Having provided the lowdown on Fulham manager Marco Silva, our series on the newly-promoted Premier League sides continues with this look at the Cottagers’ defence.
We will discuss the London side’s midfielders and forwards in our third and final piece.
In this article, we will assess the Championship title winners’ overall clean sheet potential and then have a look at some of the key Fantasy Premier League (FPL) players in their backline.
We’ve again roped in the help of Brandon Kelley, Fulham fan and co-host of the excellent Always Cheating podcast, for this feature.
WHAT IS FULHAM’S CLEAN SHEET POTENTIAL?
Fulham had the third-best defensive record in the Championship last season, conceding 43 goals in 46 matches, only trailing Bournemouth (39) and Nottingham Forest (40).
They kept 17 clean sheets, a respectable return but some way short of Bournemouth’s 21, with nine of those shut-outs arriving on home turf.
The Cottagers’ overall home and away record in 2021/22 was as follows:
The underlying numbers are generally encouraging, as they allowed the fewest shots per game and expected goals (xG) in the division, but they will have a lot more defensive work to do in the Premier League and it will be interesting to see how Silva adapts his approach.
Brandon Kelley told us:
“17 clean sheets is OK for the Championship, but Fulham still don’t have a reputation for being defensively stout. The keeper position was in doubt for long stretches of last season, with Spurs’ former backup Paulo Gazzaniga ultimately losing the starting role to Marek Rodak. Rodak saw the Cottagers through the home stretch, but had his share of wobbles, too. Many Fulham supporters will worry for the defense unless a new ‘keeper is signed, as well as a Tim Ream replacement. Ream has been the epitome of consistency and leadership in the Championship, but has also consistently failed in the Premier League. Tosin Adarabioyo continued his decent Premier League form into the 21/22 season (complete with 2 goals), but he’ll require a solid CB partnership if we’re to consider him as an FPL option.” – Brandon Kelley
A new first-choice goalkeeper and centre-back seem like necessary additions to give them a better chance of surviving, then.
DEFENSIVE STATS 2021/22
|Total||Rank v other Championship clubs|
|Shots conceded per game||8.8||1st|
THE GOALKEEPER OPTIONS
Goalkeeper Marek Rodak kept his place in the starting XI for all but two of Fulham’s Championship matches from mid-October onwards, and largely performed well.
The Slovakian shot-stopper managed 14 clean sheets in 33 outings, conceding only 26 goals in that time, with a save percentage of 72.9%.
That meant Paolo Gazzaniga had to settle for a place on the bench. The former Tottenham Hotspur man signed in the summer of 2021 and immediately came into the side, but was dropped after just 11 starts with mistakes creeping into his game.
Rodak, however, has struggled for game time in Fulham’s previous Premier League campaigns and lacks top-flight experience, and it remains to be seen if Silva plans on recruiting a new ‘keeper in the summer.
THE CENTRE-BACK OPTIONS
Tosin Adarabioyo and Tim Ream had outstanding campaigns for Fulham, with the pair keeping 17 clean sheets and chipping in with four and two attacking returns respectively.
They were both in the top three in the squad for starts and minutes played, while Adarabioyo earned a spot in the EFL Championship Team of the Season.
In terms of Fulham’s playing style, the duo are key to the way the Cottagers progress the ball up the pitch.
“Tosin (Adarabioyo) and Tim (Ream), they are really important in the way we attack. Tosin has this quality, definitely. He is a central defender with really good quality on the ball. For him, it was not so easy to step in and to drive the ball, now I can see him every time he has a space. I want him to step in, I want him to attack, to provoke the opposition and it’s a really good feeling for me to see him playing with much more courage. It is not easy to find a central defender with (such) good quality on the ball like he has.” – Marco Silva
Adarabioyo’s ball-playing skills could lend itself to bonus, although it’s largely dependent on Fulham’s ability to keep clean sheets, which is still up for debate.
However, one of the positions Silva may look to improve this summer is his backline.
During the 2020/21 campaign, neither Adarabioyo or Ream were particularly reliable, while the latter is 35-years-old in October and there are doubts over his capabilities in the Premier League.
As a result, Ream looks the more likely of the two to drop out if a new defender arrives.
Both backup centre-halves – Michael Hector and Alfie Mawson – were released by the club following promotion, suggesting further defensive reinforcements are on the way.
THE FULL-BACK OPTIONS
Antonee Robinson and the on-loan Neco Williams ended the season as Fulham’s first-choice full-backs.
Williams enjoyed a productive loan spell after swapping Liverpool for the Cottagers in the January transfer window, offering plenty of attacking quality with two goals and two assists in 14 starts for the club.
There’s been talk about him staying on next season, which is one to monitor in the summer, but if a move doesn’t materialise and they don’t sign a replacement, Kenny Tete will probably step in. The Dutch right-back is more than capable going forward and has a decent cross on him, too.
“Neco impressed when he came to West London in January. In 14 appearances, he logged two goals and two assists, though it could’ve been much more. A loan from Liverpool, there are rumours that Neco could sign with Fulham permanently, but a £15m price-tag—and few other interested clubs—cast doubt. Having said that, should the Fulham deal happen, Neco will be a bargain full-back to start the season.” – Brandon Kelley
On the left, Robinson was one of Fulham’s key players in 2021/22, with Joe Bryan as his back-up.
The 24-year-old was named in the EFL Championship Team of the Season, contributing two goals and four assists in 33 starts. It’s also worth noting that he performed well in his previous stint in the Premier League: only 12 other defenders created more chances than Robinson in 2020/21, an impressive feat given that his team often played with the handbrake on under Scott Parker.
Above: only 12 other defenders created more chances than Antonee Robinson in 2020/21
The duo’s 2021/22 touch heatmaps are captured below, with a basic stats comparison displayed underneath.
Above: Neco Williams (left) and Antonee Robinson’s (right) touch heatmaps in 2021/22, via Sofa Score
WILLIAMS V ROBINSON PER GAME 2021/22
Our huge thanks again go to Brandon for his time and insight.
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