You may not have known this, but Fulham have not managed to collect a single domestic point at Goodison Park since 1963, a daunting statistic that certainly didn’t bode well for the Whites before their vastly testing Premier League meeting with Everton and, as we all know how it panned out, we’re still yet to have had our long-awaited hurrah. Cameron Ramsey breaks it down.
A 3-0 defeat means there’s a brimming trough of unsavoury facts to digest, especially with Arsenal lurking in the shadows. But as we had no answer to the Toffees’ rampant second-half onslaught after initially poking the Blues to the wire, here’s five notable points – amongst a dismal archive – that protruded from the deflating loss like a moth in your Saturday evening pint of amber.
Shaky starts have plagued Fulham in recent weeks against Manchester City and Watford and have usually set the tone for the vast majority of the tie, however a resolute opening 15 minutes relinquished an impending Everton storm, and the Whites slowly but surely whittled the Blues down towards the break.
Fulham waltzed into the interval with their tails up and a strange sense of optimism engulfed us all, although that glowing, indulgent feeling was tediously short lived. The Whites, after a driven first period, couldn’t get a solid foothold in the second-half and wandered through the remainder of the tie in a sedated lull.
Unable to fashion jeopardising opportunities, the Cottagers were brutally punished by Gylfi Sigurdsson – who of course also spurned a penalty – and Cenk Tosun, and in the precarious moments between the Merseysiders’ slick sucker punches, Slav’s men were outwitted, outfought and seemingly outnumbered in every department.
Joe Bryan limped out of proceedings with a suspected hamstring strain in the 86th minute meaning that the south-west Londoners would have to toil with a depleted compliment for the remainder. Stretched defensively, Bernard seized his chance to press our flagging rearguard and located Sigurdsson on the boundary of the penalty area, and the influential Icelandic playmaker duly slotted another deft strike past a rooted Marcus Bettinelli to finally kill off the visitors.
Suspect Passing At the Back
Playing out from the back is crucial to our philosophy. We’re not a collective that tends to panic on the ball and Slav’s men are all suitably studied distributors, although lackadaisical square balls across the breadth of our back four invited Dominic Calvert-Lewin and co. to prey on our casual nature with almost catastrophic consequences.
In both the first and second half, Tim Ream and Denis Odoi were frequent culprits with the ball at their feet. Scanning for an intricate destination rather than an easy, routine pass, the experienced defenders were swiftly squeezed by Everton’s offensive armoury.
Whilst at times they were spared embarrassment by the skin of their teeth, the dependable duo heaped an encumbering mass of unnecessary pressure upon themselves, and if we’re to persuasively retain the ball, we have to be one step ahead and offload possession to an available outlet almost instantaneously to avoid these types of potential mishaps at the back – there’s nothing wrong with ‘going home’.
It’s clear that if we’re going to religiously build our attacks from the back, we have to be diligent and observant with our fundamental decision making, as against squads with the pace and power that the Toffees have at their disposal in particular, we’ll be viciously dispossessed and flogged for our wayward discipline.
Sessegnon Asked Questions
We’ll get the best out of Ryan Sessegnon when he’s nestled in the final third of the pitch, and as he’s enthusiastic in his responsibilities in the offensive unit, the teenage sensation regularly asked questions of Jonjoe Kenny, and nearly rattled home his first Premier League goal.
Intelligently striding into a menacing area of the penalty box, Sess’ latched onto an incisive Jean-Michael Seri through ball and calibrated his left foot after setting his bearings. Opening his posture, the 2017-18 Championship Player of the Year opted for power rather than placement and his rasping effort despairingly clattered Jordan Pickford’s goal frame.
A shining light that appeared comfortable in all aspects of his personal game, Sess’ physical stature has also been highlighted by Slav recently and it’s obvious that the developing starlet is growing with the experience of plying his trade in the top-flight on a weekly basis.
Rugged in 50/50 challenges and composedly direct when exerting the full-backs, as the season progresses we’ll witness the ‘Young Lion’ slip into a higher gear. Fledgling professionals are periodically criticised for being greedy and/or over-zealous, but Sess – due to being a reliant squad member already – is always scouring for a teammate to incorporate and will only commit an opponent if he believes he has the beating of him.
No Reward For Mitro
You’d usually find Aleksandar Mitrovic grappling with the sitting centre-half on matchday, but in order to offer his midfield craftsmen a viable route to the target, the strapping Serb occasionally ventured into uncharted territory to retrieve the ball in the middle of the park.
Mitro is a clinical goal machine and is proven inside the penalty area and on the periphery, but Everton systematically contained the imposing hit-man, and though the 23-year-old’s a brutish handful, Michael Keane and Kurt Zouma matched the striker’s brawn and intensity, which nullified his ominous presence.
As Marco Silva’s set-up tightened their grip, it became an increasingly laborious task for Fulham to probe through the middle, so hitting the flanks was imperative to Slav’s fold if they were to breach the Blues’ rallied defence. Andre Schurrle was hassled centrally but was able to function productively on the flanks, and once he’d wriggled into a prime position, the 27-year-old briskly lifted his head and whipped the ball inbound.
Being the focal point, Mitro was shielded by Everton in the danger area and wasn’t given an inch, meaning that Schurrle’s crosses lead to very little profit. In truth, Mitro was feeding off mere scraps and was tethered into an ineffective state – if Fulham are to habitually utilise his deadly tendencies, they’ll firstly have to offer more support from the channels and, secondly, be braver in their movement in and around the 18-yard box in order to unlock invaluable pockets for the 5-goal marksman to inhabit.
Golden Opportunities Squandered
Plonking the scoreline behind us for a nanosecond, we did in fact craft golden opportunities to draw blood from Everton in both periods, but a lack of composure, grace and conviction in front of the target ultimately squandered our threatening phases, which were actually expertly constructed in absolute fairness.
Other than Sess’ thunderous drive that assaulted the crossbar, Schurrle could have wrenched the Whites into an early lead after being ingeniously located by a slaloming Sess, but the Borussia Dortmund loanee hideously laced the ball into orbit from 20-yards. Snatching at his strike, spacial awareness would have aided the usually reliable flanker, as he fundamentally had more than enough time to steady himself before firing.
Overturning possession in our own half, the Whites sprang Everton to mount a fluent counter attack. 1-0 down, Schurrle was freed by Seri and the ex-Chelsea winger arced a tantalising switch into Luciano Vietto’s path. The Argentine collected and a certain equaliser seemed imminent, however a heavy first touch befell the diminutive attacker, and as the hoards of following supporters held their breath, Pickford charged from his goal line to pounce on the untamed ball.
Chances to compromise the hosts were few and far between as the game wore on, although there’s clear, undeniable evidence that Fulham can and indeed will create threatening passages. The three aforementioned instances were all clear-cut, and if the Whites were ultimately cutthroat in their execution, the underlying fabrics of the encounter could have been stitched in our favour.
We’ll continue to learn and adapt from Saturday’s cruel loss, and before long, we’ll be the dominant contingent that’s firing on all cylinders and putting unsuspecting opponents to the sword. We are still work in progress and dampening setbacks are just as beneficial as spurring victories in terms of core character building in the long run.