Another Defeat for Fulham - & Yet More Concerns Down the Right Side for Scott Parker

Oct 24, 2020, 6:15 PM GMT+1
scott parker
Fulham made a tactical change for the tussle with Crystal Palace | Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images
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It may still be early in the season, but the signs aren't looking good for Fulham and Scott Parker.

There was optimism and hope after a bright display against Sheffield United, a game which Parker's men should have won. But it took just eight minutes of their clash with Crystal Palace on Saturday for this optimism to be quickly ripped away and replaced with negativity and frustration.

The Cottagers fell behind after some, yep, poor defending (well, that's a shock, isn't it?!) and after wasting a number of chances to equalise, they were punished on the counter by the Eagles yet again through the outstanding Wilfried Zaha.

Sure, it's another defeat that leaves Fulham sat at the bottom of the Premier League table, but the reality is that they didn't actually play badly. But they just simply didn't play progressively enough and never really threatened to get in behind Palace's defenders.

This was particularly the case down the right side, and not for the first time either. Despite all of Fulham's acquisitions during the summer transfer window, Parker has still been left with a notable problem area which wasn't strengthened: the right wing.

Ruben Loftus Cheek
Loftus-Cheek was allowed to operate in a free role, drifting in off the right | Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images

Neeskens Kebano was originally the man chosen to occupy the role, but he quickly found himself out of the team after the Cottagers were beaten by Arsenal on the opening day. Since then, Parker has turned to Aboubakar Kamara, Bobby Decordova-Reid and, most frequently, Ivan Cavaleiro in order to address the issue.

But each player struggled to get involved on the right when called upon by Parker.

Not for the first time, another change was needed in this position and Parker did just this for the home tussle with Palace on Saturday. But as the team was revealed, there was no recognised out-and-out right winger named, instead Ruben Loftus-Cheek filled in.

Perhaps the most concerning thing about this decision for fans will have been that Fulham could struggle for width, while there could also be a lack of service for Aleksandar Mitrovic. Indeed, these were understandable concerns.

Cheikhou Kouyate, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Jairo Riedewald
Mitrovic once again cut a frustrated figure | Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images

But as the game progressed, these concerns vanished and were quickly replaced by an even more alarming issue. With Ola Aina constantly pushing forward from right back, this allowed Loftus-Cheek to play a more free role, drifting into pockets of space and trying to link play. The problem, however, was that Loftus-Cheek found himself in tight spaces where he was forced to play simple five yard passes far too often.

Equally, with Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa driving forward from deep in the right channel and Tom Cairney playing in a more attacking midfield role, there was even less space for Loftus-Cheek to work in. Such a system didn't bring out the best in the Englishman. Sure enough, he was eventually hauled off and replaced by Decordova-Reid with just over 15 minutes remaining.

Parker had already recognised the issue and looked to resolve it by bringing on Aboubakar Kamara, allowing Loftus-Cheek to take up a more central role. But Kamara was barely seen...hat was until he got himself sent off in the final minutes with a reckless challenge.

No one can blame Parker for his decision to start Loftus-Cheek in this right wing position with license to roam as changes were required, but it has only left more questions that must be answered.

There is an imbalance within the team and it's holding them back in attack. Down the left, Ademola Lookman was a threat all afternoon against Palace, knowing when to stay wide and when to make darting runs in field to pose a greater threat. His pace, trickery and movement meant Nathaniel Clyne hadn't a clue how to deal with him, while his runs also created more space for Fulham to work down the left.

However, this simply wasn't the case down the right. There was no movement, it was predictable and as a result, it was easy to defend against.

Luka Milivojevic, Ademola Lookman
Lookman is a real threat down the left for Fulham | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

One of the main criticisms of Fulham's style of play is the lack of invention in midfield and the slow passing. And while this is true, one of the reasons for this is the fact that the midfielders are left waiting for the right back (Aina on Saturday) to get forward and provide some width down the right.

Sure, Parker and fans will be concerned by the fact they have now gone another game without a clean sheet and it has resulted in another defeat, but the problems down the right are severely hampering them going forward and a solution simply must be found - and fast. Parker's tactical gamble on Saturday was a risk worth taking, but not for the first time, it's back to square one in this department for him again.

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