There have been many men who have grabbed the headlines in Fulham’s unbeaten streak, but a largely unheralded figure has been on-loan Southampton man Matty Targett. Liam Ventom thought it was about time that Fulham’s left-back got the plaudits he deserves.
Fulham’s recent run of form has been nothing short of remarkable. 15 games unbeaten and 9 wins a row at home have propelled us to the front of the promotion race. The likes of Cairney, Ream, Sessegnon and more recently Mitrovic (aka Victor Krum), have dominated the headlines, and in fairness, their performances have warranted these headlines.
However, I feel that there’s plenty of praise due to Matt Targett in regards to much of our current success, going as far as to label him Fulham’s unsung hero.
Before Targett’s arrival in January, the left back position had been a real issue for the Whites. The manager tried to find a number of solutions, resulting in both Sessegnon and Odoi filling the role, both of whom failed to really stamp their mark on the position for differing reasons.
The lack of a suitable solution resulted in Jokanovic either having to play one of his best players out of position, or having to put a right footed player on the left which meant that there was no overlapping threat from the left hand side. Much of our early season woes were linked to this deficiency.
It is difficult to see how Sessegnon would have been able to achieve his current level of performance still covering the left back role or without having someone of Targett’s quality providing cover behind him. Their own individual partnership is something we are seeing beginning to come to fruition, and the understanding and interplay between the two resembles that of players who have spent years together.
With Targett providing the overlapping runs Odoi was unable to produce, Sessegnon is able to drift inside. This is something that has only furthered his attacking influence, and the second goal against Derby epitimises the effectiveness of this tactical ploy.
Individually, Targett brings a tactical awareness that fits in perfectly with Fulham’s style; and an experienced head which seems to have transmitted itself across the entire back four. He is confident in possession, rarely gives away the ball, strong in the air, solid in the tackle, and has a very good delivery in his locker—something his predecessor, Scott Malone, painfully lacked.
It is evident that much of his footballing life has been spent at the highest level as he looks like a Premier League player playing in the Championship. Since his arrival, the club has managed seven wins (more than his parent club all season!), two draws and four clean sheets, two of which came against the best attacks in the league.
This only goes to show the defensive stability he has brought to that side of defence, offering a balance which seems to allow others around him to play their natural game to the highest level. Furthermore, a 78.9% pass completion rate shows how quickly he has managed to adapt to the Manager’s style of passing football.
The difference in performance since his arrival is staggering, and we now look like a side fit for promotion. Targett is the ultimate professional and the speed at which he has established himself into this outstanding side says so much about his professionalism, let alone his ability.
It is hard to find fault in a player who both offensively and defensively complements the players around him to such great effect, whilst continuously putting in faultless performances of his own. So much of his work is vital yet it goes unnoticed, for instance the incredible last ditch tackle he put in to stifle Preston’s attack just seconds before Mitrovic’s winner will pass many by in the ecstacy of the winning goal.
It is clear Fulham have found a diamond, not just because of his impressive individual talent, but because of what he has done for the balance of the team. Matt Targett could well be the final piece of our promotion puzzle.