Somewhere along the line, Fulham will have to get through this adversity, figure out their best starting XI and system, and come up with a signature win this Premier League season. They had an opportunity when they bounced back to claim a draw against Watford. They almost had Tottenham on the ropes early this season, so it’s not like the club haven’t put any effort into this season. But it just seems like this past month has been a landmine full of errors and lack of confidence.
If Fulham are to get a win, it might as well happen at home in front of a raucous support that will have their backs the whole way through. In spite of calls for Slavisa Jokanovic to be fired by the mainstream media, owner Shahid Kahn posted on the club website to dispell any rumor left, right, and center. Vice versa, the sentiment from the supporters have been the same. As much as it would be a good idea to remove someone who has shown inept qualities in being able to make adjustments and to find the correct starting XI in an instant, we only need to look back to the years before Jokanovic to remind us why it is a bad idea to chuck and change managers for the sake of it.
Are we really sure Roger Schmidt or Leonardo Jardim would want to come to a club whose goal is simply to avoid relegation? Also, do you reeeeeeeeeally want Sam Allardyce to manage Fulham? As if Jean-Michael Seri hasn’t been underachieving enough.
In the meantime, Bournemouth come to town and have performed brilliantly in these first nine games of the Premier League season. They currently sit sixth in the league, but their underlying numbers indicate that they shouldn’t be too far off a Champions League place.
That’s right, tiny little Bournemouth are a few underachieving performances from Tottenham and Arsenal regressing to the mean away from playing the best Europe has to offer in 2019/20!
So that’s it then, Fulham are doomed in this occasion, right? Well not exactly. Every Premier League side is unbeatable and positivity has to be found from the data available. According to whoscored, Bournemouth are generally out-shot 12.0-12.7 in any given Premier League contest. Along with that, only Manchester City are worse in accruing successful tackles and only Chelsea are worse in generating interceptions. Now that might mean that Bournemouth are a high possession team just like all of the big six clubs in England, so their opportunities to make defensive actions happen are don’t exist. But the Cherries’ 49.6% time on the ball this season will tell you otherwise.
If anything, manager Eddie Howe has his side sitting deep in defense and hoping to capitalize on opposition mistakes and spring board their attack with killer passes. Add in a touch of strong shot selection and finishing and you could see why Bournemouth are pulling off what you would expect a well functioning Everton to do.
So in short, the opportunities will come Fulham, but they have to be smart with the ball at their feet. As has been the case since Tom Cairney’s injury, all will depend on how the midfield will get set up and how they are able to springboard the attack. If that cannot take place, expect another defeat in the manner Kit Symons teams were too accustomed to. But until proven otherwise, Bournemouth are not a 100% guarantee of victory, so Fulham need to find their chance and take it.
On that note, are are the three players to watch that are coming from the south coast.
First up has been Bournemouth’s star man all season with three goals and four assists into his account. It is really nice to see the 26-year old Wilson on full display because his injury record is one you don’t wish on even your worst enemies. Now that he back in full force, he’s been able to display his speed and a very underrated passing ability that hasn’t come out at any time since his club entered into the Premier League. Now Wilson’s 2.94 expected assists is far enough from his actual total that we expected regression to the mean to occur. But if anything else, it is a sign that Bournemouth’s attacking players do a very good job at linking up play well with each other to set up shots most likely to go in for goals. Wilson’s play will surely test a backline and goalkeeper that are already lacking in stability and confidence, so Fulham will have to be at their most sharp in limiting his influence in the game.
Next up is one of the hidden gems of the Championship last season that has now become the find of the Premier League. Only 21, David Brooks has made a name for himself in such a short period of time but has really come alive as a multidimensional wide forward who can join in on the press. Along with that, his two goals are already a sign for things to come for the Welsh International and only Wilson has a higher xGChain among Bournemouth players that have played over a quarter of the season. Other elements of his game can be enhanced in comparison to what he showed at Sheffield United last season, but once that comes alive, it will only be a matter of time before bigger named clubs come looking for him.
Lastly, we take a look at one of the long-standing veterans on this Bournemouth side that have been through the trials and tribulations that this club has endured since being promoted to the top flight of English football. At 21, Steve Cook went out on loan to the Vitality Stadium from Brighton and Hove Albion and the rest has been history for him. Now at 27, the center back has garnered 266 appearances for the Cherries and his partnership with captain Simon Francis has been the bedrock for the club during their time together.
While Cook may not join in that much in the buildup play when Bournemouth have the ball, he has been solid in defense this season by leading all Cherries players with 14 interceptions and 35 aerial duels won. There will be no denying who will try to snuff Aleksander Mitrovic out of the game and I expect a good contest between the two stalwarts in that area of the pitch.