‘Parkerball’ is the act of playing many short passes (often sideways) in football matches, dominating possession, but rarely excelling.
Coined by Fulham fans and adorned by Scott Parker, ‘Parkerball’ has had its fair share of critics. From the get-go in the Championship, Fulham adopted this very distinct style of play. At times they’ve been unplayable, a joy to watch even, but those times have been sporadic at best.
The ex-England and Fulham midfielder has split opinion this season, and his main critique has been the simple fact that, given the players he’s got at his disposal, he’s under-performed in his role. The likes of Aleksandar Mitrovic who’s so often dragged his side through tough Championship fixtures, Tom Cairney, Anthony Knockaert, Kevin McDonald and many more.
Fulham really should be storming the league with the team they have, but it’s not like their star players haven’t performed well – Parker’s persistence with his style of play has crippled some of the talent in his ranks, none more so than Ivan Cavaleiro and Bobby Reid.
Two players who were performing in the Premier League last season, and two who’ve proven themselves in the Championship before. Both joined on season-long loans before the start of the season and they, along with the loan-acquisition of Knockaert, showed Fulham’s strong intentions after their Premier League relegation.
Parker’s in a high-pressure role right now, heightened by the board and the fans’ expectations of an immediate return to the Premier League. But even sitting in 3rd-place of the table, six points off the top-two and looking nailed on for a spot in the top-six, the mood has been relatively subdued at Craven Cottage throughout Parker’s maiden campaign in management.
It’s as though Fulham are being held back by this almost neutral style of play enforced so persistently by Parker, and their last outing at Bristol City showed that. They were up against a Robins side who’ve been shot of form but for the first 70-minutes at least, they were the better team.
Can you get 15 out of 15 on this Fulham quiz? Have a go now!
Fulham’s negativity was highlighted when, instead of one of their midfield players launching a counter-attack for the likes of Cavaleiro or Aboubakar Kamara to latch onto, they maintained a steady pace, allowed Bristol City to get back behind the ball, and ended up passing the ball from side to the side before they lost it.
Players like Cavaleiro are built for counter-attacking football, whilst Reid was once again played out-of-position. He’s a poacher, but Parker insists on playing him on the right of a midfield three. He did so at the start of the season and it made Reid inept, but when he played him alongside Mitrovic towards Christmas, the goals started coming, and Fulham started flowing.
Cavaleiro and Reid are both permanent figures at the club now, and they’re not the only two who’ve seemed to struggle under Parker. They hold clear Championship, if not Premier League quality, but playing in such a negative Fulham team has seemingly drained them of any confidence they had.