Two games in a week, two victories in a week. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s a start, and with so many reasons to be optimistic, Jack J Collins looks back at a good week to be Fulham.
Last Sunday’s victory against Burnley taught us a few things. The defence isn’t right yet; going forward we look scintillating; Vietto could be special; Seri already is; Schurrle loves the club; Mitro’s back. Mostly, however, it was a launchpad in that it brought our first three points of the season, and got that monkey off our back.
Make no mistake though—whilst Sean Dyche is an excellent manager and Burnley’s squad last season were far more than the sum of their parts, we played them at a good time and they looked dysfunctional. Balancing the early season Europa qualifiers with the opening of a Premier League season is a difficult task at the best of times, and being handed draws against Istanbul and Olympiakos added long travels to difficult sides. It’s no wonder their domestic form has stuttered.
Take nothing away from Fulham, though, as the Whites took full advantage of those tired legs going forward. Seri’s first goal in black and white was a verified stunner, an absolute rocket that was destined for the postage stamp the moment that it left the Ivorian’s boot. JMS looks different class already, and his goal added yet another string to his ever-burgeoning bow for those lucky enough to be seeing his gifts for the first time.
Slavisa’s decision to rest Ryan Sessegnon and throw Luciano Vietto into the mix was a bold one – dropping the people’s champion, even when he’s not playing well, is a difficult thing to do – but in the end was the absolutely correct call, and the Argentine had a magnificent full debut on the wing. There are similarities in his technical link-up play to that of Lucas Piazon, but the man on loan from Atleti is clearly a full cut above what we were accustomed to there.
His movement and incisive little passes in the final third are exceptional, and the quality of his delivery for Mitrovic’s second goal absolutely sublime. If he continues to develop an understanding there, Fulham will have a very special player on their hands.
Interestingly, it was at left-back that Slavisa decided to bring in Sess in the cup game against Exeter. Whilst there’s an argument to say that against weaker teams, Sess has more space to bomb on from that full-back position, Vietto’s performance might have forced Slav into a rethink of where he best utilises the boy wonder this season. Given that he has said before that he sees RS as an attacking full-back at a top club later in his career, the idea may have crossed his mind that this might be where we see more of Sess this season, in rotation with Joe Bryan.
The rest speaks for itself. The absolute relief of Andre Schurrle to get off the mark for Fulham was a delight, and his passion and hard running will endear him to many of the Cottage faithful. Mitrovic is feeding off the absolute love for him that Fulham fans are happy to provide and a happy Mitrovic is one that scores goals. You get the feeling that as long as the fans continue to back him, good times or bad, then there won’t be many dry spells that Mitro endures this season.
Exeter was routine, although good to get AK firing for the season as well, and aside from injuries, the camp looks healthy and happy, from an exterior perspective. A return to The Den, scene of a couple of the best moments from last season, is one that will appeal to many on a weeknight later in the year, and should provide a much tougher test than the Grecians, who, fans aside, truly offered very little.
So it’s off to Brighton, in search of points and pints. I will not be in attendance, instead on a diplomatic mission to the home of Slavisa and Mitro, FK Partizan, with a Fulham shirt to trade and much to speak of, but I hope everyone on their way to the South Coast has a wonderful trip. Whatever happens there, Fulham can look back at the first segment of this season with plenty to be cheerful about, going into the international break.