So Slavisa Jokanovic, an a day that could see him lose his job as Fulham were facing six defeats in a row, went out and deployed four center backs by trade and a fullback in a formation that was very confusing to understand when first observed. By game time, it was quite clear that this was going to be a counter-attacking system that would hope to catch Liverpool’s attack napping. Instead, Liverpool stayed compact and professional and claimed a comfortable 2-0 win.
But if anything, this defeat was more in line with the one against Tottenham earlier this season than it was against Manchester City or Arsenal. In other words, Fulham didn’t give up, stayed true to their formation and had a game plan that seemed to work earlier in the contest. If anything, they made the Anfield crowd nervous and begged their side to push harder. Liverpool might have gotten away with it in the end and they bluntly were the better team by the game’s end, but that wasn’t without them putting more effort than they were expecting.
Ryan Sessegnon displayed probably his best attacking effort during his time in the Premier League and probably should have taken Fulham out of a possible shootout. In one attempt he received a perfectly placed header from Aleksander Mitrovic that saw him through Liverpool’s defense and with only Alisson to beat him. Unfortunately, Sessegnon was in a rush and decided to shoot outside the box and wide right. Along with that, another long range blast from Andre Schürrle that saw Alisson struggle to gather the ball only for Sessegnon and Mitrovic to fail at putting another shot away themselves. Besides that, that was all of Fulham’s attack. Once more, Fulham’s system essentially neutered their buildup play and Liverpool were able to get going once they figured out how to beat their defensive alignment.
Jurgen Klopp’s trio of Sadio Mané, Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino continued to work in concert as they were seeking to break the deadlock. It was always going to be that Fulham would struggle to stop them: they could only hope to contain them. Along with that Xherden Shakiri was excellent as Liverpool’s most attacking outlet from midfield. Lastly, the strength and speed of Joe Gomez and the endeavor of Trent Alexander-Arnold were brilliant from defense.
Surely enough, the moment of today’s contest is where a Fulham free kick seemed to have been converted into a goal by Mitrovic only for him to be ruled offside. As soon as that decision was made, Alisson kick started a counter-attack to Alexander-Arnold for him to find Salah beating what was left of Fulham’s offside trap and easily make it 1-0. It was a frustrating moment as Jokanovic believed Mitrovic was onside on the play. I don’t see it that way as he was probably half a body length offside and there have been much worse offside decisions in the history of the sport.
Next, Liverpool were able to convert a failed corner attempt where Andrew Robertson was able to find an open Shaqiri where he was able to calmly volley it past Sergio Rico. From there, it was a matter of seeing the game off from the home side as Fulham just struggled to get any attacking output the rest of the way.
As mentioned, this is not an embarrassing performance for the players involved today and Slav can take some pride in that. However, I just don’t know how repeatable of a performance you can get with the same system. Maybe Calum Chambers as a six is an interesting experiment to continue, but besides that, Fulham have to get their buildup play and front three much better if they are ever to stave off relegation. Otherwise the rest of these 26 fixtures ahead will be some of the most miserable to watch. Here’s to an International break to ever get that sorted out.