Jack Stroudley looks ahead to Saturday’s game against our gaffer’s old employers, Everton.
Fulham met October with a slightly concerning start; three games, one point and nine goals conceded wasn’t exactly how Marco Silva and his side expected to start the month. However, four days, six goals and six points later Fulham are sitting pretty in seventh with a healthy nine-point gap on the relegation zone.
Up next Marco faces his former side Everton, who after scraping survival last season have established themselves under Frank Lampard into a competent Premier League side, even with some (on paper) questionable recruitment over the summer. After Everton’s more-than-convincing 3-0 victory over Crystal Palace last weekend, how do Fulham look to make it nine points out of a possible nine?
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Everton currently sit in 12th place and a main reason for that is their ability to get results against the teams around them. Nine of their 13 points this season have come from sides in the bottom half of the table with the remaining four coming from results at home to West Ham and Liverpool.
Looking at their average positions against Crystal Palace (very similar to their average positions away at Newcastle) they like to make the pitch as wide as possible and utilise their full-backs (particularly Mykolenko). The reintroduction of Calvert-Lewin has allowed them to have a quality focal point to aim for and players like Demarai Gray and Anthony Gordon like to play as close to a ‘second striker’ as possible.
As well as this, Lampard has managed to get the best out of players whose careers seemed over. Alex Iwobi has found his feet in a more central role and has impressed for large chunks of this season. A midfield two of Onana and Gueye is strong and will provide a good matchup for Palhinha and Reed. The last player to mention is Dwight McNeil, who has impressed coming off the bench for the Toffees picking up two goals so far this season.
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Due to the last two games, you’d think the side practically picks itself. But there is potential for Tosin to be dropped for Diop, with some fans calling his performance against Leeds below par. Questions remain over whether Kenny Tete is fit and and whether Wilson starts on Saturday after Kebano came on and performed as well as he did at Elland Road.
In terms of how Fulham press, I think playing this Everton side will suit Harrison Reed to a tee. As we have seen over the course of this season he loves to venture towards the right flank and put pressure on the opposition. This, combined with the freedom Mykolenko has to operate up and down the channel, could leave some space in behind for Fulham. I also think on the other side a player of Willian’s calibre, as well as Robinson providing an overload, could cause some problems for Seamus Coleman.
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For me this game (as cliché as it sounds) is won and lost in midfield. Palhinha and Reed against Onana and Gueye is an intriguing battle, which I think will jostle back and forth throughout the game. It’s not going to be an easy fixture and both sides will come into this game confident they can get something out of it. If I had to make a prediction, I’d go with a draw.