Our eagerly-awaited daytrip to the seaside wasn’t as sunny as we first hoped and Cam’s back to let you know all about it.
Under Marco Silva, Fulham had not lost four consecutive fixtures, until now. It’s an unwelcome first for the Silva era; Saturday’s defeat at the Vitality Stadium wasn’t easy on the eye or soothing to the soul, and after our controversial exit from the FA Cup at Old Trafford, a show of force was imperative and out of nowhere, a goal to the good, we collapsed against Gary O’Neil’s relegation-threatened AFC Bournemouth.
No two halves of football are ever the same but this was an extremely peculiar meeting. The Cherries were ripe for picking, there for the taking but we choked, we stepped off and I genuinely hope this isn’t a sign of what’s to come as the season winds down.
Of course, Fulham have grappled with Premier League matters exceptionally well; we’re a top 10 side with 10 games to go and that’s an immeasurable achievement for a newly promoted team with a curse, but this was a game that was undoubtedly as winnable as they come ad we did ourselves a massive disservice. Anyway, screw it, onto next Saturday, West Ham United, a 3pm at the Cottage, they don’t come much better than that and it’s high time we get back on the horse and reach that ‘magic 40’ mark (and hopefully beyond) once and for all.
Andy P’s goal
Despite his technical ability and his eye for an assist, the one element Andreas Pereira’s personal game has lacked this season is goals. Getting on the end of key opportunities and dispatching them hasn’t been a feature of the Brazilian’s, he prowls in all the right areas but when he’s tasked to do the business, his poise hasn’t always been measured. That wasn’t the case on the south coast, you’ll be delighted to know.
Following a well-crafted move, Pereira timed his run perfectly as Harrison Reed plated him up just within the penalty area and with his right foot, first time, he stroked the opener past a rooted Neto, calmness personified. He carried possession with a purpose, at least in the first half while Fulham’s tails were up, and his confidence was evident as he gambled on a bicycle kick, although his improvised effort drifted wide of the mark by a few yards. Nevertheless, I rate the intent and I want him to express himself as artistically as possible if it brings reward.
He was replaced by Sasa Lukic midway through the second half as the Whites waned, and while his influence may have tailed off, he was still a primary source as we progressed, more so than most, anyway. In the weeks to come, he has to challenge himself to get on the score sheet far more frequently because with Aleksandar Mitrovic out of action for the foreseeable, we have to unearth goals from elsewhere and he, among others, has to take responsibility. He can hit the back of the net, that’s evident, however he has to introduce consistency to his outings and that’s a barrier only he can break.
Tom’s tooth and nail
If I’m not mistaken, that was Tom Cairney’s 22nd appearance of the campaign, all from the bench, and as he always does when he’s thrown into the mix, he reinstated control to Fulham midfield developments and I really admire his new-found, no-prisoners-taken attitude. As much as he gets himself on the ball to construct, he also gets up in the opponents’ faces and it’s a combative edge he’s had to adopt in order, given the unrelenting grittiness of the average Premier League encounter.
Comfortable in tight spaces, inclined to retrieve possession between the lines, Cairney showed for the ball selflessly as the Whites attempted to prise the Cherries open and as he was closed down by the hosts’ opposite numbers, Joe Rothwell et al, he sandwiched himself between man and ball and he didn’t wilt as he safeguarded possession, tooth and nail.
He may not feature as regularly as he had done in seasons gone by, his minutes are sparing in comparison to last year’s total but he should still be regarded as a luxury player, a figurehead that can alter narratives within a click of the fingers. He couldn’t manufacture conclusive patterns on this occasion, his teammates saw to that, however TC’s engagements were warring, expansive, and the pirouetting playmaker we’ve idolised for so long is now a provoker that packs a punch when necessary.
Can’t kill ’em off
While that was the first time this season we’ve actually lost a game from a winning position, we seriously let ourselves down while in the ascendency and we allowed Bournemouth to regroup and retaliate. One goal leads are never assured, and they say two goals margins are just as insecure, but it would’ve been nice to have had that buffer as the seasiders rallied after the interval but we didn’t cash-in on our initial stranglehold and we were expectantly punished.
Fashioning definite opportunities was a tall order in the second half, going forward our movement was mistimed, play was overturned far too routinely by the Cherries and it’s not even like we can rue spurned chances to pull ahead or restore parity, as Neto’s target was hardly tested and it’s a defeat where we have to take complete ownership of our abject conduct as soon as play resumed.
We monopolised possession before half time, we should’ve been readying ourselves for more of the same but we were the masters of our own undoing, Bournemouth weren’t amazing, they simply wanted three points more than us with honours even and that’s all there is to it. They’re fighting for survival, they’re a team that’s always been built on team spirit rather than out-and-out quality and we underestimated the battle that lay ahead as Marcus Tavernier’s ridiculous leveller roused the Vitality.
We have to learn how to kill ’em off, these teams that are circling the drain, and in order for us to do that, we have to be merciless when we’re well and truly on top. Resting on single-goal gaps is not advisable and now it’s our duty to guarantee that Saturday’s forlorn crumbling never happens again. We may find it harder to bag in Mitro’s absence but we’ve still got personnel on-hand that’s capable of netting on a regular basis, and we have to remind ourselves that scoring is enjoyable, and we cannot take potential dubs for granted.
Carlos crowded out
Spearheading an attack as a lone striker isn’t for the fainthearted, as we know, and as much as we want Carlos Vinicius to succeed, we have to accept that he isn’t a a reliable hold-up man and that specific deficiency was writ large against the Cherries. It’s not the first time Vinicius has been shrugged off without a whimper this season, and I’m sure it won’t be the last, but if he’s to deputise as a focal point as Aleksandar serves his ban, for however long that may be, perhaps we have to reinvent the striker’s functionality to get a performance of any credible worth out of him.
We can praise his involvement during Pereira’s strike; he neatly threaded Manor Solomon through and the passage advanced from there, although that was all he could do right and I can’t be told that he’s a ready-made replacement for Mitro, because he just isn’t. They’re entirely different strikers, comparing them isn’t fair but in that respect, we can see where he falls short of the required standard. Vini ideally wants to run his man, to spin off the shoulder, whereas Mitro wants to occupy and that is something the Brazilian’s incapable of and that ultimately begs the question: why are we playing the ball into his feet or chest when he cannot trap and contain?
It all hinges on the players around him to extent, too. With Mitro on the field, our wide men invert as he collects possession from deep, it opens passing lanes for our fullbacks to overlap but that only works because the Serb enables it. Carlos was crowded out by Marcos Sensi and Lloyd Kelly, they doubled up on him because they recognised his weakness and they exploited it, so as he’s undoubtedly going to feature heavily from now on, directness is the only alternative approach we should consider.
Set up as wide as possible on the break, instruct the wingers to hug the touchlines and demand that not matter what, Vini has to camp within that 18-yard box because coming short and obstructing defenders, as Mitro does, isn’t what he’s built for despite his physique, which flatters to deceive.
Robinson’s jammed ‘X’ button
In an offensive sense, Antonee Robinson didn’t really put a foot wrong as he motored in support of Solomon but at the back, when all he had to do was twat the ball into the carpark, Jedi froze on Leno’s goal line, just as he did against Arsenal and all we can ask is…why? Why again?
He’s done remarkably well this season, the odd mistake has bled into his performances and that isn’t out of the ordinary but my word, inches from your own net, points literally on the line, is not where you want to have a braindead moment and he lagged as Dominic Solanke homed in.
There was no way Leno was recovering to smother, Solanke was always going to get there first so I’ve no idea what Robinson’s intentions were. That’s a laces job, it’s your obligation to re-enact your finest Peter Kay “‘ave it”, however it’s like the ‘X’ button jammed, it’s like he noticed a pinky note on the floor, he didn’t appreciate the desperate need for a good old fashioned wallop and surely, for a defender, that’s sacrilege and his hesitancy lost us the game.