Five Thoughts: Fulham 0-3 Bournemouth

Cameron Ramsey 29th October 2018
(Photo: Rex Features)

It was another tough afternoon for Fulham on Saturday, as Bournemouth were the latest team to give the Whites a pasting. Here are Cam Ramsey‘s five thoughts following the defeat.

A 10-man Fulham were swept aside 3-0 by an extremely ruthless AFC Bournemouth. Forgive me for being brusque, for once, but it’s becoming increasingly exhausting writing these articles each week without a glimmer of hope or a shimmer of glee to compliment my laughable musings.

Being the ardent Fulham fans we are, we should know that the good times walk hand in hand with the disastrous, although as we’re yet to see any true signs of life in Slavisa Jokanovic’s blueprints this term to date, it’s tough to be chipper and optimistic when the general outlook and consensus is bitterly bleak.

Since returning to the Premier League, the Cottagers are yet to really have had a glossy honeymoon period, but let’s not be too hasty. A select segment of our fan base has called for Slav’ to part ways with the club, to divorce his creation, if you will, but who will succeed the flummoxed Serb? Big Sam Allardyce and his gritty, putrid, ‘ave it master plan? Come on, people. We’re frustrated, not stupid.

Kamara Is Not a Starter

Aboubakar Kamara is not a starter in the Premier League. He wasn’t even a solid matchday favourite in the Championship, so heaven knows why Slav’ opted to field the bumbling Frenchman ahead of the likes of Luciano Vietto in particular.

On paper the right flank appeared rugged, robust and mobile, but as ‘AK47’ offered very little offensively and indeed defensively for that matter, the Cherries systematically approached our target down the right channel, by means of Ryan Fraser, because the unorthodox 23-year-old failed to sufficiently support Timothy Fosu-Mensah. Kamara was tactically inept, erratic, and his staggering indiscipline and petulance was also duly spotlighted.

One protruding trait of Kamara’s makeup is his burning desire to charge at his direct opponent and bamboozle everyone in attendance, including himself, in the process. What he lacks in technical intelligence he atones for in brutish, demented power, but against Eddie Howe’s defensive regiment, the former SC Amiens menace was routinely contained and snared by Charlie Daniels and Nathan Ake.

Fulham rarely hit the byline withing Bournemouth’s penalty area, but once Kamara bounded into a prime position with the goalmouth in his periphery, his lines were fluffed time and time again. Woefully lashing wide of the target, taking that unnecessary extra touch, quivering at the notion of opening his stride to commit his marker – it was a painfully perplexing outing for the misfiring musketeer, who’s more of a corner shop potato gun than he is a lethal assault rifle.

Malnourished Mitro

As reiterated in previous editions, Aleksandar Mitrovic is an animal that needs to be fed, if he’s going to rip the net from its moorings. The bullish Serb is a bloodthirsty predator in the danger area, but Fulham’s midfield distributors simply couldn’t provide the 23-year-old with that killer pass to unlock Howe’s resilient rearguard.

Mitro, like he did against Everton, ventured deep into his own half to wrench the ball from the opponents and acted as an auxiliary anchorman when the Whites were striving to mount an attack. But as he’s fundamentally our leading focal point in the offensive spearhead, his domineering presence was ruefully missed in the final third once our set-up had squeezed further up the park.

A proven striker at both club and international level, Mitro operates in threatening areas with his unrivalled strength and fortitude, however blistering pace is not one of his many unique qualities. Devoid of intent and direction, Fulham were periodically forced to lump the ball into the floodlights in the hope that either Andre Schurrle, Kamara or Mitro would pursue its flight. As the ball careered into orbit, Mitro’s chest would simultaneously deflate and his arms would despondently flail.┬áThe ex-Newcastle United marksman wants it threaded into feet, ultimately.

Fulham were sluggish in their attempts to locate Mitro in the 18-yard box, and once the ball was finally angled into his vicinity, the Cherries had already regrouped and Asmir Begovic could comfortably clasp the ball as a result. Mitro was shackled by Bournemouth’s three centre-halves and was unable to forge himself an inch to pivot or invite his teammates into contention. The top-flight is slowly taming the ferocious beast, it seems.

Rico Right Choice?

Marcus Bettinelli’s customary pre-match Instagram post failed to surface, so that meant that goalkeeping duties would presumably fall on either Fabricio or Sergio Rico’s head come kick-off. As the former had already had his chance to guard the sticks at the beginning of the campaign, it was the latter that got the defining nod.

A two-time Europa League victor with his parent club Sevilla FC, Rico has had to withstand crippling pressures before his competitive debut for the Whites at the Cottage. Although as a positive result was desperately needed to kick-start Fulham’s dismal season, the agile Spaniard would never have experienced an encounter much like the battle that unfurled on Saturday.

In terms of commanding his penalty box, his distribution and his communication with the back four, Rico had a fairly accomplished performance and rarely appeared overawed. The 25-year-old was swift to rotate possession and was alert to Bournemouth’s incisive through balls, although aerially there were notable instances where he’d wildly claw at the ball as it innocuously floated from the flanks towards his gloves.

Gauging Rico’s introduction to top-flight football is tricky, because he did in fact showcase his underlying class and calibre. Rico was primed to palm Simon Francis’ fizzing effort wide of the target, which was destined to rattle the roof of the net, and with that moment of sharpness his ability was broadcast, but Bournemouth’s goals were devastatingly dispatched. Some may argue that he should have closed the angle for David Brooks’ deft finish, or that he should have spread his frame wider to stunt Callum Wilson’s second, but with that fragile, lackadaisical back four in front of you? I’m not sure that writing him off is the correct call whatsoever. Patience has to be observed.

KMac Out Of His Depth

Kevin McDonald may have been a sturdy conductor in the Championship last term, but Saturday’s pedestrian performance against the Cherries clarified that the Scotland international simply isn’t cut out or designed to play consistent Premier League football.

KMac ambled across the breadth of the pitch in a laboured state and couldn’t cope with the tempo in the engine room that was effortlessly set by Bournemouth’s protagonists. Jean-Micheal Seri is one step ahead of his teammates and that was apparent throughout, as once the Ivorian issued the ball in McDonald’s direction, the 29-year-old was passive to his industrious colleague’s intentions.

In 50/50 challenges, KMac was limited and unconvincing, and his lack of conviction, timing and intelligence ultimately led to his dismissal. The restricted anchor was hit with two yellow cards after wielding a duo of cynical hacks, although his second caution, seeing as he was effectively the last man, was solely worthy of a straight red card.

McDonald was also reluctant to press through the centre of the park with the ball at his feet, and after being sent to the showers, Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa was introduced to proceedings to solidify Fulham’s flagging midfield. Anguissa adequately retained possession, forcefully utilised his physicality to dismantle, and was also willing to commit his immediate opponent up. The Cameroonian is a more vigorous, athletic, productive enforcer, and that’s integral in the Premier League, if a player’s to thrive.

Skipper’s Welcome Return

We’ve seriously missed Tom Cairney’s influence over the last few domestic meetings, and as soon as our enigmatic captain sank his studs into the turf against Bournemouth, Fulham unearthed a tenacious, daring dynamic in the final third, albeit without breaching Begovic, of course.

Connecting both the midfield department and the offensive unit has been a laborious chore in TC’s absence, but within seconds of entering the fray, one of the Scotland international’s first touches of the ball was to feed Kamara into an impending position with a sculpted, purposeful pass. The 27-year-old metronome is so, so pivotal and crucial.

Aware, ingenious, efficient, Cairney pierced Bournemouth’s midfield corps and stretched Howe’s regimented structure with a series of resourceful, sweeping passes to the channels. A diligent operator, Cairney didn’t stand to admire his exploits, he instantaneously advanced into an uninhabited quadrant to receive the ball once again and was equally prepared to fight his corner. He offered Fulham an alternative dimension when retaining possession.

Moving forward, we have to have every single member of the first-team compliment singing from the same sheet, especially against the Terrier next week. Leadership, belief and authority has recently evaporated from our shell shocked set-up, but now that Cairney’s seemingly fit, motivated and raring to prise defensive ranks open, rejuvenation, identity and artistry have vitally been reinstalled by our beloved supremo’s timely reemergence. His enterprising presence will benefit us greatly, because it always has. Welcome back, skip’!

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