Jack Stroudley looks ahead to Forest’s trip to Craven Cottage and asks how do we get back to winning ways?
The games are coming thick and fast for Fulham. We’re in the midst of three games in eight days, with the last of those coming on Saturday as we welcome Nottingham Forest to Craven Cottage. Despite making the FA Cup fifth round in midweek, Fulham are three league games without a win and now are beginning to enter into a more favourable run.
That being said, Nottingham Forest are a different side to the one who we beat 3-2 in September. Steve Cooper has turned things around and they are now looking likely to stay up. They’ve only lost one league game since the World Cup restart and will come to the Cottage with a lot of confidence. If we want to keep on singing about a European tour (even if it is tongue in cheek) we’ll need to pick up three points on Saturday. But how do we do that?
Steve Cooper has found his feet in the Premier League with a 4-3-1-2 formation. Usually, Morgan Gibbs-White plays just behind Chris Wood and Brennan Johnson (the latter of which has really improved in recent weeks). Due to their ludicrous number of signings, it’s difficult to fully predict a line-up. Despite this, the one position nailed on is in net with the signing of Keylor Navas in January. I have attached their average position map below.
From this, we can see that they like to have as many players in the opposition half as possible with a big cluster of players towards the right of the pitch pressing in groups to try and recover the ball quickly. The furthest forward player is Brennan Johnson, who provides width in this narrow formation with his strike partner Chris Wood (number 39) sitting a lot deeper to try and collect the ball and bring others into play. The other real question is whether Neco Williams starts or not on the right who has impressed this season for Forest.
How do we prepare?
I don’t think Silva will go drastically different from the side that played against Chelsea last Friday. Solomon is knocking on the door for Marco and I feel that against Renan Lodi (a player which was targeted frequently back in September) he should start for me. Here is my starting line-up for the weekend.
The big one there is Sasa Lukic. I feel that while Harrison Reed has been very good this season now is the time to try and freshen things up. He played in midweek against and Silva mentioned post-game about a potential knock he picked up, so I would therefore bring in Lukic. Diop was very solid against Chelsea and deserves to keep his place in the side as well.
The final verdict
This has the feel of a must-win for Fulham. We’ve been excellent so far this season and while we have picked up enough points that a drop off wouldn’t be the end of the world it would still be very frustrating. Despite beating Leeds 1-0 last weekend, they were dominated by the Yorkshire outfit for large chunks and if it weren’t for Navas, they probably wouldn’t have picked up all three points. I think we win narrowly.