After throwing away a 1-0 lead to Roy Hodgson’s Palace in the most embarrassing of fashions, Southampton now find themselves without a win in nine fixtures, as they prepare to face Slovisa Jokanovic’s Fulham.
But while the Saints come into this fixture in poor form, the same can’t be said for the Championship outfit; they kicked off their season in worrying form, but have since found a new lease of life, winning six of their last nine fixtures and scoring 20 along the way.
But given that they are a completely different side to the one that Southampton last faced in the Premier League, we spoke with Aleksander Simon from Cottage Confidential to find out what we can expect in our 3rd round FA Cup clash.
How would you summarise Fulham’s season so far?
Fulham has been the epitome of an up-and-down season. If the season ended now, it would be considered a major disappointment. There were lofty expectations of even being in an automatic promotion position, given how successful Fulham were down the stretch at the end of last season and making it into a playoff position. Some games we will look as if we are already a Premier League team, and others look like we should be in a relegation scrap. Fulham currently sit four points out of a playoff spot, so it truly hasn’t been awful. Overall, it has been a very neutral season with the hopes that things begin flying here the second-half.
What formation and style of play has Jokanovic implemented?
Jokanovic has been implementing a 4-3-3 with flare up top. Up top, our wingers will have a ton of movement in order to confuse the defensive backline, and they will even switch places a lot. The defensive shape is four across the back, but when Fulham begin to push the ball forward the wing backs will push very high up the field. There will be times when we could have as many as seven attacking players in the oppositions box when we push it forward. The midfield plays a triangular shape typically with McDonald in that defensive role and Johansson and Cairney in more of an attacking role. Overall, you will see a very attack heavy team that will look to keep possession and dominate the game.
How have teams got the most joy out of your defence?
Easily our set-piece play. I can’t even count the number of times that we have conceded based on set pieces. Whether it be a shot from a free kick, or someone out-muscling us for a header, it will make the fanbase fearful every time there is a free-kick in the defensive third. Another issue is that our two center backs don’t work well off of one-another. You will see a lot of times them being very far apart from one another and teams have the ability to split the ball between them. If there is a player with creative movement up top, it will be a field day for any opposition.
You’re stranded on a desert island and can only be joined by one Fulham player; who’s it going to be?
Love this question. It would have to be Tom Cairney. Just seems like a lad that everyone enjoys being around and seems like a really nice guy. Also, he’s creative on the pitch, so he’s got to be creative off of it too and figure out a way to get us out right?
Which Southampton player would you take to join Fulham?
Manolo Gabbiadini. We are desperate for a clinical finisher up top. I believe he has had his issues lately with the club and not getting much playing time, but you cannot deny his skill level. We fail to put away so many opportunities and if we converted even just a few more we would probably already be in a playoff spot. Gabbiadini would be the perfect piece, especially when we have so much attacking play that he could be critical in that.
The Telegraph recently claimed Southampton were interested in Ryan Sessegnon; just how talented is the boy?
I don’t even know where to begin. This kid is unreal and I hope that he continues with us because I believe he could really lose a lot by going to a “bigger” club. He has played every single minute this season for us. Jokanovic continues to play him as a left fullback, but anyone who watches an ounce of Fulham know that his true position is a left winger. He is pacey, intelligent, and you hold your breath a little bit every single time he touches the ball. He just makes the game look so easy. Not only that, he’s 17-year of age. Rumors are coming out of camp that his twin brother, Steven, is just as good as he is too..
Score prediction what do you think the score will be this Sunday?
This is tough for me because we are in extremely good form at the moment and Southampton are in extremely poor form. However, your lot is the more talented squad even with your woes. The matchup to watch will be over on that left-side of the pitch. It is where all of our dangerous play is going to come from, and we will most likely have Sessegnon and Neeskens Kebano out there, two very fast, technical players. Additionally, you won’t have Cedric or Pied, so that will be tough to defend. I still think you will pull out a 2-1 win, but it could just as easily be the other way around.