It was business as usual on the pitch this weekend as the Champions came to town and showed Fulham just why they’re one of the best teams in the business, all without really getting out of second gear. For one last time this season Jack Collins took the reigns, with Cam Ramsey’s international break coming to an end in time to see him return for Watford. Here’s Jack’s Five Things:
Scotty’s Tactical Tinkering
Scott Parker made his first real change to the formation of a starting XI against City on Saturday, switching to a 5-4-1 to try and avoid the same problems that Fulham had against Liverpool with them switching play from one side to the other, showing that he is not wedded to the 4-3-3 that has been the standard formation since he took the reigns at Fulham. It wasn’t a perfect switch – having TC as one of a two man midfield didn’t suit him particularly, and exposed defensive frailties in the skipper’s game, but it’s good to know that he’s willing to be tactically flexible against different teams, especially given that it’s something that both his predecessors in the dugout lacked.
Frank Battles Again
Voted Man of the Match again by the Fulham faithful, it’s been a good two games for Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa. This was by no means a flawless performance, and there are still elements of his game that need drastically tightening up, but the Cameroonian midfielder gave a good account of himself battling away in the middle against one of the finest midfield triumvirates in the country in Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Ilkay Gungodan. His juggles over the City hordes in the second half might have been the highlights package, but it’s his industry and work-rate in the middle that has impressed me most, and Fulham should be doing everything in their power to keep Anguissa next season.
Joe Bryan might have been partially at fault for City’s second, after his underhit pass put Fulham in trouble on the edge of our own box, but both full-backs toiled valiantly against excellent opposition on Saturday. Raheem Sterling had a quiet game, not least because Cyrus Christie threw off his last performance at wing-back and managed to show something of his old self under Jokanovic, dealing efficiently with his opponent and limiting him to long-range potshots. Bryan had an excellent game against Mohamed Salah before the international break, and worked hard again against Bernardo Silva, who spent a lot of time drifting off his wing to try and shake off the attentions of Fulham’s No. 23. Improvement on both counts since Parker has come in to the hotseat.
Babel’s Bubble Burst
It wasn’t such a good day at the office for Ryan Babel, who’s been mostly positive since he arrived in January. In the forced absence of Aleksandar Mitrovic, the flame-headed Dutchman was trusted to lead the line, but there were numerous occasions where his touch and decision making let him down. Babel still ran hard, and put in a shift up top, but the lack of hold-up play was brutally exposed by City, who pinned the Whites in our own half because of the lack of an outlet. It’s always a tough gig against City, but after an excellent performance against Liverpool, Babel will have been disappointed with his display on Saturday.
Quiet Cottage Resignation
The fight has drained from Fulham in almost all senses of the word now. With relegation looking likely to be confirmed in the next week or two, the Cottage appears to have accepted things with a quiet grace, which has led to a somewhat flat atmosphere in the last few games. This is not necessarily a critique as such – it’s hard to find full voice after the on-field disappointments that have summarised this season, but I hope that once the inevitable comes to pass and we can look to our rebuilding project, that a sense of purpose returns to the Hammersmith End and raises the decibel levels once again.