In the latest edition of Before the Whistle, George Singer takes us through how Bristol City will set up against the Whites tomorrow night, and how Fulham can best attempt to stop the Robins’ winging their way back to the West with all three points from Craven Cottage.
On Saturday we welcome our Bristol City to the Cottage, a real bogey team for us over the last couple of years. Following a disappointing campaign last year, where they flirted with relegation, the Robins have transformed themselves into genuine promotion candidates. Can they carry on their strong form when they visit West London?
After losing their top scorer for the second time in two seasons (after Kodjia headed to Villa, and Tammy Abraham completed his loan), many were expecting scoring goals to be a real issue this season for City.
Replacing these strikers with Cauley Woodrow, a man who wouldn’t be classed as the same calibre of player by even by his most ardent supporters, did nothing to stop pundits predicting another tough season for Lee Johnson’s side. However, they’ve really caught the eye this season with plenty of goals – and plenty of opportunities for the club’s excellent Twitter account to post player celebration gifs.
City fans may well be feeling a sense of deja vu. They started last season in equally great form, and at the same time last year they were sitting 6th in the table. However, lack of consistency proved costly and a horrendous winter saw them tumble down the league. Only a miraculous 13 points from their final 6 games saw them safely return to the Championship for another year.
So how did City fare in their most recent game, away at Sunderland? Here’s how they lined up:
In the game, top scorer Bobby Reid gave City the lead with a strong header from a corner. Sunderland replied, with Lewis Grabban poking home from a goalmouth scramble. However, substitute Djuric headed home a floated cross to give City the win, and ensure Sunderland’s terrible home form in 2017 continued.
City will be hoping to carry on this strong form on Tuesday, and take another 3 points back home with them. So, who do Fulham need to look out for in the game? My man to watch is the City left midfielder, and former Nottingham Forest man, Jamie Paterson.
Whilst Bobby Reid has been grabbing headlines with 8 goals this season, Jamie Paterson has been the key creator. He generates the bulk of the chances for City, with 2.6 key passes per game and a total of five assists already this year. By focusing defensive efforts on stopping his influence, Fulham can kill off a load of Bristol’s attacks before they start. So what kind of player is Paterson? What should Fulham look out for?
The above graphic helps to show the versatility of the midfielder. Paterson creates chances all over the pitch. Despite playing out on the left, he’s not your classic touchline-hugging winger. He has a tendency to cut into the centre of midfield and spray the ball around from there. You can also see he’s dangerous from crossing positions, creating a couple of assists through balls into the box.
Without a clean sheet since August, Fulham will find it a real challenge to suppress the Bristol attack. After a difficult few weeks, confidence is certainly going to be low at the Cottage. I’d suggest that we aim for a back to basics team performance – and play a lineup as similar to last year’s as we can. Bristol are a team that play simple, un-spectacular football, and therefore by reverting to what we do best this should give us the best chance of coming away with a much needed win.
Therefore, my notes to Slav this week are:
- Get Fonte off the wing, and back into a central striker position
- Put Kebano on the right wing, where his high defensive output can used to help to mark Paterson out of the game
- Play a midfield 3 of Cairney, KMac and Johansen to give balance to the team – and protect the centre of midfield
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