Claudio Ranieri

The road to safety looks steep but still there’s hope

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Claudio Ranieri has to prepare his existing squad to cope with the reality of the top tier. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES

Morgan Phillips
Morgan Phillips

By Morgan Phillips

In my report of the Leicester City match I commented:

‘Fulham had openings which would have resulted in goals if they had fallen to cooler souls than Denis Odoi and (Abou) Kamara.’

Back in May 2018 Odoi’s headed goal took Fulham to the play-off final, something for which he will always be remembered with gratitude. Kamara’s speed and strength also contributed to that victory over Derby County though he marred his performance with a ludicrous dive. This season both men have earned their places in the Premier League squad, and Claudio Ranieri selected them to start against West Ham on a drenched Saturday evening at the Cottage.

Fulham adapted quickly to the appalling conditions and in the ninth minute Aleks Mitrovic sent Kamara through with only goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski to beat. The striker’s shot was too early and too predictable, allowing Fabianski to knock the ball away from the goal.

Eight minutes later a dithering Odoi was dispossessed by Felipe Anderson, whose shrewd pass allowed Robert Snodgrass to put West Ham ahead.

Fears that the game was already lost were compounded when Javier Hernandez headed an Anderson centre on to an unmarked Michail Antonio. Fulham 0 West Ham 2. Tim Ream, whose defensive work had been so crucial to the club’s promotion, should have beaten Hernandez in the air and Alfie Mawson, new this season, was caught out of position.

Ranieri may feel the need to sign yet more players, but the ability of Odoi, Kamara, Ream and Mawson is not in doubt and they made positive contributions during the match. Felipe Anderson, who caused Fulham so much bother, admits that he found the Premier League really daunting at first. Belatedly Ranieri has to prepare his existing squad to cope with the reality of the top tier. West Ham had only three shots on target yet achieved a decisive victory.

Kamara was named as substitute for the pre-Christmas visit to Newcastle, but Odoi, Ream and Mawson combined into a solid back three to achieve Fulham’s first clean sheet of the season. Odoi made one vital goal-line save and Ream was nearly back to his best.

It would have been marvellous to see a goal from Mitrovic against the club that undervalued him or from Kamara, who came on in the 76th minute. They tried individually and together, but the Newcastle goalie had an easy afternoon.

Halfway through the season Fulham have beaten only two Premier League teams. Though the road to safety looks extremely steep a few more victories could inspire fresh hope.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.

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