Jack Stroudley looks at our final game before the October international break.
Monday’s performance against Chelsea was certainly a worrying one in a game that means so much to Fulham fans we saw a display from the players that didn’t match that level of passion. Devoid of any ideas going forward, weak in the midfield and sloppy defensive mistakes brewed a perfect storm for Chelsea who comfortably dispatched of us. While we sit in 13th, for me this is a must-win fixture given our run after the international break. But can Fulham bounce back and pick up three points?
Following a strange summer selling the likes of Ilman Ndiaye and Sander Berge, many tipped Sheffield United for relegation and given the start they’ve made, it’s looking quite bleak for the Blades. With just one point from the opening seven games there is certainly cause for concern if you’re a Sheffield United fan.
That being said, Paul Heckingbottom’s side have performed quite well in certain games (8-0 aside), with late goals conceded against Nottingham Forest, Spurs and Manchester City denying them a few more points. Cameron Archer appears to be their main attacking threat despite only scoring once this season and Gus Hamer is a player that I really admire and wish Fulham would’ve signed this summer.
How do we prepare?
It’s a game that Fulham have to be looking to win if we’re serious about establishing ourselves as a mid-table Premier League side, so how do Fulham prepare for this one?
I’d make four changes to the side that lost 2-0 on Monday night with Calvin Bassey, Alex Iwobi, Bobby De Cordova-Reid and Carlos Vinicius coming in for Tim Ream, Andreas Pereira, Harry Wilson and Raul Jimenez.
Tim Ream has been an excellent servant for Fulham but at 36 there have certainly been question marks from fans if this is one season too many and following a below par performance in the SW6 derby, Bassey has to come in for me. The Nigerian has been solid in the games he has played and getting him to feature with Diop more regularly and build a partnership could be important to Fulham’s future.
Andreas Pereira’s position in the starting line-up has been untouchable since signing in July 2022 due to the lack of depth at Marco Silva’s disposal. That isn’t an issue anymore and the Brazilian’s consistent poor performances along with Iwobi’s lively cameos off the bench means that a change to spark some creativity in the attacking third is needed.
I don’t know what’s going wrong for Harry Wilson at the moment, when the Welshman returned from injury at the back-end of last season he looked like a player with a point to prove and someone who would excel in a starting role. He’s failed to set the world alight with some abject performances this season. De Cordova-Reid’s performances have been slightly better and he has a knack for grabbing a goal during cagey affairs, which is what I feel Saturday’s game will be with the visitors sitting back a lot.
Without trying to sound like a broken record, Vinicius has to start. There’s clearly a player in Jimenez, but it really isn’t working out at the moment. Solid hold-up play is good if there’s chances being created at the end of them and currently the Mexican forward is failing to do that. Vinicius looked alright in the second half against Chelsea with more chances being created through him as well as a desire to get on the end of deliveries into the box.
Elsewhere, there is an argument to be made about Willian and Harrison Reed being dropped. My biggest concern is making too many changes drastically and with Sasa Lukic just returning from injury as well as a lack of depth for Willian, I’d stick with the pair of them for now.
The final verdict
With a tricky run of games after the international break, this is a chance for Fulham to build a healthy gap between themselves and the bottom three. Sheffield United come into this game in a bad run of form as well as murmurings surrounding Heckingbottom’s job. The Blades will have chances in the game but I’m going to go with a narrow Fulham win.