After a reasonably poor run of games since the international break by their standards, promotion favourites Fulham have slipped down to fifth place in the Championship going into their next set of fixtures.
Previously title contenders with the likes of summer signings Harry Wilson and Paulo Gazzaniga at their disposal, they will now need to regain the consistency they showed during the early stages of the 2020/21 campaign if they want to assert themselves as the team to beat in the second tier.
Losses to Blackpool, Reading and Coventry City since the last international interval have set them back in their quest to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking though, with the defeat against the latter arguably their lowest point of the season thus far.
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Although the Sky Blues are currently the strongest out of the trio, the manner in which the Cottagers fell to a 4-1 defeat was a real blow and something manager Marco Silva will need to pick them up from as they face the likes of Queens Park Rangers and West Bromwich Albion after the break.
Despite the quality of some of their players on paper, even making them favourites to win promotion without world-class midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa at their disposal, Silva may decide to turn to some of his younger players to give the west London side a much-needed boost.
We have selected just two of the brightest Fulham prospects who could make a big impact at Craven Cottage this term.
The 19-year-old has made a big impact in the Cottagers’ first team already this season, after making his senior breakthrough in the English capital last term as he made four Premier League appearances.
His goal against Southampton in May should have been a warning to second-tier sides this term, because he has already recorded three goals and one assist in five Championship displays so far in 2021/22 before sustaining a foot injury.
That injury has kept him out of action since the last international break and just by looking at recent results, you can tell they have missed the England youth international’s energy and presence in the advanced midfield position.
He has been clinical so far this term, something many of his other teammates haven’t been, especially against the likes of Reading and Leeds United and is something they have been punished for.
Not only has he been clinical, but he also offers versatility with the ability to play out wide, in an advanced midfield position in the centre and up front. That will be useful when injuries start to creep in during the winter period – and it seems as though he will be back very soon to get the Cottagers back on track.
Fulham’s next task? Tying him down to a long-term deal.
After working every day with Marco Silva on the training ground, Fulham fans should be looking out for 18-year-old Jay Stansfield, who will become a key player for Fulham if he can continue to develop and fulfil his potential.
Scoring 22 goals in 14 U18 Premier League appearances during the 2019/20 season, Stansfield has established himself as one of the most promising youngsters in the club’s youth ranks.
Injuries have disrupted his development since, but he is now fit and raring to go and has appeared on the bench twice in the Championship this season, also appearing in the Carabao Cup and scoring an exceptional goal away at Birmingham City.
And after scoring three goals in three games in the Premier League 2 division this term, more first-team opportunities could arise if the likes of Aleksandar Mitrovic and/or Rodrigo Muniz are ruled out through injuries or suspensions.
With those two senior options, it’s unlikely we will see the 18-year-old start in the second tier this term but the FA Cup is around the corner. With the need to rest players in their quest for promotion, it would be no surprise to see the Cottagers start Stansfield in that competition.
What does he offer? Goals, goals, goals. He’s definitely one man they could look to include if the goals dry up again.