Our series on the newly-promoted Premier League sides continues with a look at Fulham’s midfielders and forwards.
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 GOAL-SCORING POTENTIAL?
Fulham were crowned 2021/22 Championship winners with the best attacking record in the division, having scored 106 goals in their 46 league fixtures.
In fact, the Cottagers’ were the first team to score more than 100 goals in the second tier since Kevin Keegan’s Manchester City in 2002.
There was an almost even split in terms of home and away goals scored, with 56/50 respectively.
Underlying stats-wise, Fulham were top for most of the attacking metrics, including shots, shots on target, big chances created and expected goals (xG), while only Swansea City enjoyed more possession.
ATTACKING STATS 2021/22
|Total||Rank v other Championship clubs|
|Shots per game||16.1||1st|
|Shots on target per game||6.1||1st|
|Big chances created||99||1st|
However, the Cottagers’ biggest test under Marco Silva is yet to come, and questions remain about their ability to compete at the very highest level given that key attacking midfielder Fabio Carvalho has been sold to Liverpool.
The 19-year-old produced 10 goals and eight assists last season, and his departure leaves a big hole in the team.
Always Cheating co-host and Fulham fan Brandon Kelley told us:
“By the end of their Championship-winning season, Fulham’s goal difference was a staggering 63, 28 goals beyond second-place Bournemouth. Fulham definitely embraced manager Marco Silva’s flowing, attacking style of play, which married perfectly with the Cottager’s modern possession-based, ball-on-the-floor philosophy. But scoring goals in the Premier League is an entirely different matter than in the lower divisions. Sure, Fulham scored seven goals in multiple matches last season, but those goals had a tendency to dry up when the opposition pressed hard when out of possession. Considering the Premier League is arguably to most pressing league on the planet, it’s not likely we’ll see the same swashbuckling football that the Cottagers were known for in 21/22.
Losing 19-year-old Carvalho to Liverpool was inevitable. Though incredibly young, the Portuguese has no like-for-like replacement to creatively attack through the middle. It’s crucial for Fulham to sign well in the no. 10 role in order to keep the net bulging.” – Brandon Kelley
2021/22: APPS, GOALS AND ASSISTS
|Jean Michael Seri||MC||26 (7)||1||6|
|Tom Cairney||MC||16 (10)||3||4|
|Harrison Reed||MC||32 (7)||0||2|
|Nathaniel Chalobah||MC||11 (9)||0||1|
|Josh Onomah||MC/AMC||8 (12)||1||3|
|Tyler Francois||MC||1 (1)||0||0|
|Harry Wilson||RW||40 (1)||10||19|
|Fabio Carvalho||AMC||33 (3)||10||8|
|Neeskens Kebano||LW||31 (9)||9||6|
|Bobby De Cordova-Reid||LW/AMC||27 (14)||8||7|
|Ivan Cavaleiro||LW||5 (13)||2||0|
|Domingos Quina||AMC||1 (1)||0||0|
|Rodrigo Muniz||ST||2 (23)||5||0|
Harry Wilson had a season to remember under Marco Silva, scoring 10 goals and creating 19 more in 40 appearances, as he made the EFL Championship Team of the Season.
As a result, he was one of only five players to finish the campaign with double figures for both goals and assists
And his willingness to shoot, coupled with the threat he poses from set-pieces, could make him an appealing Fantasy option, certainly when the fixtures fall kindly.
The former Liverpool man led all Fulham players for chances created (102), big chances created (18), crosses (164) and xA (10.4) in 2021/22, while only Aleksandar Mitrovic could beat him for xG.
Although he spends most of his time hugging the right touchline, he often moves into central areas, much more so than Neeskens Kebano on the opposite flank.
Above: Neeskens Kebano (left) and Harry Wilson’s (right) touch heatmaps 2021/22, via Sofa Score
Wilson’s Premier League loan spell at Bournemouth yielded a modest seven goals in 31 games as the Cherries’ were relegated, but it does feel like the winger is in a better place to succeed this time around.
“Wilson immediately fitted in at Craven Cottage at the start of their Championship campaign. His chemistry with Mitrovic and Fabio Carvalho was exquisite, resulting in 10 goals and a league high 19 assists. With Carvalho moving on to Liverpool, Fulham will rely on Wilson for attacking creativity.” – Brandon Kelley
Fabio Carvalho, meanwhile, was one of the standout players of the season, but will leave Fulham this summer for Liverpool.
The Championship young player of the year nominee produced 10 goals and eight assists in 33 league starts, and was deployed as a no. 10 or advanced no. 8, often drifting into the left half-space to receive the ball.
Carvalho’s departure does leave a significant hole in the Cottagers’ attack, and how they respond will be key: do they attempt to sign a like-for-like replacement, or perhaps shift to a 4-3-3 formation, which you’d think would add a bit more defensive solidity to the team?
Kebano had his best season at Fulham, becoming a key part of their attack with nine goals and six assists, but could be the one to drop out if Silva recruits a new winger in the summer.
The idea behind Silva’s tactic is to get Mitrovic, Wilson and Kebano on the ball as often as possible, players who make things happen in the final third, so there seems little reason to look beyond that trio for our Fantasy teams, at least initially.
For example, Harrison Reed, Tom Cairney and Nathaniel Chalobah are often the deepest midfielders in Silva’s 4-2-3-1 formation, pulling the strings from number six roles. Jean Michael Seri, meanwhile, has been released, with media reports suggesting that they are also ready to listen to offers for Anthony Knockaert, Josh Onomah and Ivan Cavaleiro, all of whom have seen limited game time.
Aleksandar Mitrovic hit a whopping 43 goals in 44 appearances throughout the title-winning season, breaking all sorts of goalscoring records along the way.
As a result, he was named Championship Player of the Season.
MITROVIC IN NUMBERS 2021/22
|Goals scored from open-play||31|
|Goals scored from headers||12|
Mitrovic also produced seven assists in 2021/22 – the most he has managed in a single season during his senior career. That is in part because of Silva’s tactics, with the Serb often taking up deeper positions and dropping into midfield to help with the team’s build-up play.
Above: Aleksandar Mitrovic’s touch heatmap 2021/22, via Sofa Score
Despite some impressive numbers, you do get those players who are too good for the Championship and not good enough for the Premier League, but does that apply to Mitrovic?
His most recent Premier League experience, in 2020/21, was underwhelming, as he scored only three goals, making just 13 starts as he fell out of favour with Scott Parker. That season, he actually scored more for Serbia (seven), helping them to qualify for the World Cup.
The 2018/19 campaign, however, was better, as he hit the ground running with four goals in his first five league games, ending it with a respectable 11 in 37 appearances.
MITROVIC’S CHAMPIONSHIP V PREMIER LEAGUE RECORD
|Division||Appearances||Goals||Assists||Minutes per goal|
Fulham may struggle for chances in the top flight but what they do create will go through Mitrovic, who is the focal point of most of their attacks.
So, you would think success in that respect will come down to whether or not his team-mates can deliver those crosses and through balls into the box he so often thrives off.
“Of course, if you ask me right now if next season we will have 70 per cent of possession every single match, I’ll answer to you directly: no. It’s up to me and my staff to create the conditions to get the best from our players. Mitrovic is a very good player. If you ask me if he can play Premier League — he already did it. He already scored goals there as well. It’s up to us to keep working with him, to keep improving, because he has many things to keep improving. Playing in a different way, as well, because we will not be so dominant for sure in certain games and of course, we have to find different ways to take the best from him and from the others.” – Marco Silva
Brandon Kelley offered his thoughts on Mitrovic below:
“Veteran FPL managers will have had previous run-ins with Mitrovic, and most of them bad. Despite underperforming during Fulham’s last two promotions, Mitro’s form has undeniably improved for both club and country, making a mockery of Ivan Toney’s Championship goalscoring record by netting 43 in Fulham’s division-winning season. He’s also easily won the trust of manager Marco Silva, assuring his Premier League minutes. With penalty duty, a low-enough price could make Mitro a popular pick.” – Brandon Kelley
Backup for Mitrovic arrives via Rodrigo Muniz, who should at least see some minutes providing another forward doesn’t arrive, and might be of interest for those planning to start with just one forward alongside two cheaper options on the bench.
Our huge thanks again go to Brandon for his time and insight.