It only took eight months for Scott Parker to be elevated from newly hired assistant coach under Slavisa Jokanovic to the manager of the first team, but here we are. The former Fulham player is now in charge and hoping to bring some form of stability within the club until the season is over. All Mr. Parker needs to do is to look at what Ole Gunnar Solksjaer has done at Manchester United to see what someone in his position has done to bring a whiff of fresh air into the club.
Now there are fears that if Parker does end up being successful enough that the pressure will be on the board to give a man with so little experience to be given the position full-time and demand that Fulham get promoted under his tenure. The pressure will be that massive for him if that were to occur. But that’s for another time to discuss. Right now, Parker has to inspire a football club that is facing three of the big six teams coming to Craven Cottage looking for a stroll in the park all 90 minutes.
That first club is Southwest London rivals Chelsea, who just overcame their latest contoversy regarding the lack of substitution by their goalkeeper Kepa in the Carling Cup Final to beat Tottenham last Wednesday. Now that Kepa has been punished accordingly, manager Maurizio Sarri has this team in some form of control and stability over the past couple of days. That’s a lot of positivity for a club that’s been so used to constant turnover and infighting over the past decade. Nowadays, there’s fear that Chelsea might go the way Arsenal did in that they are no longer the financial stronghold they once were and their chances of even making the Champions League, let alone winning trophies, is not guaranteed anymore.
They still have quality players in this squad, but most of them are either at or getting past their prime years and a rebuild will be required soon. Too bad they’ll have to do so while in the middle of a transfer embargo. But I doubt us Fulham fans will feel sympathetic towards the lot as they’ll be feeling some form of positivity again towards a manager that will demand accountability. It will be up to the home crowd to cheer them on the rest of the season because how else can they get motivated while being almost guaranteed relegation.
On that note, here are three players not named Eden Hazard to watch out for Sunday’s fixture down at the Cottage.
At 31 years old, it looks like the beginning of the end of Gonzalo Higuain being deemed a world class striker. But as a result of Chelsea running Alvaro Morata out of town, they had no choice but to get a short term replacement that can better his production and the former Juventus man was the closest one to that at the time. It will be interesting to see if his loan move becomes a permanent one for Sarri’s crew, but it will be even more difficult to find anyone else that can produce at a high level and come cheap. That is why it will be critical for Higuain to maintain a shot rate over 3.8 per contest but improve on his shooting accuracy during his time at Stamford Bridge.
Next up is the scapegoat as to why Chelsea are struggling more than anything else. During his time at Napoli, Sarri’s tactics revolved around the creativity and passing ability of Jorginho at the base of midfield. This season, teams are smart enough to gang up on the 27-year old Brazilian, especially since there isn’t another creative force in that area of the pitch for the Blues. As a result, Jorginho’s passing numbers and goal contribution have dropped and Chelsea’s attacking impetus has suffered as a result. One thing to watch out for long term is that if Sarri wants to build something long term, they’ll have to realize that Jorginho isn’t someone that is just developing. If anything, he almost the finished article and his presence is probably going to pleteau or decline unless Sarri gets more help in midfield immediately.
Lastly, we go from one Brazilian to another. While Jorginho has had his struggles in his first year at Chelsea, David Luiz is quietly having a solid season. At 31, you would have thought father time caught up with the former captain of his national team after being left out of the side this time last year. However, he’s shrugged off the challenges of Andreas Christensen and has been the more solid between him and Antonio Rudiger in the center of defense. That might not say much for a Chelsea team that demands higher standards, but it does speak volumes for the constant adversity Luiz always seems to go through. Besides, you can’t ever miss him for his Carlos Valderrama-like hairdo.