacking players coming up should they keep giving up the high number of chances.
While the Fulham defence has been poor, the attack has been better. Fulham has continued their passing style of football and is ranked 7th behind Chelsea, Man City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Man United and Arsenal for both passes and successful passes. Their pass completion is 84.4% which ranks them 4th. Fulham are 11th for passes in the final third (537) of which 82% have been successful.
For chances created Fulham rank 3rd with 89 chances behind Man City (122) and Chelsea (109). They have been racking up the shots over the first 8 game weeks with 111 goal attempts, however only 47 of these have been from inside the box and 36 on target. The majority of Fulham’s shots have come from open play (91), with 18 shots coming from set pieces and only 2 on the break.
The games in which Fulham have had the fewest shots in the box have been in away games with only2 versus man City, 3 versus Everton and 5 v Tottenham. The Brighton match is the only away game where they have replicated a similar number of shots in the box to their home games. This would indicate a better chance of attacking returns in home games. There isn’t enough data to suggest that they will also have a similar number of shots in the box against teams in and around them as they have only played one team from the bottom half of the league away from home so far.
The key men in Fulham’s attack have been André Schürrle, Luciano Vietto and of course Aleksandar Mitrović. One of last seasons star players, Ryan Sessegnon hasn’t been played as part of the front three as often this season but we may see more of him as the season progresses.
The German is Fulham’s third highest points scorer so far this season with 28 points. He likes to shoot…a lot! Second only behind Mo Salah for goal attempts, he has hit the back of the net 3 times from 29 shots. A lot of his shots tend to be from distance with only 9 of the 29 goal attempts coming from inside the box. 10 of his shots have hit the target which ranks him joint 4th among midfielders along with Hazard and Sterling. I feel that often he takes a pot shot from distance when there are better options available to him. For me, I see Schürrle as a goal scorer rather than an assister. With Cardiff, Huddersfield, Bournemouth and Southampton in the next five games, all teams who have conceded over 100 goal attempts, he could add to his goal tally.
Vietto looks to have cemented his place in the Fulham starting line-up and has already contributed with 4 assists to his name (joint top for strikers). Where Schürrle likes to shoot a lot and looks to be a source of goals, Vietto looks to be the assister in the Fulham team. He ranks fourth for crosses among strikers (11) and top for successful crosses (4). Vietto is also top for chances created (14) and third for big chances created (3). He hasn’t quite found his shooting boots as of yet. From his 7 starts he’s managed 10 goal attempts, 5 of which were from inside the box and 2 on target. The only issue I have with Vietto from an FPL point of view is that he is classified as a striker. Had he been listed as a midfielder I think I would be considering him more.
If you were to have any Fulham player in your fantasy team it would have to be Mitrovic. He has kept his form from the start of the year for club and country going into the new season in the Premier League. Joint top among strikers with 5 goals alongside Kane, Aguero and Murray he has so far proved excellent value for money. Not only does he pass the eye test but the stats are also there to back him. Second for goal attempts (34) only behind Aguero (38), the big Serb is also only behind Aguero for shots in the box (23). He’s top among strikers for shots on target (13) and headed goal attempts (13). 3 of his 5 goals have been headers and his aerial threat could punish teams who are poor in the air. If you own Mitrovic I think you hold him for these upcoming fixtures.
Fulham will be looking to add to their points tally with 4 of the next 5 games coming against teams that don’t have the greatest of defences. Cardiff, Huddersfield and Southampton are only just ahead of Fulham for goals conceded this season and Bournemouth historically have been leaky at the back. Mitrovic’s aerial threat will likely cause the opposition problems. Two of Fulham’s upcoming opponents, Southampton (25) who are second for goal attempts conceded and Huddersfield (22) who are fifth on the list. Cardiff and Bournemouth are further down both with 16 headed goal attempts conceded. Barring Bournemouth, the opposition has been finding goals difficult to come by particularly Huddersfield and Cardiff who have only managed 4 goals apiece and Southampton who have hit the back of the net 6 times in their 8 games. Fulham must pick up points against the teams in and around them if they are to stay up and while their defence is not great Fulham like to get forward at every opportunity. There should be goals.