Believe it or not, we’re now over a third of the way into the season. With 16 games played, the Whites find themselves in a pretty disappointing 7th place – albeit just 5 points from automatic promotion. Recent form has been mixed, and the jury is still out as to whether Scott Parker has the tactical nous to extract the most out of our expensively assembled squad.
So what exactly is going wrong at the Cottage? Why is HMS Piss The League’s starting motor stuttering? One thing we can look at is the numbers our players are putting out, and comparing how each player is performing in important metrics against the rest of the league. With this in mind, we’ve brought together for you the vital statistics, and pulled out 3 key points to review.
If you asked me a month ago which players I was most concerned about getting injured, I would have given two answers: Aleksandar Mitrovic and Joe Bryan. Without a natural backup to the left-back role, and with Steve Sessegnon possibly on his way out of the club, does Scott have a real problem at fullback?
The data would suggest perhaps not. The most likely replacements, Christie at right-back and Odoi at left-back, are actually putting up relatively strong numbers compared to the rest of the players in the league. Whilst there’s some context to keep in mind (Christie has relatively few minutes, and some of Odoi’s have come from centreback), in the core areas both are still above average. In fact, despite many seeing it as a weakness in his game, Christie is putting in more of a defensive shift than we perhaps give him credit for!
The few areas to watch out for are Christie’s ball losses and low pass success rate (a sign of low confidence?) and Odoi’s lack of crossing ability. If Scott can build this pair up, and make a couple of tactical tweaks to expose their strengths, they should provide more than enough as a stopgap in the short term.
Decordova-Reid: struggling to adapt?
Since transferring from Cardiff in the Summer, Bobby Reid has endeared himself to the fans with some strong performances off the bench and high work-rate. However, there’s been something seemingly holding him back – and as much as we want him to he just doesn’t seem to be able to score.
Looking at his numbers, it seems like Bobby is doing the simple things correctly: he pressures often, and is accurate with passes. However, in attacking transition he’s really struggling to make any kind of impact. He rarely brings the ball forward, and is doing relatively little to create chances for teammates.
Compared to perhaps the most similar alternatives in the attacking midfield position, Tom Cairney and Stefan Johansen, Bobby is shown up to be a bit of a weak link.
Personally I think this is largely down to Bobby being played in the wrong role. Back in Bristol, he excelled as a second striker, and was an excellent goal poacher behind a more classic number 9. He’s clearly struggling to translate these qualities into what’s required from our central midfielders. With Mitro out suspended, could we see Bobby shine in a more advanced role?
Perhaps the most “well, duh…” line in this piece: Alexsandar Mitrovic is far too good for the Championship. It’s not really a surprise to learn recently that he earns as much as an entire recently promoted squad in in the Championship. His finishing numbers are significantly higher than anyone else in the League – and is probably a shoe-in to end the season with the Championship’s golden boot.
Fulham fans have calling out for a natural finisher for years, arguably since the days of Louis Saha. Well, now we’ve got one.
However, there’s no such thing as a perfect player. Despite being clearly one of the most hardworking players, Mitro offers up very little in terms of defensive work. He also creates very little for teammates – increasing the load on players like Reid and Cavaleiro, who have been struggling a little since moving to West London. The clear challenge for Parker is finding ways to improve in these areas, without losing his raw attacking brilliance. Not an easy task!