The Serb has 23 goals for Fulham in the Championship this season – 34 for club and country. But Scott Parker and indeed the Fulham fans have become addicted to Aleksandar Mitrovic, creating an overly-one dimensional ‘team’ in the process.
Having watched Fulham this season, it’s clear to the viewers that Parker has been trying to implement his own brand of football at the club – ‘Parkerball’. Fans have used the phrase jokingly throughout his maiden season in management, as they watch their team play 50 or so little passes before looking to feed Mitrovic inside the box, get countered, and end up playing out a dull 0-0.
That is unless, Mitrovic can pinch a late goal. Fulham’s sole source of goals this season has come from him – he’s scored nearly half of Fulham’s 52 Championship goals this season, with Tom Cairney chipping in with a commendable eight, and summer signings Ivan Cavaleiro and Bobby Reid with six and five respectively.
Fulham have become so predictable. Parker has a fine group of players at his disposal, especially in the attacking department with players like Cavaleiro, Reid, Anthony Knockaert and many more proven Championship names. Yet everything they’ve done this season has been centred around Mitrovic. Everything has to go through Mitrovic for it to be effective.
It’s as though Parker is scared to lose Mitrovic. He and likely many Fulham fans fear a side without Mitrovic leading the attack. They’ve become over-reliant on his goals and given the amount of times he’s bailed them out of trouble this season, one can understand why. But the glaringly obvious fact is that Mitrovic actually strangles this Fulham side – there is no Fulham ‘team’ with Mitrovic in it, only him.
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That above ideology can be seen in most any game that he’s started. ‘Parkerball’ has often turned into playground rules – ‘give the ball to your best player and see what he can do’. Mitrovic, when he gets the ball within 30 yards of the goal, has only one thing on his mind – ‘bundle my way into the box and score’, which is great. A striker needs that kind of mentality. But what about his teammates?
What about players like Cavaleiro? Many Wolves fans were sad to see a proven Premier League player leave for good last January, and Reid – a proven finisher at Championship level who had to wait three months for his first Fulham goal. Knockaert who’s proven at both Championship and Premier League level, but even he has had a largely subdued season.
It’s no surprise that Fulham’s attacking department has had a misfire season – with the exception of Mitrovic of course. It’s impossible for players like Cavaleiro and Knockaert, who often play on the left and right of Mitrovic in a 4-3-3, to get a look in when all they’re told to do is contribute to the mindless passing, and when they get the chance to feed it into Mitrovic and let him do the rest.
It’s hard, if not impossible to imagine a Fulham side without Mitrovic. His perceived absence would strike fear into any manager or fan. But for all his worth, Fulham could be so much more without him. Parker plays a nice brand of football and in all fairness, he’s had a good first season with Fulham. He needs to let that football blossom. Right now it is contained in a Mitrovic-shaped box, and only he has the key to it.
A summer move has long seemed likely for the Serb. Despite his love for the club and his content towards playing in London and in the Championship, Fulham might do well to cash in on him this summer. The ideal replacement would of course be one who scores goals, but also one who brings his teammates into play. Fulham have a tremendous squad of talent, and it’s about time that Parker showed his Fulham – rather than Mitrovic’s – to the world.