Fulham continued their unbeaten streak this weekend after taking all three points from their fixture with Preston.
With Fulham continuing their unbeaten streak, Jokanovic made just one change from the starting eleven against Newcastle - Scott Parker in for Ryan Tunnicliffe. Despite Parker nearing the end of his playing career, the veteran midfielder once again rolled back the years to put in a tireless performance alongside Kevin McDonald in the centre of the park. With Parker in fine form, Fulham ensured they would dictate the midfield, allowing McDonald to once again orchestrate the side in attack from deep.
With Jokanovic revamping the squad this summer, a much needed injection of pace has been added to the team, and with Sone Aluko & Floyd Ayite being the main outlets in attack, Fulham can finally stretch teams and get them on the back foot much quicker than previous seasons when the side has been too slow or overly patient in possession.
Matt Smith would once again lead the Fulham attack at Preston, and the target man made it 2 in 2 this season, when he added a 2nd in the 67th minute after summer signing, Aluko netted from close range with a header. With Fulham facing Leeds this evening (7:45pm), Smith could find himself starting against his former side. Despite Cauley's impressive performance in the EFL Cup against Leyton Orient, Matt Smith is expected to retain his place in the side after maintaining his 1:1 goals to game ratio. I think its fair to say that many fans wouldn't have expected Matt Smith to lead the Fulham attack this season. But, after being linked with a move to Wolves, it seems the former Leeds striker has stepped up to the challenge of becoming the leading man after the departure of Ross McCormack & Moussa Dembele this summer.
I have to admit that I have been very impressed by Sone Aluko since joining. He was a player that I had many concerns and doubts about before joining. Before he joined I didn't feel he was the right option for us, but after seeing him play in a Fulham shirt, he's been one of a few players to get me out of my seat. His emergence in the number ten role is something I didn't foresee, but seems to be a role that he has truly blossomed in and enjoyed. The same would also go to Floyd Ayite who was a relatively unknown quality before joining. He may have been outshone by Aluko so far but he has shown glimmers of what he is capable of in the first two league games. But, with Ayite I still feel there is a lot more to his game and once he has had a good 10 or so games at this level, I think he'll take his performance to a higher level and we'll probably see his name etched on the scoresheet on a regular basis.
Despite Leeds' poor start to the season, this is no easy game for Fulham tonight. Garry Monk will be desperate to get his season started, and with the home crowd behind them, Leeds will look to end Fulham's unbeaten streak at Elland Road. Similarly to us, Leeds are also going through a transitional phase, with another new manager drafted in this summer and they are currently going through a squad overhaul. Although this could potentially work in our favour, as they are yet to settle, if the likes of Hernandez, Mowatt & Sacko are provided the time and space to create something this evening, the new look back four of Fulham will have their work cut out for them.
I can't see there being much rotation for Fulham tonight, with the only change I foresee is potentially the return of Ryan Tunnicliffe instead of Parker. But, this will depend on the veteran's fitness after playing at Preston. If the captain is fit enough to play again, then there's no reason why he shouldn't feature this evening. Although many fans will be calling for new signing Jozabed to start, I feel that it's best to stick with a winning side to continue our momentum and build up some consistency. Should Fulham be winning with half hour remaining, then that could be the ideal time to introduce the Spaniard, as he would be able to learn the Championship tempo without too much pressure on his shoulders.
What's most pleasing about our start to the season is that it's clear to see what our Head Coach, Slavisa Jokanovic is capable of. It seems there is a clear game-plan and philosophy installed in this squad, and that's whats most exciting about the future with him in charge. We seem to have addressed key issues within the squad from last season, while adding the necessities to create a competitive match-day squad at this level. Even though we have sold our strike force from last season, Jokanovic has devised a new system and style to balance out and share the goalscoring duties across his front-line, making the side much more versatile. With Fulham still in the market for another 4 or 5 players, it's an incredibly exciting time for the fans. After the success of the signings already, I have no doubt that the remaining summer business will be just as successful. With Fulham finally regaining some identity on the pitch, it's satisfying to see that the fans are getting a side they can once again be proud of.
Predicted 11 v Leeds (4-2-3-1):
Odoi Kalas Madl Malone
Cairney Aluko Ayite
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The next 'Craven Corner' column will be featuring in the match-day programme on the 10th of September for our home game against Birmingham City.
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