Cottagers Confidential: Since Kit Symons has taken over Fulham have been one of the better teams. They've amassed 1.8 points per game and scored nearly 2 goals a game with a +8 GD. If you extrapolate that out over the entire season so far. Fulham would have 40 points, scored 40 goals, and have a +12 GD. Somehow though AFC Bournemouth is lapping the field. Over that same period they've amassed 31 points, scored 37 goals, and have a +22 GD. How can you explain this kind of success and was it something you expected?
First of all I have to say that's some research and perhaps a case of what might have been for Fulham fans if you had started the season like that. The turnaround since Kit Symons has been in charge is very impressive and the players are certainly following his instructions pretty well. I think the Fulham match will be as difficult as when we played Ipswich at home a few weeks ago. You have a good young team as well as some experienced players.
Much of AFCB's goal difference is made up from the two big away wins at Birmingham (0-8) and Blackpool (1-6). Take those two results out and you reduce the goal difference by 13. Bournemouth have been playing better away from home and if you look at the season's total of 50 goals only 22 have been scored at home, averaging 2 per game. I hope I am not giving Fulham fans too many reasons to be confident.
Expected? I don't think anyone really knows how their team will play before a ball has been kicked. But the signs were their last season with the strong run we had in March that this was a team that could go on a winning run of games in the Championship and not too many teams manage that.
CC: Bournemouth have scored 10 more goals than their closest competitor in the league. How much of that gaudy number is simply the maulings that you gave to Birmingham and Blackpool (8-0, and 6-1)? Substituting more normal scorelines there (say 3-0 and 3-1) would drop the goals scored over the last 15 equal to Fulham and would bring you back to the rest of the league quite a bit. Is there a secret to the offense? Is there any way to shut it down? Or is it just a good offense that is flattered by stats because of those two games?
Okay, I kind of answered some of that agreeing with you in the last answer. The start of the season was most difficult for Bournemouth as we played most of the teams that were on the top six at that time away from home - Norwich, Watford and Derby. Since October it's only been Middlesbrough who have looked better than Bournemouth at times and when we played them at the Riverside. The run we have been on of 12 unbeaten is what you have to look at. the next best is Ipswich who are on nine unbeaten and they are second. We have also won more games than any other Championship team in a row at six. I think Brentford are next best who won five in a row. So don't look at AFCB and think they are in a false position on the football they have played so far. This team is more than just about two big away wins. AFCB stretch teams with Wilson's pace and with lots of width on both wings as you'll see. Teams often score against the Cherries, but the problem is keeping our players from scoring at the other end too.
The offensive side of Bournemouth's game is something that few teams have managed to deal with. The only teams that have stopped AFCB from scoring are Derby and Middlesbrough. More importantly, the team has lots of goalscorers. Only Tommy Elphick and the goalkeepers are without a goal from the usual starting 11. So if you thought Callum Wilson was your only problem, think again.
CC: Your team is flying high, but as the January window approaches every team could use some strengthening. If there was one player on Fulham you could poach, who would it be and why?
Good question. Especially when there are rumours that Fulham want to pinch Matt Ritchie from AFCB. I don't think Bournemouth will spend much in January as long as they can retain the services of Artur Boruc in goal. Looking at Fulham's squad most of the former Premier League players that are left are forwards, but you have a young midfielder that has caught the eye - Lasse Vigen Christensen. He is a good age and plays with a lot of control and has a good habit of scoring goals so I would go for him, which will probably a surprise to some who would go for a World Cup star like Bryan Ruiz or last year's highest scorer in the Championship - Ross McCormack. However, AFCB look for balance and good possession footballers and Christensen has the kind of qualities that would fit into our team, although he'd find it hard to get a start in the current team. Just look at the quality we have on the bench - Dan Gosling for one!
CC: Finally, could you predict a scoreline and lineup?
It is tough to predict a scoreline as I think this is the hardest game AFCB have had in some while. Coming off the back of a big win can add pressure as the home fans want to see a good scoreline as well. Fulham are also in good form scoring four against Sheffield Wednesday without reply last weekend. As my next door neighbour is also a huge Fulham fan and I still think Fulham could make the play-offs, I am going to duck this one a bit by saying I fancy a 1-1 draw, although I'll be yelling the lads on to try and help them get a 2-1 win.
Eddie Howe does not offer too many surprises when the team is winning so it should be the same lineup as our last game against Blackpool - Boruc, Francis, Elphick, Cook, Daniels, Ritchie, Arter, Surman, Pugh, Pitman, Wilson. Watch out out for Yann Kermorgant if he comes on from the bench! He is due a goal.