Fans have been saying for weeks now that when we finally click on the pitch, some team is going to take a beating – sadly for Huddersfield it happened this weekend.
For the first time since August, Fulham looked like a side that capable of winning promotion this season. From the first whistle the team took the game to high-flying Huddersfield and with Sone Aluko and Stefan Johansen in blistering form, the visiting team couldn’t cope. In my last article, I stated the need for a plan B and for something to change and Slavisa Jokanovic made many changes going into this game, with the biggest decision being a change in system.
Since the start of the season, Jokanovic has favoured a 4-2-3-1 system, often with Kevin McDonald and Scott Parker operating in the centre of the park. But, on Saturday Fulham started as a 4-1-2-3 with Kevin McDonald anchoring the midfield while Johansen and Tom Cairney operate freely ahead of him.
With Cairney shifted inside, his creativity and genius paired with the work-ethic of Johansen was simply a joy to watch. With Johansen’s ability to be play a variety of roles in midfield, the latest system seemed to provide him with the opportunity to blossom. With Johansen constantly working hard at both ends of the pitch, his commitment made him a candidate for Man of The Match. Sadly for the Norwegian he wouldn’t pick up the Man of the Match award, after summer signing Sone Aluko took centre stage. Sone’s performance was arguably one of the best we’ve seen from a Fulham player since our relegation, with the Nigerian attacker notching 3 assists. Operating on the left-hand side of a 3 pronged attack, Aluko started his run to assist Piazon’s goal in his own half where he was surrounded by a number of Huddersfield players, before working his way into an attacking position before he delightfully chipped the ball perfectly for Piazon to nod home from close range.
I’ll openly admit that I was dubious about the arrival of Sone Aluko, but I am happily eating humble pie after the player continues to impress and is probably the stand-out candidate for Player of the Season so far. Long may his form continue – keep up the good work Sone!
But while the men behind the forward have found their feet, Fulham now have a striker within their squad full of confidence and that’s Chris Martin. The Derby loanee has now netted 4 times in his last 4 games, and is showing the form that made him Derby’s leading goal scorer for a number of seasons. The Scotsman seems to be the complete forward, with his link up play being just as important as his finishing. Playing the system we do, having a striker who can bring the other attackers into play is vital and now Martin is settling we could potentially have a 20 goal a season leading the line. With the option to sign him on a permanent basis in January, let’s hope the board upon the cheque book on this one.
Looks like the board did hit the jackpot in the loan market this season with Tomas Kalas & Lucas Piazon emerging as key members of the team. With Kalas back in the back four, we look a much more organised and tighter unit. The Czech’s calmness and composure to play the ball out from the back and cover his partner is vital, and with Fulham wanting to reach the top six this system, keeping him fit will be priceless. While our chances of securing Kalas on a permanent deal may be slim, Piazon has hinted that he is looking for a long-term move away from Chelsea. With his loan expected to be extended in January, maybe the club could persuade the Brazilian to stay next summer should the price be right at the end of the season.
Fulham now face a run of tough fixtures, starting with a derby game against Brentford this weekend. With Button returning to his former club, he will have his work cut out after a couple of shaky performances in recent weeks, and Marcus Bettinelli knocking on the door for the number one shirt. With Brentford having high hopes for their season, this will be another big test for Jokanovic’s men to prove to the fans that we can achieve big things this term.