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Why Andreas Pereira is Wednesday’s real comeback story

8th December 2023

Jordan Forward says sorry Raul, we love you – but our Brazilian number 10’s resurgence is the more important redemption arc from Wednesday’s win.

Obviously, Raul deserves heaps of praise for his two finishes against Nottingham Forest, and no doubt he’ll get it with most pundits still desperately wringing a narrative from the Mexican’s significant post-injury dry spell. But anyone who’s been watching his performances closely won’t have been surprised to see him on the scoresheet. No, the real surprise from Fulham’s 5-0 dismantling of Forest is Andreas Pereira’s hat-trick of assists and the vastly improved shift he put in.

Andreas carried the ball well, made vital defensive contributions, cracked the post from a set piece, and stitched Fulham’s flanks together like a master craftsman. Fans have given him a rough time all season, but the Pereira slander stops here.

A drop-off

In fairness to those calling for him to lose his place in Marco Silva’s starting XI, Pereira has been a shadow of his former self this season. Whether it was because of the ankle break he suffered in May or the departure of Fulham’s Serbian striker, Pereira’s form had been in freefall going into the Forest game, with only a clever finish against Arsenal to save his blushes. With goals drying up post-Mitro, the onus has been on Fulham’s midfield to supply both chances and goals, and Pereira simply hasn’t been up to the task.

His industriousness and improved defensive abilities under Silva have been the only qualities making his regular starts anything other than scandalous. He’s struggled to beat the first man from set-pieces, wasted countless breaking opportunities, and overcomplicated play when Fulham’s misfiring attack has been crying out for simplicity.

Redemption

Pereira looked unlikely to turn things around at the start of the Forest game, giving the ball away in the very first minute with a scuffed cross, but he quickly settled into the match, pressing alongside Jimenez and linking the play well in transitions. He was always looking for or making space for Iwobi on his right, but he roamed left too, providing a central option to Willian whenever Robinson was sitting deep. He plugged gaps all over the pitch, shifting into a right-back position to cover an advanced Castagne and dropping deep to provide the defense with a safe pass.

He earned his first round of applause in the 20th minute, after racing back into his own box to knick the ball off Elanga, before skipping away from an incoming challenge and threading an outside of the foot pass into Iwobi, springing a fresh attack. Minutes later he won a free-kick just outside the Forest box, which he was almost able to convert.

May I assist you?

But it was in the 34th minute that we finally saw Pereira’s first assist of the season. Palhinha starts the move with a trademark sliding interception, but it’s Andreas that finds the space between Forest’s defenders, holds his run, and has the awareness and weight of pass to slip Jimenez in. It’s only a couple of quick touches, but the way Pereira traps the ball and shimmies draws an extra defender in and gives him a line of sight to spot the onrushing Raul. Simple stuff, yes, but perfectly executed.

The next assist is even better. Pereira gets the ball from a quick free kick, turns to see Jimenez’s run, and lofts a sumptuous 25-yard pass into his path that effectively takes two defenders out of the game. Raul’s chest control, strength, and cheeky rabona backheel finish were all perfect too, but the move was made by Pereira.

What follows is probably the best five minutes of football Fulham have played all season, eliciting ‘olé’s from the crowd at the cottage, and Pereira is at the heart of every free-flowing move. He runs around in a near-constant diamond, connecting up attacking play between Iwobi, Cairney, and Willian, keeping the Forest defense guessing as to when the killer pass will come.

Hardworking

His final assist isn’t anywhere near as impressive, but the fact that Pereira’s still pressing Forest’s backline into the 86th minute is testament to his work-rate. Again, he’s sharp and alert to cushion the intercepted ball back into Cairney’s path and he makes no mistake with the one-two, leaving Cairney with all the time in the world to slot Fulham’s fifth past Vlachodimos.

There’s more at play here than Pereira finally showing up with a big performance. Jimenez carried his fine hold-up play against Liverpool into this match, providing a consistent focal point for Andreas to link up with. Iwobi and Cairney are playing well too, and together they provide the perfect complements to Pereira, the Nigerian offering real penetration and a tangible goal threat, while Cairney’s recently acquired physicality and calmness means Andreas can always offload some pressure without relinquishing the attacking initiative.

And yes, that Forest side was dreadful. We’d be foolish to expect the same level of performance from Pereira or anyone else on the squad against West Ham on Sunday, but in the same way that Raul’s Villa goal spurred him into form, this hat-trick of assists could be the kind of result that finally kicks off Pereira’s season.

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