Fulham have enjoyed a mixed start to their first campaign back in the Championship after suffering relegation from the Premier League last season.
Fulham boss Scott Parker will be looking for an upturn in the club’s current from with the West London club winning just two of their last five games this term, and the former West Ham midfielder will be relying heavily on two of his key players in Aleksandar Mitrovic and Tom Cairney, to hit form as we head into October.
Keeping their two main assets this summer may provide the best bit of business conducted by Parker during his short reign in charge so far, with both Mitrovic and Cairney putting pen to paper on new contracts this summer to stave off any lingering rumours of them potentially departing Craven Cottage.
It is obvious why the Cottagers went to such great lengths to keep the Serbian striker at the club, with Mitrovic already contributing five goals in seven games so far this season, averaging 3.4 shots per game, displaying form that has continued on from last season, in which the 25 year-old still managed to plunder 11 goals in 37 Premier League games in what was a poor season all round for the Whites.
In addition to his teammate’s contribution, Fulham captain Cairney has also started the season well, with the former Blackburn Rovers man scoring one and assisting three in his first seven games this season, underlining the creative qualities which were found wanting last season from the Scotsman with Cairney only registering one goal and one assist in 31 Premier League appearances.
As well as analysing their performances in the Premier League, it is also important to look into how the duo performed during Fulham’s last season in the Championship, which was the 17/18 campaign, in which Mitrovic scored 12 goals in 17 Championship games, whilst the diminutive Cairney chalked up six goals and five assists in 37 games, as they both led Fulham to promotion via the play-offs.
From a collective point of view, the two players form two vital cogs in the way that Parker’s team operate this season, with Mitrovic providing an outlet from the centre forward position of the front three that allows his to utilise his main strengths which are winning aerial duels and laying the ball off for his teammates to bring others into play, thus getting the Whites further up the pitch in a more direct style.
Whilst he is largely a perennial target man, his passing ability at Fulham has improved considerably, which is due to Fulham’s possession based style that involves the use of short passes to get the ball wide to attack opposition fullbacks, whilst they also like to play through balls to create chances between the half spaces, that allows Mitrovic to get runs in between the opposition fullbacks and centre backs.
With Mitrovic playing a pivotal role for the Cottagers up top, Cairney operates in Fulham’s midfield three usually supported by experienced players Harry Arter and Stefan Johansen, the Scotsman’s role is to provide chances for the Fulham front three by playing key passes and through balls.
This is something he has so far excelled at this season with the Fulham number ten averaging 2.4 key passes per game, with a 92% pass success rate, putting him amongst the most creative midfield players in the Championship at present.
Whilst keeping the midfield ticking over with his passing qualities, Cairney also provides a scoring threat from both long range shots and from creating chances for himself by dribbling into goal scoring positions.
In summary, it is clear that in Cairney and Mitrovic, Fulham possess two of the best players in the division due to their attacking qualities, and with them both staying put at the club, the Cottagers will have every chance of achieving an almost immediate reprieve to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking.