Here’s the story all season for Fulham. We know their defense is terrible. And it will probably continue to be terrible regardless of who gets picked there. But if the football club can’t capitalize with their chances at all, which was the foundation of how this squad was built, you might as well kiss Premier League football goodbye. And once again, that is what happened at Craven Cottage as Fulham continued to show their worst qualities against a now white hot West Ham side.
In the first half though, Fulham looked great. They were constantly attacking Lukas Fabianski’s net and generated 12 shots as a result. There were a few highlights from Aboubakar Kamara where he split the defense and put himself alone with only the keeper to beat. But knowing how clumsy the Frenchman can be, he surely put the ball near post for a comfortable diving save by the Poland International. Joe Bryan also put in a few teasing crosses and one did fall to a streaking Aleksander Mitrovic only for him to start so far back and for him to miss his header so late that it fell wide of right-hand post.
But while Fulham kept huffing and puffing, Felipe Anderson was West Ham’s release valve for everything. Surely enough, a move that was started by him on the left hand side continued as a result of a swing-and-a-miss tackle by Denis Odoi, who continues to be assigned play fullback for no logical reason at all. Surely enough, Anderson kept his run going and found a trailing Robert Snodgrass who had all the time and space he needed to put a curling left-footed shot past Sergio Rico. Jean-Michael Seri bluntly should be covering the midfield instead of staying with the back four (except Joe Bryan was no where to be found) but shots from that far away by Snodgrass shouldn’t go in with ease either.
Rico had a poor game where not only could not make desperation saves when it mattered. His decision making and execution for when to come out of the box and clear lines was only just one degree better than Fabri’s performance against Crystal Palace. But along with that, time-and-again Tim Ream keeps getting picked at center back, and time-and-again keeps making the worst decisions possible. Surely enough, West Ham’s second goal came from another Anderson cross into a box with just two center backs covering the two West Ham forwards. Surely enough, the ball was flicked on by Javier Hernandez after beating out Alfie Mawson and a very ignorant Ream who decided to cover him instead of a now horrifyingly wide open Michail Antonio. Surely enough, Antonio was inches in front of Rico and goal and he tucked it passed him so calmly, he might as well have have done it while sipping a Piña Colada to boot.
From there, Fulham simply looked spaded and neutered before the halftime whistle blew. Tom Cairney did his best to create something in attack but no one was streaking with speed for the exceptions of Kamara and substitutes Neeskens Kebano and Cyrus Christie. Even when Kamara was trying to break the defense, he was caught offsides in the most obvious ways imaginable. André Schürrle continued to do André Schürrle things by shooting far and wide and Cairney himself had a go three times as well. In the end, Fulham are still one of the most inefficient attacks you’ll see in England’s top flight and if that doesn’t change, they will stay bottom of the table.
Newcastle had a gutsy win over Huddersfield and will come into next week’s contest with Fulham feeling quite confident. Not many players can put their hands up and say they had a good game today on both sides of the ball. Ryan Sessegnon’s pace was truly missed, but there was no guarantee that he would have affected tonight’s result. The collective has to do better with how to beat teams with their ball movement and speed. Can they do that against a Rafa Benitez, Nuno Santo or even David Wagner coached side that will emphasize a resolute defense? If Fulham have no answers to either of them this month, consider their fate sealed.