Fulham were promoted to the Premier League at the end of last season via the play-offs and sailed into the top flight on a wave of optimism. Having played some lovely football in the Championship and spent over £100 million in the summer, many were wondering just how high the Cottagers would climb.
10 games in, Fulham are in the relegation zone with five points and have conceded a huge 28 goals – five more than the second-worst defence in the division. If something doesn’t change soon, manager Slavisa Jokanovic will be out of a job and the West London club will find themselves heading straight back to the second tier.
A huge problem for the club so far has been over-rotation. Alfie Mawson, Joe Bryan, Tim Ream, Cyrus Christie, Calum Chambers, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Maxime Le Marchand, Denis Odoi and Ryan Sessegnon have all featured in the Fulham rearguard this season.
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Without continuity there is no opportunity for relationships to develop or any natural cohesion to occur. The first step to producing a solid backline at Craven Cottage is settling for a first-choice defence.
In the short term, this will likely lead to continued poor results as the players adapt and grow into their roles. However, in time, the defence ought to become accustomed to their jobs at Premier League level.
There is room for rotation, however, but it needs to be done sparingly and not in a blind panic searching for some magic formula to suddenly click into place.
On top of that, Fulham’s midfield and wingers must become more diligent in serving their defensive duties. The likes of Andre Schurrle, Luciano Vietto and Aboubakar Kamara may have to curtail their attacking instincts somewhat in order to lend better protection to the full-backs behind them, especially during this difficult period of transition and adaptation.