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The Craven Corner: Is It Time To Be Optimistic Again?

Fulham are back in action this weekend as they prepare to take on last year’s play-off finalists, Sheffield Wednesday.

After back to back wins for the Whites, Fulham should be full of confidence heading into the next two fixtures against teams who are expected to be in the promotion race this season; Sheffield Wednesday and Brighton. Both sides have more than enough quality to destroy anyone in this division, and if Fulham make it 4 wins on the spin, there’s no reason why Jokanovic’s men can’t achieve a top six finish this season.

Despite Sheffield Wednesday losing their last two games, we can’t expect it to be an easy game. With the likes of Fernando Forestieri, Steven Fletcher, Gary Hooper & former Fulham loanee, Urby Emanuelson amongst their ranks they possess more than enough attacking talent to cause any defence trouble. Even though they have underachieved so far this season, they are just waiting to hit form and hopefully that doesn’t come against us.

What will be interesting from the next two games is that both Brighton and Sheffield Wednesday play in a very similar style to ourselves; they both want to dominate possession and when it comes down to match day it will be a massive battle in midfield. With Jokanovic seemingly finding his best system in recent weeks involving a midfield trio of Cairney, Johansen and McDonald, all three will have to continue their stellar displays should we want to continue our winning run. Since the change in system, we have been able to get the very best out of McDonald and Johansen, which in turn allows Cairney to operate freely in the centre of the park and when Tom is allowed to play in those gaps, chances are created by the bucket load.

At the start of the season, I predicted it would be a season of transition for Fulham and I’d be happy with a top twelve finish considering the past 2 years. As much as I don’t want to get carried away and start looking too hopeful, there’s no denying the quality we have in this squad. Without a shadow of doubt, it’s our strongest squad we’ve had in the Championship and would probably outclass the squad that got us relegated from the Premier League. Should we manage to keep our stars injury free and in form, there’s no reason why we can’t achieve big things this season. Yes, last month’s form was tough but we are going to have those games as the squad settles, but now that they are settling down and getting used to the style, we are seeing big rewards.

Another example of that was the performance in the derby against Brentford. A game that comes with massive pressure due to the importance of it to the fans, and it was a game the squad didn’t shy away from. The team played as a unit from back to front, and on another day Fulham could have scored 4 or 5 with the chances that were being carved out. I know I’ve sung the praises of midfield and attacking talent in recent weeks, I can’t overlook the back to back clean sheets either.

With the return of Ryan Fredericks & Tomas Kalas, Fulham’s back line looks immensely stronger. In my eyes, Kalas has been a complete revelation in defence for Fulham. The Czech from Chelsea has all the attributes to succeed in the modern game. He’s quick to cover ground and he’s exceptional with the ball at his feet too. While, I hope and pray that there’s a chance for him to be at Fulham for the long-term, I’m very happy he’s here for this season at least and will be key to this season’s final position in the table. As for Fredericks, it’s great to see him back in the side. Arguably the fastest player we’ve had at the club, his work ethic and influence at both ends of the pitch is key to the way Jokanovic wants to play. With the pace Fredericks possesses, it allows him to join in with the likes of Piazon & Aluko in wider areas, forcing a 2 on 1 situation against their full-back, or if their winger tracks back too, creates space inside for the likes of Johansen and Cairney to operate. While, Denis Odoi created headlines earlier in the season, Fredericks seems to have the starting spot on the team sheet for now, being the better all-round full-back that is required.

There’s definitely a lot of reasons to be optimistic at Fulham right now and I’m really excited to see how strongly we finish 2016. I’m also really excited for the Brighton game as it’s a fixture I’ve missed, so I’m looking forward to finally visiting the Amex!

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