How to out-fox the Foxes

Mike 27th November 2020
Ademola Lookman (RB Leipzig, 17); Freisteller, Einzelbild, Aktion, action

Mike Forrest looks at how we can topple Leicester on Monday.

Not many tip us to bring anything back from Leicester on Monday night, except a good hiding, but that is – of course – far from a foregone conclusion. I believe Aleksandar Mitrovic, Ademola Lookman and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are key to any success we may have at the King Power – and I’ll attempt to explain how.

Relighting Mitro’s fire

Two goals and two assists in nine league appearances is not a bad record to have. Nor are they exceptionally good numbers. For the man behind them, Mitrovic, it’s perhaps a disappointing return considering the burden of expectation that rests on his shoulders.

The once consistently formidable and steely Serbian has melted to a diluted version of his true capabilities at times this season. Glorious chances squandered against Sheff United saw Mitro looking skyward, beseeching his goalscoring guardian angel for answers.

His fiery finishing ability had been snuffed out for now. He often cuts a figure of frustration with the scant service from his teammates prickling him into vexation.

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Whether Mitro’s muted performances are a hangover from the hamstring injury that saw him unable to start the play-off final, a loss of form, or playing in a team that has been more dysfunctional than functional, who knows.

What is for certain is that there’s more to come from him, which should be a cause for optimism going into the Leicester City match.

Dynamic movement has never been part of his game, and recent tactics have seen him being outnumbered and easily suffocated by the opposition. However, against Everton, Mitro was able to drift away from Yerry Mina to find space around the edge of the box. Loftus-Cheek then fed him a pass and followed it up with a surging run beyond the Serbian international.

Mitro was able to return a perfectly weighted pass. Loftus-Cheek won a penalty, subsequently missed by Cavaleiro, of course, but it showed that perhaps both RLC and Mitro could be more fruitful if they play closer to each other.

Revving up Loftus-Cheek

The run, drive and pass from RLC was his biggest contribution in a Fulham shirt up until that point. It came from him playing central and close to Mitrovic rather than out wide where Parker has regularly played him. Just as Mitro has looked isolated up front, Loftus-Cheek has equally looked cut adrift when playing out wide.

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Playing in an attacking central position, Loftus-Cheek was able to display some of the qualities that have so far eluded some of his performances this season.

After winning the penalty he was able to surpass this contribution by finishing off a Lookman pass a minute or so later. Lookman beat Digne with ease. Loftus-Cheek took up a nice central position, finding a pocket of space between Everton’s centre half and central midfielder, and finished off the move.

Unfortunately, that was to be the zenith of our day. Twenty minutes to go, and an equaliser needed to rescue an unlikely draw, Everton prepared themselves for an offensive barrage from us.

The expected onslaught never materialised, with Fulham only mustering a meek salvo of two further shots on target – both benign attempts. Perhaps credit should to go to Ancelotti and Everton for stifling any attacking space rather than needing any existential introspection on our part.

Letting Lookman run

Going into Leicester, the trio of Lookman, Loftus-Cheek and Mitrovic have shown that they all have the quality to cause the Foxes trouble. The key now is for Parker to be able to coax this quality into output.

Putting Loftus-Cheek central and closer to Mitrovic will certainly help, but a peek into Tottenham’s success with their Harry Kane and Son Heung Min partnership could also yield potential solutions.

Fulham has been utilising Ademola Lookman by giving him the ball to his feet and expecting magic from his strong dribbling skills. We should also look to utilise his pace with an obvious tactic that Mourinho’s Tottenham has leveraged very well.

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They get Harry Kane to drop deep, defenders drawn to him, which creates space for the speedy Son to run into. This has helped Son to a goal return of nine goals in nine appearances. Could this be replicated with Mitrovic and Lookman? For this tactic to be deployed it would require flexibility from Parker to relinquish his devotion to passing into feet rather than space.

On paper, we have an attacking threat capable of inflicting the first blow on the opposition. Come Monday, it would be good to see us defending a lead rather than chasing one. With Mitro, RLC and Lookman firing on all cylindars, we might even bring a point or three back down the M1 with us.