This article is part of Football League World’s ‘Comment’ series, this content strand is where the author of the article issues their personal opinion on the topic at hand…
Scott Parker has got his Fulham side playing some brilliant football this season, with the former West Ham midfielder encouraging his players to adopt an expansive, possession-based style of play that has seen the Cottagers into seventh place after 14 games this term.
Much of the credit for their performances and subsequent league position has been attributed to the likes of Aleksandar Mitrovic and Tom Cairney, who have both been in sparkling form for the Whites so far, however, there are certainly a few more names who deserve to have their name in the limelight.
One player in particular who we feel has been underappreciated for far to long at Craven Cottage is Norwegian midfielder Stefan Johansen, who has been with the club since the 2016/2017 season, since arriving from the current Scottish champions Celtic.
The deep-lying playmaker provides a crucial component of Parker’s system of play as he acts as a pivot in the centre of the park, dropping deep to collect the ball off either Alfie Mawson or Tim Ream, before turning and either driving forward into space or picking out a forward pass to start attacks.
Do you feel Johansen is underrated?
This is a role that the 28-year-old has really grown accustomed too since moving to the west London based club, with the midfield lynchpin having turned out for the Whites on over 100 occasions, scoring 21 goals and assisting a further 20 in the process, thus underlining his creative qualities.
When breaking down the Norwegian’s passing statistics, which are provided by WhoScored.com, it is clear that the player’s passing game has been superb since Parker has deployed him in various positions in midfield, with the 28-year-old averaging 40.1 passes per game, yielding a pass success rate of 90.5%, in the Championship this term.
The experienced midfield man deserves a lot of his credit for the shift that he puts in for his side, which is shown by the fact that he has already contributed two assists this term, despite playing in a more withdrawn role, which will no doubt have been helped by the fact that the midfielder averages 1.2 key passes per game.
Whilst he can keep the play moving with short, sharp passes, Johansen also possess the ability to switch the play quickly by playing long, raking balls out to the flanks to the likes of Ivan Cavaleiro and Anthony Knockaert, who can often be found to be high and wide on the flanks throughout games.
What is clear from this breakdown, is that without the influence that Johansen brings to the side, Fulham’s possession game would struggle to function as he is the man who starts the passing based attacks which the Whites have been praised for so much this season.