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Statistical Preview: Fulham vs. Derby County - Second Leg

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Can Fulham move on to Wembley?

Derby County v Fulham - Sky Bet Championship Play Off Semi Final:First Leg Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

So judgement day is upon us! Fulham are either going to Wembley Stadium for the Playoff Final or they will be ending their season wondering what might have been. This football club won’t go away anytime soon, but you can truly feel the tension in the air among the supporters that this may be the end of such a bright era for Fulham. Everyone in the top flights of England and Europe are going after Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon. Ryan Fredericks could leave the club on a free transfer while the likes of Kevin McDonald, Stefan Johansen, Denis Odoi, Neeskans Kebano and Floyd Ayite have until next season to have their fates decided by the club via the transfer market if retooling has to be required. And who on Earth knows what will happen to Lucas Piazon, Aleksander Mitrovic, Matt Targett, Sheyi Ojo and Tomas Kalas now that they would return to their respective parent clubs. In short, tonight is a night that could decide where this club goes in the near future.

But as mentioned before, if these opportunities only come around such a few amount of times, we have to take advantage of it. And I include us supporters in this regard. This is the opportunity for this squad of players to give it one last go in front of a raucous Craven Cottage and make this the night of their lives. But they can not do it alone. They need all the support they can get. There will be tense times. Like last Friday, nothing will come easy for them. Expert opinion here, but they will have what it takes to get the job done if they can be able to cash in on their chances.

First Leg Stats

Teams Goals Expected Goals Possession Formations Total Shots Shots on Target Passes Forward Passes
Teams Goals Expected Goals Possession Formations Total Shots Shots on Target Passes Forward Passes
Fulham 0 0.8 73.8 4-3-3 13 2 783 492
Derby County 1 0.1 26.2 3-4-3 3 1 269 187
All data from fivethiryeight.com and fulhamfc.com

As shown in the stats from the first leg, you couldn’t ask for lots more out of Fulham at Pride Park, especially in the second half. Derby took their one shot on goal with a plum. Fulham, on the other hand, had roughly three to five good looks towards goal and only one of them were on target.

You could argue that Fulham were playing way too cautious in the first half and that is certainly true, but Derby’s 3-4-3 was perfectly designed to hit them on the counter-attack, as evidenced by the high percentage of passes going forward. Along with that, you can also argue that Fulham’s 0.8 expected goals is simply not enough to squeeze out of the 13 total shots they had. They simply have to find a way to get through Curtis Davies and Co., get more touches in the Derby penalty area and be more threatening when the opportunities there to put one past the keeper.

Speaking of Davies, there was no denying that he was immense and put in a captain’s performance in “shutting down” Mitrovic. At the end of the day, five tackles, six interceptions and four clearances is an incredible workload, but it’s not like Mitrovic was non-existent either. His three shots were still near his season average of 4.34 per 90 minutes, but only one of them went on target, in comparison to the 42.3% efficiency that he has had with Fulham.

On the other side of the spectrum, you would have thought Jerome would be this colossus after scoring such an important goal for Derby County. However, the 31-year old has had such a topsy-turvy career that it would be so fitting for people to skip the narrative after last Friday. While he was with Norwich this campaign, Jerome only had one goal off of 26 shots because only five of said shots went on target. At Derby, those numbers have improved to six goals off of 20 shots with 10 of them going on target. Find middle ground between the two sets of data and you basically have Jerome’s goal rate (0.32 per 90 minutes), and percentage of shots on target (35.2%) since his data has been recorded at whoscored.com (‘09-’10 Season). However, it is important to notice that his usual shot rate (2.47 per 90 minutes in 18,725 league minutes) has decreased over time (2.20 per 90 minutes in 17/18). Again though, if you have an opportunity like only needing to beat a shorter Matt Targett in an aerial battle to smash a powerful header home, you have to take it and that is what Jerome did right there.

Which leaves us to one final question. Who else can step up for Fulham if Mitrovic can’t score? Simply put, it is time to see what Floyd Ayite and Ryan Sessegnon are made of. Tom Cairney will do what he does best, but while one of his curling efforts from distance could see Fulham through, it’s not the most sustainable shot in football to count upon every night. Stefan Johansen could be StefJo, but he’s been so Jekyll and Hyde all season that supporters don’t know which one will show up tonight.

As for Ayite, since he is in his age-29 season, you know what you are getting out of him: a high volume dribbler that does shoot with volume (2.59 per 90 minutes this season), but very rarely do you see him be efficient with it since he very rarely steps inside the penalty area. That said, to see 36.0% of his total shots be inside the 18-yard box is an increase to the 31.8% rate that we normally see.

Lastly, this is not the first time I have mentioned that Sessegnon has to shoot more and while the teenager has been immense all season, his goal scoring has begun to dry up. In his last twelve games, the 17-year old has only scored once. His overall production since is as follows:

Sessegnon Before & After

Ryan Sessegnon Games Minutes Goals Shots Penalty On Target Key Passes Dribbles
Ryan Sessegnon Games Minutes Goals Shots Penalty On Target Key Passes Dribbles
Since March 3rd 12 994 1 1.09 0.92 0.67 1.00 1.18
Up to March 3rd 35 3123 14 1.33 0.74 0.35 1.21 1.30
All data from whoscored.com

As you can see, Sessegnon has been so selective with his shot that he is no longer pulling on the trigger like he once was. As a result, the rest of his attacking game is dwindling while defenders are beginning to limit his space in the areas he likes to shoot in. Slavisa Jokanovic is right in that others have to help out the teenage wonder, but for Fulham to win tonight, Sessegnon has to get back to basics and remember what made him special in the first place.

Here’s to hoping Fulham’s wildest dreams continue to come true.