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Does Andreas Pereira deserve to be in the starting XI?

23rd December 2023

Josh Hallmark asks if our Brazilian playmaker still deserves to start every game for the Whites.

Having struggled to break into a talented Manchester United team, Andreas Pereira has played a crucial role in Silva’s side that finished top 10 last season with a record number of wins in the Premier League.

This campaign however, He’s not been able to replicate the creative style that we used to take for granted and his presence can go unnoticed. The effects of his injury, where he broke his ankle against City at home, may be hindering his performances. Nevertheless, it took until match week 15 for Pereira to pick up his first assist of the season. This was one of three in a spectacular performance against Nottingham Forest. Squad depth is not an issue in our midfield this season so Pereira may need to pull up his socks as someone on our bench will be eagerly waiting for his spot.

Gaps in his game

Pereira’s only goal this season helped earn us an impressive point against Arsenal, opening the scoring in the first minute. Despite this, his goals-per-game ratio has been declining. Last season he scored a goal every 8.25 games whereas now it is one per 17. We know what he is capable of, having scored screamers in the past, such as his goals against West Ham and against Brentford in the pre-season of the 21/22 season for Man U. He even gained the nickname the “Pre-season Pirlo.”

AP knew when the correct opportunity to go for goal was, but it hasn’t felt this way lately. His decision making has been poor. A passage of play against Liverpool particularly stands out. He had the option to play it to Bobby De Cordova-Reid but instead blazed it over the bar, wasting a good chance that we needed to take advantage of. Lately, he’s been slowing down counter attacks and often makes the wrong choice, whether it be choosing an incorrect pass or a wrong time to shoot. On this note, his shooting opportunities have seemed few and far between and part of this is his own doing.

Room for improvement

An aspect of his game that needs to be improved is his anticipation and reading of the game. In circumstances against Palace or Wolves, he has been given the opportunity for a tap in, but he failed to predict the path of the ball and dart into the box. To add more goals to his tally, and more importantly add goals to Fulham’s tally, he must spot the danger areas and attack them. This is especially true in cases where Jimenez received the ball on the wing as our main striker is not available in the box.

It’s not just goals that Pereira is lacking, but assists too. Part of this could be down to the fact we have less of an aerial presence. With the loss of our target man Mitrovic, corner routines have to get more creative. Last season he received 13 of our corners – the second most out of any player in the league. He could be the reason as to why we have only scored 3.7 goals per 100 set pieces so far this season, which ranks us 11th in the table, whereas last season, we scored 5.6 goals per 100 set pieces, which was the second-highest in the league.

Pereira could be partly to blame for this too. In recent encounters, when we haven’t elected to go short, the ball has rarely got past the first man, which is so frustrating to watch. To his credit, Tosin’s header against West Ham came from an excellent corner from Andreas. Not to mention his free kicks that threaten our opponents each time. During his time at Fulham, he has hit the woodwork five times, most recently against Forest. For this reason, he deserves a start but his freekick ability is replaceable by Willian who too can take one just as good.

Competition for places

Since signing Iwobi, we have greater squad depth and options for our midfield. It’s now a given that Iwobi should start in some capacity, due to his enthusiasm, goal-scoring threat and the fact that he has scored three goals. With Tom Cairney’s recent form, it would be extremely harsh for him to not start. Silva has opted to play Iwobi on the wing despite the fact he is better and prefers playing as a number eight. For this reason, it has allowed Pereira to consistently start. This prevents a very in form Wilson from starting and Iwobi playing in the midfield. Silva needs to consider if it is worth sacrificing the strengths of Iwobi in order to start Pereira.

There’s no denying that Pereira is a fantastic player, but you also can’t deny that his form has dipped compared to last season. Despite moments of brilliance, his declining goal and assist contributions have raised concerns, with decision-making lapses evident in crucial matches. In recent games, however, he has mirrored his excellence of the season prior and helped us get back-to-back 5-0 wins and upping his assist tally to four in two games.

As the team adapts to new dynamics, the emergence of Iwobi and the revival of Cairney further complicate Silva’s midfield choices but it seems like Fulham have found the formula to score goals without Mitro and Pereira is a key part in it. If he can maintain these performances, he certainly deserves to keep hold of his position in the starting lineup. One thing that he must improve upon is his anticipation to spot good goalscoring opportunities as well as his decision making so that we can be more threatening on the counterattack. Something is clearly working with Silva’s tactics and line-ups, so why change that? If Silva believes he is the right man for the job, in Silva we trust.

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