If you want to find a more Fulhamish statistic that would best describe this season, all you need to do is find it on one tweet.
Burnely did not have a single shot on target at home against Fulham in the Premier League today.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 12, 2019
They won 2-1. pic.twitter.com/0RHbyyso7c
Yeah, it was that bad of a night, and it truly encapsulated everything that is wrong with Fulham this 2018/19 season, even when they do their very best.
Because believe me, Fulham tried! You just need André Schürrle’s wonder strike in just the second minute to show that this side were bringing it from the start. There was organization in defense and Burnley couldn’t get anything going at all. But all that lasted a good 10 minutes.
Before you know it, Burnley’s midfield might as well as be as creative as Arsenal’s as Calum Chambers and Jean Michael Seri struggled mightily to close them down cleanly all half. From there the likes of Ashley Westwood, Dwight McNeil and Jeff Hendrick were completely bossing things in the final third and Fulham’s defenders couldn’t do much to stop it. In particular, a cross that came in to Chris Wood was failed to get cleared by Sergio Rico and the shot went off the post instead. It was a warning sign all match as to what was to come.
Surely enough, a McNeill cross in the box led to a potential foul by Joe Bryan on Ashley Barnes inside the six-yard box. However, played continued and Hendrick put a ball in that only led to Bryan sending it into his own net to make it 1-0. Next, it was McNeill’s turn to whip in a ball in which Denis Odoi somehow couldn’t head away from his own net. Now, it was 2-1 without a single Burnley player making much of an effort to hit Rico’s gloves. It was downright inconsolable! And with Alfie Mawson being out for another month due to another knee injury, this is the lot Claudio Ranieri has no other choice but the ones already out there to pick from.
From there Burnley were constantly on the front foot thanks to an 8-3 total shots advantage as Fulham constantly couldn’t string any passes together. Plenty of that was that their clearance attempts were some of the worse you will find in England’s top flight all evening and were constantly pinned in the final third as result. If it wasn’t for a Calum Chambers header that was struck so hard, it might as well have broken the crossbar in half, Burnley were by far and away the most dominant side. By the end of the half, Fulham’s pass completion percentage of 71% is just such a shocking contrast to what was expected of them under Slavisa Jokanovic, yet this is now what is expected under such a conservative system employed by Ranieri.
The second half was a little bit better but once again it started with a halftime substitution. I personally felt like Ryan Sessegnon had a solid game and had the potential to create some things if he had more time to show his worth. Instead, Ranieri thought it was a good idea to bring on public enemy number one Luciano Vietto. The Argentinian forward almost gave the manager his reward thanks to a shot attempt that was surely going to tie things up after a Aleksander Mitrovic header was perfectly weighted towards him inside the penalty area. Instead, Vietto’s shot was wonderfully cleared off the line by Ben Mee.
On the whole, some of Fulham’s crosses were the best Fulham were executing all game, but not enough of those crosses were capitalized perfectly for this so called vaunted attack to rise to the occasion and get anything from this contest. I thought Schürrle had one of his better games, but once again, Ranieri thought it was best to take him off for another FA Cup failure in Neeskens Kebano. Personally, I would have benched someone like Seri or Chambers and put threw the whole kitchen sink until I got my two goals to take the lead. I also wouldn’t have had Aboubakar Kamara not in the 18-man squad as he has been proven to be too valuable since Ranieri has arrived. While Kebano did try to show some pace to get behind Burnley’s defense, his end product was simply not good enough and his runs would always take him wide instead of inside the penalty area. It was just an inevitability for the score to stay the same as the final whistle blew.
And there went any opportunity for Fulham to make up some lost ground. Simply put, they will have to find a way to claim some points in the table against the big six teams. Otherwise, they will have to claim somewhere in the neighborhood of 24 points in 11 games in order to maintain their Premier League safety. Because for each passing game, Fulham are running out of time to turn their sanity and this season around.