What a week of total joy for Fulham Football Club. We’ve scored more goals than any team in the league since the start of November. We scored more goals last week than we did in a full season of Premier League football under Scott Parker. All that hard work in the training ground is paying off. Fans are starting to see the kind of Fulham that they got to know well under Marco Silva.
The first couple of months of this campaign haven’t been easy; results were patchy, and the four-game run before the latest international break battered morale. Fulham have been relying heavily on Bernd Leno and the back four to help the team put points on the board. All the stats point to a lack of goals being the real issue though. There was a goal difference of minus 15 at one point. There was a lower expected goals ratio than all teams in the division bar Luton.
It was becoming a problem that many thought Fulham would not solve until January at the earliest. Any striker Fulham invested in would have to hit the ground running. A very hard ask, there would have been a lot of pressure on that signing, who may have failed to live up to expectation. It could have been a worrying winter. But thankfully, Raul Jiménez has found confidence at a time when many were thinking that come January, he would be replaced, and then benched indefinitely.
TC steps up
The international break came at the right time for Fulham. After an unconvincing display at Villa Park the team went through some very much needed soul searching. Tom Cairney mentioned in an interview that after that display, the training ground had not been a happy place. When the players came back, Cairney would have been spending the time honing his off-field talents as a leader. A captain. We can only guess whether Marco Silva and Tom Cairney met to discuss the team’s tactics and Cairney’s own playing time, but it seems that Cairney has come to the manager’s aid at a crucial time. And Marco has been rewarded for trusting him.
Cairney has made 300 appearances for Fulham now and been through every single emotion that a football club can offer. It’s worth pointing out that even Marco Silva could have benefitted from his experience and wisdom. The calm he has brought to the midfield has been so very needed. We have his ability to thank for instilling an almost Slavisa-like style of play into the team’s last few performances. His personal stats in the last few games are quite breathtaking. He has made five starts, he’s got a goal and two assists. The main thing he has on his midfield compatriots though is his passing accuracy, which stands at 87%. He keeps possession, for a team that needed a more considered approach going forward, this is the standout stat.
Starting to click
The rebirth of Raul has also helped the team’s belief grow. The team now feel they have a striker who will score, helping relieve the pressure on the defence. But the notable absence of Tim Ream, should not go unmentioned either. Tosin has returned and brought the balance to the back four. He has also brought the best out of Bassey, his fellow countrymen, who is now playing on his preferred left side of the centre-back pairing. Fulham should be very grateful that they have the squad depth needed to rotate during a busy festive period. Tosin may well sign a new deal if he believes his career can grow at Fulham rather than elsewhere. It may take the conclusion of January before Fulham see him sign a new deal, but with the team growing in confidence, he is even more likely to commit.
Time to kick on
It’s hard to see a more revitalised team in the division since that break in early November. But it cannot end here. This must be the platform on which to build. A few games where it all comes together are important; these victories serve as a reason to believe again. But Fulham need to kick on now.
We stayed up last year by having an impeccable record against the bottom-half teams. These last few games show that we can at least attempt to better their record this year, but in order to really establish themselves, a big scalp or two this season will be critical to the overall success in the league, not to mention our cup run, which looks like it could really take off if we beat Everton in a week’s time.
Looking ahead, our real defining moment will come in January, when we see who arrives and who leaves. For now, we know that if the team keeps performing well, if it’s a happy camp, some players who wanted to move on will potentially stay for the rest of the season. If the team can use this run of results to motivate themselves even more, it will help make sure that players both stay in Motspur Park, and new recruits come in.
Second season syndrome was starting to look like it might be a possibility a few weeks ago, but Marco Silva’s mentality has been unwavering. He’s had full faith in the team that he put together, and now it’s evident that the team is starting to gel.
Fulham fans will be delighted that the team has navigated their way through this period of transition. But Marco will be hoping, as will the Fulham board and fans alike, that this is just the beginning. It’s time to start looking up the table.