Jack Stroudley looks back at our recent run of form and why we shouldn’t be getting too concerned, despite our recent dip this dip.
Before starting this article, I should state that I was as disappointed with our performance against West Ham as anyone. We were devoid of ideas; we were flat and really poor for large parts of the game in a match which we should be winning. Nevertheless, that leaves Fulham winless in five Premier League matches with the chant “we’re all going on a European tour” a distant memory.
That being said, I don’t feel that now is the time to jump on the club’s back and criticise our every move. This is a difficult run and one no one wants to go through, but I feel some perspective is needed, which I am going to try and provide in the hopes that people will evade from reaching for the panic button.
A thin squad
There’s no denying that Fulham’s starting line-up has more than enough Premier League quality. But to be truly successful in this league you need strength in depth. The intensity of the division is a huge jump from the Championship where you could get away with having a slightly smaller squad. In the Premier League having a thin squad will eventually catch you out, which I feel is happening to Fulham now.
When we look to the bench for some inspiration the usual suspects came on. Tom Cairney (who I’m not criticising as he was once again fantastic against West Ham) as well as the likes of Harry Wilson and Dan James of which neither have truly set the world alight this season. Our squad being so thin was always going to come back to bite us and while it has done so now, it will hopefully emphasise to Tony Khan and the recruitment team the need to get much more quality in over the summer.
Before I go into this, I don’t want to sit here and act like I’m slating Fulham because I’m not. This season has been nothing short of fantastic and while we may be frustrated about how the last few weeks have transpired. If you’d have offered Fulham fans being in the top half and an FA Cup quarter-final by April at the start of the season, everyone would’ve snapped your hand off.
We’ve also had some really good memories this season: Solomon’s late winner against Brighton, Mitro’s header at home to Brentford, and of course Vinicius’s winner against Chelsea. That being said, our underlying numbers suggest that this drop-off was always going to be inevitable.
If you look at the xG (expected goals) we are actually performing well above what is expected, with the club having scored more goals (only a mere 2.49) than expected but also conceding a monumental amount less than expected at 15.81. So what does all this mean?
Firstly it shows what a fantastic piece of recruitment Bernd Leno was, who has been phenomenal this season. The German has had the second most shots faced this season at 145 while maintaining the third best save percentage in the league at 76.6%. These numbers meant that a drop-off was always going to come, and will act as a bit of a wake-up call for Marco Silva, who will know that defensively we need to improve next season.
Where do we go from here?
This drop-off is disappointing, but it happens to every side in this division at some point. I’m just glad we’ve shown the capabilities of this squad throughout the majority of the season so far to gain enough points to guarantee survival. That being said, things need to change to get some fans back on side and a couple of wins would do that.
This also provides Fulham with a fantastic opportunity to prepare for the future. Give Marco Silva that new deal, try and convince Palhinha to stay, end the Solomon saga, give Luke Harris some minutes and plan ahead for the upcoming transfer window and get business done early. There is a project to get excited about here at Fulham and I feel that fan frustration about recent form is a real testament to how far we have come as a club. As long as Silva is at the helm and the Khans continue to back him, there are some exciting times ahead!