Talking Tactics

How Fulham have revived attack after Mitrovic exit

By Adrian Clarke 13 Dec 2023
Fulham trio

Adrian Clarke looks at how positive approach is paying off for Marco Silva's free-scoring side

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Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points and players who can be decisive in Matchweek 17.

Team analysis: Fulham

Scoring 16 goals across their last four matches, Fulham have rediscovered their bold sense of adventure.

A brilliant display at Anfield went unrewarded when two late goals inflicted a cruel 4-3 defeat, but the Cottagers responded in style with back-to-back 5-0 wins against Nottingham Forest and West Ham United.

In those two victories, Fulham scored more goals at Craven Cottage than they did in home matches across the whole of the 2020/21 campaign.

The secret to their success under Marco Silva last season was a positive and brave tactical approach, both at home and away.

Earlier in 2023/24 they were flat by comparison, missing the focal point Aleksandar Mitrovic provided, but ahead of their trip to Newcastle United, there is a renewed spring in their step.

Reasserting their competitive edge

“Win your individual battles,” is a pre-match managerial cliche of sorts, but no matter which level you play at, success usually comes hand-in-hand with teams who perform with strength and a high work-rate.  

At Fulham, this mantra has proved especially important in 2023/24.

Showing the value of being assertive, and how much it suits their style of play, five of Fulham’s six victories came in matches where they won the highest share of duels.

Fulham's duel success rate 2023/24
Opposition Result Duel success %
West Ham (H) 5-0 65.06%
Nott'm Forest (H) 5-0 60.92%
Wolves (H) 3-2 56.96%
Sheff Utd (H) 3-1 55.74%
Everton (A) 1-0 54.55%
Brighton (A) 1-1 54.29%
Season ave. 11 other matches - 47.83%

Being dominant, the first to pick up loose balls, strong in 50-50s and performing at a high tempo are imperative qualities within a Silva side.

In each of Fulham's six wins this season, they have averaged a 56.94 per cent success rate in their duels, compared to 48.42 per cent across the 10 matches they did not emerge victorious. 

Being passive does not suit them, so you can expect Fulham to play with purpose at St James’ Park.

Possession = points?

Fulham’s six top-flight victories this season have also featured their most possession-heavy displays.

Fulham's possession in 2023/24 wins
Opposition Possession %
Luton (H) 77.70%
Nott'm Forest (H) 63.68%
West Ham (H) 63.17%
Sheff Utd (H) 59.85%
Wolves (H) 59.84%
Everton (A) 59.40%

They are a side who perform better with the ball, but gaining the same level of control away from Craven Cottage has been an issue for them.

Look out for them trying to keep possession as often as possible against Newcastle.

Rejuvenated Jimenez

Summer signing Raul Jimenez scored his first Premier League goal in 18 months against Aston Villa in November, and now has four in his last five starts.

Relieved of the pressure which had been building, Jimenez is now starting to recapture the form that made him one of the division’s most feared marksmen at former club Wolverhampton Wanderers.

His breakthrough strike at Villa Park was an easy tap-in, but Jimenez’s three goals at Craven Cottage since have all been excellent.

The way he made runs (yellow line) that peeled off the back shoulder of his markers against Forest and West Ham was encouraging, and on both occasions he was picked out with brilliant passes.

FORgoal
WHUgoal

The 32-year-old has also dropped off his markers with greater regularity, linking play and dragging central defenders into areas they do not want to go.

He found a great pocket early on against West Ham, chipping a sublime pass into the path of Willian, who ran into the box.

This was a piece of play that signalled Jimenez's growing confidence.

WHUpass

His first goal against Forest also stemmed from a run that was made from a deeper position.

Having played a part in the earlier build-up, Jimenez made a fine blindside run around the covering defender to latch on to Andreas Pereira’s through-ball.

Scoring different types of goals, and showing some outstanding movement to help fashion those chances, Jimenez is building great momentum.

ForGoal2

If he nets for a third consecutive league match, it will be the first time he has achieved this feat since November 2019 - and would also be his first goal at St James’ Park.

Spreading the goals around

Fulham are by no means dependent on Jimenez, with nine different players scoring across their last four matches.

They travel to Tyneside full of confidence, knowing that an adventurous tactical approach has potential to unsettle a Newcastle side depleted by injuries.

Fulham must replicate the intensity, duel-winning combativeness and attacking verve they have shown of late, and look to keep the ball for sustained periods.

If they do, they will be a real handful for Eddie Howe’s side to contain.

Also in this series

Part 2: How Cooper has gone back in time by changing Forest's shape
Part 3: Klopp's dilemma with Alexander-Arnold's new role

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