Five Thoughts: Barnsley 1-0 Fulham

Cameron Ramsey 4th August 2019

Order, order! We’ll have no discontent or ill-temper in this court of inquisition! Venting over a lukewarm coffee, I write this with a pleading sense of rationality, no matter how vexed we were following Andy Davies’ damning final whistle on Saturday afternoon.

A dossier of incriminating questions will be asked and we have to have plausible answers. Yes, it was the opening fixture of a gruelling 46 game schedule, but it was the clueless manner in which we lost that stings the most. Maybe the weight of expectation to excel wobbled our heads, but Fulham’s trip to Barnsley was an embarrassingly atrocious affair, nevertheless.

Without kidding ourselves, it’s just a 1-0 loss at the hands of a side that were flying high after last season’s triumphs. We’re a wounded animal with multiple wounds to lick and it’s only a matter of time until our claws are primed for action once more. A wake up call? Indefinitely, and with under a week left of the summer transfer window, we also need Tony Khan to pick up the phone and ready his chequebook for additional reinforcements. People, we’re in for a frantic couple of days before Blackburn Rovers come to town.

Fulham’s Vacant Familiarity

Last season, Fulham’s defensive department was hideously substandard, and against fine-tuned opponents, we were ruthlessly plucked apart. We’ve had a full summer of rigorous regimes to solidify our shape and discipline, although after Saturday’s feeble defeat, it’s evident that absolutely nothing’s changed. Incapable of forming a resolute understanding, Alfie Mawson and co. masqueraded as complete strangers with no direction or objective.

Daniel Stendel’s men bolted from the traps and set about dismantling the Whites’ flaky composition. The Tykes had not lost in 27 games at home – now 28 – under the German’s command and their collective confidence rattled the visitors’ crippled composure. In the 13th minute, Mike Bahre forged an opening for Luke Thomas to explore, an instance that shook the Parker’s set-up to the core.

Gliding away from a floored Joe Bryan, Fulham scrambled to stunt the Barnsley debutante but there was no resolve. Barnsley could have compounded Fulham’s plight before half-time, with Bahre and Mallk Wilks pulling strings and asking substantial questions of our structure. After the break, we simply couldn’t recover. Granted, our midfield was constrained, however we simply can’t rely on our current defensive personnel. There’s a toxic element that needs quelling immediately.

Bryan’s Blasted Outing

Our entire back four was a quivering wreck against Barnsley. Not one of them eased the nerves and as a collective they were their own worst nightmare. Joe Bryan’s a player I’ve lauded in previous outings, but at Oakwell, there was something drastically unnerving about his overall application.

Alright, Bryan’s overall performance will split opinion as many fans believe that he was actually one of our brighter performers, although I can’t help but feel that the hangover of last season’s relegation still looms over him. The 26-year-old was brushed aside and ironed out like your best Sunday shirt in the build-up to Thomas’ pivotal strike. Where has his sense of urgency vanished to?

I’m not discounting the left-back’s vital interceptions or his inclination to spurt forward on the break, they’re flattering pluses to his ability, but he’s often caught out of position whilst retreating, particularly when Barnsley opted to wield hoisted switches towards his general vicinity. Bryan will be a hugely invaluable component to our starting XI this season, that’s a given, although it was a markedly disconcerting outing from a fullback that’s revered as the division’s finest.

Marked Mitro’s Misery

Pledging his future to the club, Aleksandar Mitrovic is set to terrorise Championship defences, and hopefully Premier League rearguards, for years to come. The Serb is undoubtedly the hardiest hitman in the English second-tier, a force to be reckoned with, and Barnsley’s Bambo Diaby and Mads Andersen tested their mettle admirably.

Barnsley’s centre-half pairing had the measure of Mitro’ in truth, quarantining the 24-year-old systematically between them. Acting as a lone striker, Mitro’s regularly butted to his physical limits, and if he isn’t supplied with credible opportunities to flex his dominance, his staunch presence is rendered ineffective.

Other than a whipping the ball over Samuel Radlinger’s crossbar in the second minute, Mitro’ barely had a sniff. Wide options, be it Ivan Cavaleiro and the like, couldn’t manufacture advantageous phases where Mitro’ could be pinpointed, a conundrum we endured last term in the top-flight. It’s distressing, because an attacker of Mitro’s prowess demands premium service, and we’re failing to establish a favourable connection. Still, there’s plenty of games to fine-tune alliances in the final third, so we’ve no need to panic, yet.

Wrong AK, Parker

In what dimension is Aboubakar Kamara a first-team starter? In what conceivable universe is Kamara more preferred than Anthony Knockaert? I thought Parker had an astute intelligence when composing matchday folds, so why on earth did the haphazard Frenchman last a full 90 minutes?

One thing AK47 will give you is intensity. We know this all too well, the man’s a jet-propelled dustcart on a road to sheer destruction, but he offers very little else, other than aimless power and gut-wrenching dance moves. The temperamental 24-year-old squandered routine combinations at Oakwell and has the first touch of a JCB digger. He’s not graced with vision, poise or enterprise, last season’s castaway’s a law unto himself and is, in numerous ways, a burden.

In and around the 18-yard box, Kamara saw blind and discarded support. Sure, he set Mitro’ in the initial stages of the game with a baffling flash of elemental footballing ability, but he’s far too narrow sighted to compete and cooperate in a squad that requires a harmonious team ethic. He’s the kind of brutish juggernaut we need to emerge with 15 minutes to go, fresh legged, to jackhammer depleted, unsuspecting fullbacks into oblivion. AK is outrageously unpredictable, an occasional plus, but he is certainly not equipped to begin meetings at this level.

Right AK, Parker

At last, we can savour a winger with actual talent and acumen. Anthony Knockaert must have been rubbing his eyes in disbelief when he glared upon Parker’s the team sheet (so were we, of course), but with 25 minutes to go, our most recent summer signing was introduced at Stefan Johansen’s expense.

As soon as he made contact with the turf from the dugout, Knockaert constructed prosperous sequences and exhibited a shrewd awareness of how the game was developing. Qualified in his responsibilities, where others clearly aren’t, the Brighton & Hove Albion loanee diversified Fulham’s spells in possession, a dimension that was absent before his initiation.

On the parameter of the penalty area, net in his sights, the 27-year-old laced goal bound, a dipping effort that Radlinger had to palm away from danger. Knockaert is not shy of creation and will graft tirelessly to come out on top of his opponent. The Frenchman can shift momentum instantaneously and has an accomplished left wand. If there’s only room for one AK in Parker’s starting string, surely he’s the desired mainstay.