After their 2-1 home defeat to Reading at the weekend, Marco Silva’s Fulham face a tough home fixture against Leeds United tonight in the Carabao Cup, before they can redeem themselves in returning to Championship action on Saturday afternoon.
They travel to Bristol City at the weekend against a side who have failed to win any of their four league games at Ashton Gate so far this season, claiming just three points from a possible 12 and faring much better on the road.
In the Cottagers’ last away game, they hammered Birmingham City 4-1 with Aleksandar Mitrovic and Harry Wilson proving to be the vital duo in their victory.
Are these 22 Fulham stats real or fake?
And they can also take great heart from the fact they remain in second place despite last weekend’s setback against Reading, as they look set to be one of the favourites to win automatic promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
The likes of Tosin Adarabioyo at the back and Mitrovic up top will give them the best possible chance of achieving that aim, although if their recent defeats to Blackpool and Reading are anything to go by, there will be challenges to face throughout the 2021/22 campaign.
Even with Saturday’s loss behind them, there are dilemmas Marco Silva faces in the present moment and we have listed just two of those.
What to do with Jay Stansfield
This may not seem like the biggest issue for Marco Silva to deal with in the short term, but how the 44-year-old handles teenage striker Jay Stansfield could be vital in the long run.
There’s no doubt the 18-year-old is talented, but he can only develop to a certain point without a sufficient amount of first-team football.
He scored a cracker against Birmingham City in the Carabao Cup this season and has appeared on the bench in two league games for the Cottagers during 2021/22 – but has failed to gain any Championship minutes and isn’t likely to be heavily involved this term.
Aleksandar Mitrovic is unlikely to be dropped barring injuries, suspensions or a loss in form, Bobby Decordova-Reid is someone the second-tier side are probably going to persist with and new signing Rodrigo Muniz will be ahead of the teenager in the pecking order.
Love the EFL? Want to share your opinions about your club? Get involved by subscribing to FLW TV on Youtube HERE!
A couple of injuries could change everything and Stansfield will have benefitted from training with the first team, but they need to make a choice on the forward in January.
After scoring 22 times in 14 Premier League 2 appearances during the 2019/20 campaign and recording nine goal contributions in ten matches in the same competition last term, it feels as though he’s already hit his ceiling in youth football.
But would a loan in the lower leagues knock his confidence if he fails to adapt to the physicality of senior football? He played well at Birmingham last month, so there would be no harm in shipping him out temporarily.
It’s a decision they need to make now to avoid uncertainty in the lead up to January.
How to keep their central midfielders happy
Ideally, you would stick with the same two at the heart of midfield to retain familiarity and consistency, which usually helps performances on the pitch in turn.
However, they have four extremely talented central midfielders who would get in most Championship sides’ starting lineups every week. Unfortunately for them, there are only two spots up for grabs.
After Jean Michael Seri’s re-emergence at Fulham, he’s a firm favourite to keep his place in central midfield, although manager Silva will be reluctant to drop Nathaniel Chalobah after only just securing his signature at the end of last month.
The duo started last weekend, with Harrison Reed and Josh Onomah also available as two options to the Fulham boss.
If he hasn’t already, the 44-year-old needs to be in regular dialogue with each of the four to try and keep them happy, because all four would have been expecting to start more often than not now they’re back in the second tier.
This is even excluding Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa who signed a one-year contract extension to keep him at Craven Cottage before heading out on a season-long loan deal to Napoli. The Cameroonian isn’t a short-term to deal with because of this loan, but it certainly gives Silva food for thought on his central midfield area.
Having all these options is exciting, but the cost that comes with that is potential unhappiness and this will only be detrimental to their promotion chances.