He maybe should’ve stayed at home to play endless games of Monopoly Deal but Cam made the trip down to the seaside to bring you this, the Lynx Africa gift set equivalent of positives and negatives.
I can’t believe I willingly swapped Boxing Day bubble and squeak for post Christmas depression. Bournemouth play at the Vitality Stadium, which is befitting because they approached the game with energy and if it were Fulham’s home ground, it would probably be renamed the Cant Be Arsed Arena.
Andoni Iraola has straightened the Cherries out, they’re a cohesive, organised unit and Marco Silva’s Whites, who had achieved their very best form in recent weeks, have seemingly lost their way. It’s a far cry from last season’s 3-0 victory at Selhurst Park, our lack of competent squad depth is coming to the fore and our abrupt lapse has to be addressed before title hopefuls Arsenal visit SW6 on New Year’s Eve.
We had excelled at the turn of December, we were scoring at will, keeping clean sheets and there was a very real feel-good factor amongst the squad. Almost inexplicably, that optimism and inspiration has dissipated and now, while the campaign’s far from over, Marco Silva has to find solutions and we have to rediscover our rebellious edge, that do-or-die ethic that made us an extremely difficult side to subdue. The festive feast of football isn’t over just yet, so get stuck into those leftovers, put the past behind you and look forward to the coming Sunday, our final game of 2023, an occasion Fulham have to rise to without excuses.
The slimmest of pickings
Salvaging positives from matchday 19 is nigh on impossible, I’m reaching for the slimmest of pickings here and even if I can identify one single reason to be chipper, it’ll be at a stretch. Calvin Bassey was probably the only player in black and white that wanted to make a difference, he carried possession with intent, he was combative when he had to get involved directly but it was all for naught. His efforts alone would never be enough, his teammates weren’t up to the task and actually, from a reassuring standpoint, I don’t thing anything more can be said. If you’ve any suggestions, feel free to contribute because I am fresh out of enthusiasm.
No Christmas cheer
Sluggish on the ball, soft as shit at the back and atrociously restrained on the offensive. Silva’s Whites were comprehensively outplayed by the Cherries but it’s not as though the hosts were even made to toil for the spoils. Without question, Fulham’s laboured showing at the Vitality was one of the worst we’ve had to suffer through in recent times, the lads were visibly knackered, we’ve no competitive depth and the strikers we have at our disposal simply aren’t cut out for the Premier League.
Without Raul Jimenez up top, as strange as it is to admit, we had no imagination in the final third and Rodrigo Muniz cannot hold up play whatsoever, as any supposed number nine should. He couldn’t get a game at Middlesbrough last season, so why did anyone at the club believe he was ready to lead the line in the world’s most challenging division? Obviously, he isn’t a first-choice but as injuries and indeed suspensions occur throughout the season, the likelihood of him being involved out of necessity was always high and other than Carlos Vinicius, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a striker more inept than the Brazilian back-up dancer. He offers zilch and I doubt he’ll every acclimatise to the English game.
Containable, predictable, hesitant, at a total loss in virtually every aspect, Fulham depicted a side that could quite easily sleepwalk into a relegation scrap and I don’t think anyone could argue against that. Our sudden U-turn in the space of a fortnight is criminal, we’ve gone from smashing teams 5-0 to barely registering a single meaningful shot on target, a team that set about their business with urgency to a disordered shell fresh out of ideas. I genuinely hope this is a blip blamed on lethargy, but I am concerned and I think there’s valid reason to be so.
Bournemouth were in complete control, they gradually chipped away and they soon exploited our weaknesses out wide on the right and they consistently pinpointed both Kenny Tete and Bobby Decordova-Reid. It wasn’t Tete’s finest outing, by his standards it was one of his worst, BDR’s defensive input was also minimal and that spelled serious trouble. That’s where Bournemouth found joy, they isolated Kenny, hit the overlap and worked the target with certainty. Our defensive concentration was amateurish, although it definitely wasn’t helped by our inactivity in attacking scenarios.
We didn’t move possession convincingly, it was plodding, tedious, and every time play was listlessly slung up field, it was hijacked by the Cherries commanding central defenders and we were pushed onto the back foot by our own inefficient design. The only time Neto laid glove to ball is when he scooped up tame crosses headed for nowhere, we shaded possession but as it was against Burnley, we did bugger all with it because we weren’t equipped to force the initiative, our midfield was bypassed yet again as Alex Scott called the shots, Joao Palhinha was chasing his own tail and there’s only so much Tom Cairney can achieve when there isn’t any movement ahead of him.
Frustrations boiled over as Bernd Leno shoved a child, our collective confidence has plummeted to an all-time low from a stratospheric high and now, tough questions will need to be answered and actions will need to be implemented both on the training field, and in the January transfer window. It was the toughest watch of the Silva era, it will be the easiest three points Bournemouth will pick up this season and defeats such as our latest cannot become a trend because even against the Cherries, a team of similar ability on paper, we were distinctly inferior and that is the cold reality of where this team is currently at.