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Why Tom Cairney needs to start against Nottingham Forest

Written by Jack Stroudley on 5th December 2023

Tom Cairney and other players warming up ahead of the game against Sheffield United. Copyright Adam Farquharson.
Tom Cairney and other players warming up ahead of the game against Sheffield United. Copyright Adam Farquharson.

Jack Stroudley makes a case for our club captain to return to the starting XI tomorrow.

While the loss on Sunday still hurts, Fulham fans can be proud of the effort shown over the past week with six goals scored in the last two fixtures. We look to finally be ticking in the final third – albeit without a goal-scoring number nine, and I think a lot of that is down to the inclusion of Tom Cairney. Our club captain picked up an assist at Anfield and was also brought down for our first penalty Monday night – and, for me, he has to start against Nottingham Forest in midweek.

The opposition

The main argument for TC starting is down to the lack of possession that Nottingham Forest like to have. Steve Cooper’s side have the fourth lowest average possession in the league (41.1%) only beaten by Luton Town, Sheffield United and Everton. This suits our club captain down to tee; he has averaged 7.95 progressive passes per 90 minutes this season as well as 2.08 progressive carries. He’s a real creative hub for Fulham whenever he plays and despite being 32, is currently playing some of his best football in a Fulham shirt.

He’s also keeping play ticking as well misplacing just eight passes out of a possible 91 over the last two games. As well as this, he’s also showing some defensive prowess to his game with eight out of twelve duels won against the opposition last week.

Who does he replace?

I’ve been the first to discredit Andreas Pereira this season for his poor performances but I actually thought he was okay on Sunday against Liverpool. That being said, given the lack of possession that Nottingham Forst like to have, I would love to see a midfield of Palhinha, Reed and TC.

Reed’s ability to sit slightly deeper, press opponents and then bring the ball forward could be important to how we play on Wednesday night and having Cairney slightly further forward to calm the game down and pick out intricate passes could allow us to unlock the Nottingham Forest defence and create chances.

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