Our series of articles on the promoted sides concludes with a look at Fulham’s midfielders and forwards.
WHAT IS FULHAM’S GOAL-SCORING POTENTIAL?
Despite boasting the league’s joint-top goalscorer and a wealth of talent in the supporting midfield positions, Fulham were not the free-flowing attacking unit many of us expected them to be at the start of 2019/20.
It was possession over penetration for the Cottagers, who made more passes than any other Championship club and yet scored fewer goals than six teams in the division.
No side created fewer chances on the counter-attack than Parker’s troops, a reflection of both how much of the ball they saw and how ponderous they sometimes were on the break.
They will have to address that heading into the Premier League, as they won’t be seeing nearly as much possession in the top flight.
|Rank v other Championship clubs|
|Shots on target||4th|
|Shots in the box||11th=|
Just three Championship sides scored more goals than Fulham (40) on their own turf but it was on the road where they really floundered, with their total of 24 away goals bettered by 16 other clubs.
Teams entertaining the Cottagers next season might get plenty of joy from a defensive perspective, based on that evidence.
Asked if he thought his side had enough about them to score goals in the Premier League, our Fulham correspondent Brandon Kelley said:
I’m not sure they do. Mitrovic managed to overpower most of the defences in the Championship and earn last season’s Golden Boot. But, as we saw in 2018, Fulham’s desire to play attractive football on the floor isn’t as easy to pull off in the top flight.
Premier League washouts like Anthony Knockaert and Ivan Caveleiro will flank Mitrovic but they were largely inconsistent during this last season, with Caveleiro struggling through injury.
Fulham’s attacking bright spots after the Championship restart were unexpectedly Neeskans Kebano – who is a free-kick whiz – and Josh Onomah, neither of whom I’d pick to do bits for my Fantasy team right at the start of the season.
*Figures given below are for the regulation Championship season only and exclude the three play-off matches
Starts: 40 | Substitute appearances: 0 | Goals: 26 | Assists: 2
Priced up cheaper than he was in 2018/19, Aleksandar Mitrovic (£6.0m) is already proving to be a popular purchase in Fantasy Premier League.
At the time of writing, only two FPL forwards had a higher ownership figure than the Serbia international (28.3%).
With 26 goals and two assists last season, it’s not hard to see why: Mitrovic played a part in 49.1% of the goals that Fulham scored when he was on the pitch, a similar involvement figure (46%) that he posted in the Premier League in 2018/19.
Fulham may struggle for chances in the top flight but what they do create will go through the talismanic Serb, who is the focal point of most of their attacks.
Brentford’s Said Benrahma was the only Championship player to register more shots overall and attempts per game than Mitrovic (151 and 3.8 respectively), with the Fulham targetman top of the table for shots in the box per appearance (2.9).
Mitrovic also had more big chances (31) than anyone in the Fulham squad, although that figure was bested by Leeds United’s Patrick Bamford (£5.5m).
This may all sound very familiar to FPL managers, with Mitrovic impressing on the underlying stats front and having had more shots in the box (96) than any other Fantasy asset in 2018/19:
What Mitrovic isn’t is particularly clinical.
A goal conversion rate of 17.2% in 2019/20 isn’t too eye-catching considering the inferior standard of goalkeeping and defending in the second tier.
Indeed, Mitrovic only converted 8.4% of his chances when he was last in the top flight.
Despite the wastefulness, the sheer volume of opportunities that came his way in the Premier League meant that, even with a poor conversion rate, he still managed to find the net on 11 occasions.
A repeat of that would perhaps be deemed about par or slightly better for a £6.0m FPL forward, even if Danny Ings (£8.5m) raised the bar last season.
Mitrovic also has penalties on his side, having taken all five of Fulham’s spot-kicks in 2019/20, scoring four of them.
None of his teammates had more direct free-kick attempts, either (six).
Security of starts is another string to his bow, if we ignore his fitness-related benching in the play-off final.
The ex-Newcastle striker started all 40 Championship games that he was available for, with his one and only substitution being enforced by injury.
Always Cheating’s Brandon Kelley did urge a bit of caution, saying:
Mitrovic is the obvious candidate for FPL managers, given that he’s coming off of a Golden Boot–winning season in the Championship. A £6.0m price represents decent value.
Of course, both Fulham and Mitrovic had difficulty scoring in their most recent Premier League campaign. So, I’d wait to invest in the Fulham attack until we see a few performances and assess Scott Parker’s strategy for – let’s face it – not getting relegated.
Starts: 32 | Substitute appearances: 10 | Goals: 3 | Assists: 4
The entries for Fulham’s wingers could all pretty much read the same thing: sporadically impressive, wildly inconsistent, rotation risks and with question marks over whether they are of Premier League quality.
No-one quite embodied that like Anthony Knockaert (£5.5m), Fulham’s first-choice option on the right flank for much of 2019/20 but someone who didn’t particularly stand out at Championship level, which doesn’t bode well for the step up in class.
Knockaert has experience of the English top flight with Brighton and Hove Albion and Leicester City, of course, but hasn’t quite been able to make a mark at the highest level.
Part of the problem last season might have been because of the slow, considered tempo of Fulham’s play, something that has become Parker’s trademark as both player and manager.
Knockaert’s output certainly didn’t catch the eye, with just seven attacking returns in 42 appearances.
On dead-ball duties, he did take more than twice as many corners (111) as any other Fulham player.
Other than the mostly peripheral Neeskens Kebano (£5.0m), Knockaert’s underlying stats were also perhaps the pick of Fulham’s wingers in terms of all-round goal and assist potential:
|Player||Mins per shot||Mins per shot in box||Mins per shot on target||Mins per chance created|
Starts: 36 | Substitute appearances: 7 | Goals: 6 | Assists: 7
For Knockaert, see Ivan Cavaleiro (£5.5m).
With the likes of Allan Saint-Maximin and Stuart Armstrong both available for £5.5m in FPL, it’s difficult to make much of a case for Cavaleiro or his aforementioned teammate at the same price point.
A first choice on the left flank for most of the season and occasionally deployed on the opposite wing, the former Wolves man’s form and fitness levels took a dip after the restart.
Cavaleiro did record almost twice as many attacking returns as Knockaert, however, with not one of his teammates creating as many ‘big chances’ (14) in 2019/20.
The Portuguese winger also took 54 corners over the course of the campaign.
All six of his goals came from inside the opposition area but he had only four big chances all season, fewer than Knockaert, Tom Cairney (£5.5m) and Bobby Decordova-Reid (£5.5m).
Starts: 30 | Substitute appearances: 11 | Goals: 6 | Assists: 2
Bobby Decordova-Reid (£5.5m) was listed as a forward by FPL upon the game’s relaunch but he has seldom started as the spearhead of the Fulham attack, with Mitrovic ploughing a lone furrow for most of the season.
The versatile Decordova-Reid was deployed as a Mitrovic stand-in, a winger, a number ten, a second striker and even a deeper central midfielder in 2019/20 and his ‘utility man’ status could be as much of a hindrance than a help when it comes to FPL.
A total of 11 substitute appearances suggests that he might be a significant rotation risk but he became a more permanent feature in the second half of the campaign, starting 24 of the Cottagers’ final 27 matches in the league and the subsequent Championship play-offs.
His work ethic stood out, too, which seems to have curried favour with his manager and led to Fulham making his loan move from Cardiff City permanent in January.
Aside from Kebano, he had the best rate of shots in the box and efforts on target among Fulham’s supporting cast.
Decordova-Reid also registered twice as many big chances (20) as any other Fulham player bar Mitrovic, although only a quarter were converted and he scored on just six occasions all season.
Attacking Midfielder/Central Midfielder
Starts: 20 | Substitute appearances: 11 | Goals: 3 | Assists: 3
Playing as a central midfielder when Parker opted for a 4-3-3 but more latterly as a number ten in a 4-2-3-1, Josh Onomah (£5.0m) came to prominence at the end of the season after a stop-start campaign.
We don’t often get Fantasy assets playing so advanced priced up at £5.0m and Onomah’s form was admittedly excellent after the restart but it’s perhaps too early to get too excited about his budget FPL midfielder prospects.
Three goals and as many assists in the regulation season and then a sensational strike in the play-offs represented a so-so return, while all of the players mentioned above performed better when it came to goal attempts, shots in the box and efforts on target.
Starts: 38 | Substitute appearances: 1 | Goals: 8 | Assists: 3
Tom Cairney (£5.5m) arrived in FPL to great fanfare in 2018/19, having lit up the Championship and hit double figures for attacking returns in Fulham’s previous promotion-winning season.
Cairney promptly flopped along with the rest of his team in the top flight, recording just one goal and an assist as the Cottagers went straight back down.
Flash forward another year and Cairney has again hit double figures for goals and assists in the English second tier but there’ll be more scepticism about the 29-year-old playmaker this time, especially as he has been handed a starting price rise of half a million.
On the plus side, he created more chances (70) than any other Fulham player and his passing success rate of 89.8% – which helps in terms of bonus points – was the second-best in the whole of the Championship.
He is also about as nailed as they come in Parker’s team, having made the starting XI in 38 of the 40 matches he was available for.
But three of his teammates supplied more big chances last season and he averaged a shot in the box less than once every three matches.
Parker moving him into a deeper role as the season went on is also off-putting from an FPL perspective.
Starts: 5 | Substitute appearances: 11 | Goals: 3 | Assists: 1
Had Fulham’s Championship season ended when coronavirus struck, Neeskens Kebano (£5.0m) would have been a mere footnote.
The DR Congo international wasn’t anything but a substitute until December, with four of his five starts in the regulation season coming after lockdown had been lifted.
Three goals and an assist in the final two matches of the campaign saw him then get the nod in each of the Cottagers’ three play-off matches, with the in-form winger adding a further two goals to his season’s tally.
Three of Kebano’s five goals in the league and play-offs were direct free-kicks.
While he ended the season in fine nick, in his manager’s good books and dominating his fellow Fulham midfielders for underlying stats (as mentioned earlier), there is uncertainty about whether he’ll be in the running for a start in Gameweek 1.
It was effectively a late-season injury to Cavaleiro that opened the door for Kebano ahead of the play-offs, with the ex-Wolves winger having previously been first choice on the left flank for much of 2019/20.
Two loanees shared 42 starts between them for Fulham in the Championship last season.
Harrison Reed (£4.5m) remains a Southampton player at the time of writing but he may end up back with the Cottagers before the start of next season, with Parker rumoured to be keen on making the move permanent.
The 25-year-old central midfielder made 21 starts and a further four substitute appearances in what was an injury-affected season, with 17 of his no-shows enforced by fitness reasons or suspension.
With no goals and one assist to his name (he didn’t have a single shot in the box all season), he’s nothing more than bench fodder in FPL.
But Reed’s influence on the backline was worthy of note, as discussed in our previous piece.
Harry Arter also made 21 starts in his temporary spell in west London, which wasn’t enough to trigger the ‘obligation to buy’ clause in his loan deal.
The Bournemouth man scored twice and set up another goal in his 28 appearances but again, having recorded just four shots in the box from his central midfield position, he’ll be of little interest to Fantasy managers if he does return.
Back-up defensive midfielder Kevin McDonald (£5.0m) made just seven league starts all season and didn’t register a single attacking return, so presents next-to-no value at his price point.
Used as both cover for Cairney and alongside him when Parker moved to a central midfield three, Stefan Johansen (£5.0m) saw a bit more game-time than McDonald last season.
The Norwegian made 19 starts in all, although only two of them came after New Year’s Day and he was mostly used as a late substitute from that point onwards.
The former Celtic schemer recorded four assists and had a share of set-piece duties – both indirect and direct – when he did take to the field.
It remains to be seen if the returns of central midfielders Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa (£4.5m) and Jean Michael Seri (£5.0m) – both of whom spent the season on loan abroad – are anything but short-lived, with Villarreal and Galatasaray both reportedly keen on extending the stays of Fulham’s big-money signings who flopped in 2018/19.
Finally, a word on a returning cult FPL hero/anti-hero.
Aboubakar Kamara (£5.0m), a budget forward last time around but now reclassified as a Fantasy midfielder, is doomed to forever be remembered for the penalty fiasco of two years ago.
Spending more time out wide than he did up top in 2019/20, only eight of Kamara’s 25 regular-season appearances came from the start.
Four goals and four assists were provided by the Frenchman, who got the nod to lead the line in the play-off final with Mitrovic still struggling for fitness.
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- Midfielders: Budget
- Midfielders: Mid-Price
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- Forwards: Budget
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