The numbers from our start of the season are there in black and white, for all to see. Jack J Collins takes a look back on the opening period of our return to the Championship.
Three wins. Two losses. One draw. 10 points from a possible 18 for Scott Parker’s Fulham in the opening salvo to the season, which is reasonable. Not setting the world on fire, but slowly gelling into a more cohesive unit, with brief high points like when we thought we were back for good against Millwall, and brief low points like the complete lack of tactical aptitude against Barnsley.
Given how bad that opening day was, I think it’s important to give Scott some immediate credit for learning from his mistakes. The way that Fulham set up that day, with Mawson trying to arrow long balls into the paths of the wingers, reminiscent of what he did a lot of the time for Swansea, was clearly not suited to the way we play; and Scott clearly saw this and put an end to it.
I’m all for experimentation – if Barnsley that day had assumed Fulham were coming to play intricate, one-touch football, then we certainly managed to surprise them. The issue was that we looked like we were also surprising ourselves.
Parker has always come across as someone with a good reading of the game, and who understands it tactically; so I wasn’t surprised to see things change quickly after that experiment didn’t work.
Against Blackburn and Huddersfield we weren’t great, but we got the job done, with some wonderful goals in the process, including Tom Cairney’s goal of the month after Harry Arter laid him the ball. 10 from 18.
But there’s something to look at that’s more than just points here: Fulham’s first six league games have seen all of Fulham’s front four get themselves on the scoresheet already. Five for Mitrovic, three for Cavaleiro, and one each for Knockaert and Cairney.
Goals will come from elsewhere too, but this is a good sign, that there’s some connection between the four already and that a goalscoring threat is emerging true from our killer quartet. If Fulham are going to get promoted this season, it’s these four who will bear the main creative burden of carrying this side to glory.
But that’s not to downplay the rest of the side. In Mawson and Ream we have one of the league’s best pairings on paper; in Bryan and Sessegnon we have a proven full-back in this division dovetailing with the latest exciting prospect from the academy; in Arter, Reed and Johansen, we have midfielders who can do the hard yards without losing the nous to pick a pass; and in Bobby Reid we have a natural goalscorer able to provide ammunition from the bench. There is serious quality across this squad.
It’s still early in the campaign, with Fulham sitting tied for 6th in the standings, but the club’s odds for promotion have already shortened since the the start of the season, falling from 9/4 to evens. There’s five games to play between here and the next International break. Another 10 points would see Fulham on 20 from 33, which would more than likely to well remain within Playoff grasp and on the tails of those in the automatic hunt.
Home fixtures against Wigan and Charlton should be winnable, despite the latter’s early season pace, whilst a win over fellow promotion hopefuls West Brom this weekend would be a serious lift straightaway before a tricky trip to Hillsborough. And Reading is, well, Reading. Who knows what will go down at the Madjeski!
It’s not been the perfect start, by any means, but if you’d have offered me 10 from 18 at the start of the season I would have taken it, and it gives us a platform to kick on from. We’re notoriously slow starters, and this is a reasonably good start.
Scott will be pleased with some of what he’s seen, by no means all of it, but if he continues to learn from his mistakes and kick on with how to utilise the weapons at his disposal in the right way, then there’s plenty to suggest that we’ll be able to challenge for those automatic spots this season.