It was a difficult weekend again for all those connected with Fulham. Sunday’s result is another disappointing loss in a game where once more, the Whites failed to stay competitive for long enough. Giving away the ball too many times and chances came a plenty for Fulham’s opponents, who in all seriousness looked happy to be playing Fulham. Villa are a great side at home, but Fulham did not respect their home record by being more wary and defensively sound.
It’s something that fans of Fulham will have to get used to. It’s hard to imagine a world where Fulham get relegated this season, but if the defence doesn’t start to pull their weight and the team in general fails to keep it tight, then Fulham will flirt with relegation until the end of the season – there can be no doubts there.
The main point of difference this season is not the defence, but the lack of a front man to ease the pressure on the defence and sustain attacks. We crave a man who can take the ball under pressure, win a foul, or bring others into play. Someone who can generate pressure that the team can sustain through fast regains and a high press.
One glimmer of hope and the only real positive Fulham can take is that Raul Jimenez, signed from Wolves last summer, finally opened his account for the club with a tap in after some decent positional play. It was the kind of confidence in front of goal we’ve missed seeing from a Fulham striker this term. It was a good enough run from Jiménez who found himself on the end of a great pass from Robinson, who also assisted Raul’s only other goal in white, against Hoffenheim in pre-season. Fulham will hope there is a connection brewing; it may be too tenuous at the moment, but they will hope, nonetheless.
The truth is Raul has been very short of luck so far in his Fulham career. He’s hit the woodwork on two occasions and has a shooting accuracy of 40% (better than Mitrovic last season). He has also taken 15 shots (six on target) across all competitions. He’s certainly not shy of shooting and can do so in many inventive ways. The problem for him might just be that elusive first goal in a competitive fixture. It’s not quite the goal that comes in a dramatic Fulham win; a consolation in a disappointing afternoon is not exactly glamorous, but it could be a big boost for his confidence in a club that needs a goal-scoring threat.
More than goals
We must remember as well that Raul’s going to get better with the ball at his feet and creating. Fulham have created 11 big chances all season, Raul Jiménez has created two of those. That’s not bad for a player who is out of form and lacking confidence. Add to that he’s not started every Premier League game. Marco once again recited the fact that he has faith in the striker to eventually hit form with more goals, but he would do well to emphasise that the goals should come from all over the pitch and Raul can contribute assists too.
The main issue is creating the chances for him. As Fulham move forward this season, they’ll be relying on him to be Johnny on the spot. The style of delivery and service will need to be much more direct and much quicker. With Fulham crossing deep and high for Mitrovic, the team can no longer loft it in the middle and expect Jiménez to challenge in the same way. The ball must be delivered earlier and to feet, so he can make the most of the touch and shoot mechanism that I believe truly suits his goal scoring style.
With the international break it’s a shame that the players can’t work together now to find the best route to goal via Jiménez, but as the season goes on, it may become more apparent to the wide areas that it is that type of service that will get the best out of him. With Adama Traore back in the side as well, Jiménez may find comfort in a familiar face coming down the right flank.
He may not be the answer to Mitrovic, but while we look for a direct replacement in January and beyond, Raul can provide some hope that the team can operate on a higher goal scoring level by playing to his strengths and feeding him fast and early. There is a goal scorer in there, he just needs the right service, and he could come into the goals now that his long wait for one is over.