West London clubs face off at Craven Cottage on Saturday with the fit Cottagers backing up against the Blues
If there was ever a near-perfect portrayal of the oft-repeated “game of two halves” in football’s lexicon, Tottenham Hotspur’s meeting between Fulham on Wednesday would be a good example.
Spurs dominated the first half, missing out on a glut of chances – scoring just one thanks to Harry Kane – to be caught after half-time as the Cottagers rallied in the wake of the speech. encouragement from Scott Parker at half-time.
Perhaps the stark difference for West Londoners was Ademola Lookman, strangely left out of the action until the 67th minute. The Anglo-Nigerian’s impact in the ensuing 23 minutes on the pitch raised questions as to why Parker left loaned RB Leipzig out in the first place.
Lookman not only recorded the assist for the equalizer from Ivan Cavaleiro after brilliantly skinning Davidson Sanchez, but he also almost set up what could have been the winner if Ruben Loftus-Cheek had been sharper in front. the goal. He might even have settled the game himself late if Aboubakar Kamara looked up to see the attacker in the oceans of space to his left, almost begging to be played.
In just 23 minutes, Lookman was involved in three shooting creation actions, only Antonee Robinson and Loftus-Cheek with four had more, paved the way for the created chances with three, while only Bobby Decordova-Reid (three ) played more precise passes in the Spurs area.
The assist made Lookman Fulham the top goalscorer with five, and he is expected to start against Chelsea on Saturday, especially with RLC ineligible to face his parent club.
His straight run is likely to disrupt a back line and a Blues keeper who have looked extremely fragile in recent weeks, with Edouard Mendy under pressure for a variety of reasons, from his suspicious sweeping ability to the now unconvincing shooting stop.
It remains to be seen whether Frank Lampard starts primary right-back Reece James, who returned to training this week or goes for club captain Cesar Azpilicueta. The Spaniard appears to have lost a meter of pace and could, in theory, have a scorching time against the quick Lookman, on the whole also the most menacing and creative forward in the Cottagers.
Among forwards on the Fulham side, Lookman ranks first in key passes by 90, stroke-creating actions for 90 and goal-creating actions for 90. If leave out the 23-year-old on loan from the XI against Tottenham was odd, making the same call after his demonstration on the bench and, in particular, against a struggling Chelsea side will draw even more criticism from the head coach.
If Lookman’s ability and delivery make him the hosts’ best striker, Andre Zambo Anguissa could pass as the top midfielder for the relegation-threatened side.
The all-action midfielder packs a punch and is almost unstoppable when he’s in full swing, sliding and passing his opponents like they’re not there. His already high value in this Fulham squad increases when you realize the level of effort the Cameroonian midfielder is putting into the blue collar aspects of the game as well.
Anguissa completed 17 times against Tottenham and was one of the team’s best pressers against Jose Mourinho’s men. Unsurprisingly, the Central African completed a six-dribble game in eight attempts and also helped shape shooting opportunities, placing third with Lookman in shooting creation actions.
Either way, the two games that perfectly demonstrate what the 25-year-old is were those against Manchester City and Southampton in December.
Despite his 2-0 loss at the Etihad Stadium, he was always positive in his game, evidenced by his forward-thinking passes and carrying the ball. In addition to completing all seven dribbling attempts against Pep Guardiola’s men, the Indomitable Lion was involved in the most offensive actions leading to a Fulham shot (three).
Against the Saints, Anguissa dominated for combined tackles and interceptions (10) as he did against City a few weeks earlier, while also placing third in loose balls recovered (13) against the South Coast team. – narrowly beaten by Bobby Reid and Joachim Andersen (both 14).
He was not dispossessed throughout the game despite a high level of involvement and a general willingness to carry the ball onto the pitch against a team that presses as effectively as Ralph Hasenhuttl’s troops.
It’s no surprise that he and Lookman placed in the top two for stroke-making actions, successful progressive passing and progressive carrying. Indeed, the pair will be vital for Fulham’s approach against their neighbors, who will look to talismanic Hakim Ziyech to deliver to The Cottage as they seek to stop the unsettling race.
The Moroccan star missed most of the Blues crisis and only returned in their embarrassing 3-1 defeat to Manchester City. His tendency to attempt risky passes to open the pitch or create opportunities adds a unique dimension to Lampard’s side and they took advantage of this last time in the 4-0 FA Cup victory over Morecambe on Sunday.
Granted, Fulham will pose a much tougher test than the Ligue 2 side, but it was a good run for the North African, whose high-risk, high-reward style unites an attack from Chelsea that looked sterile without him early in the season and unproductive for the majority of their December slump.
As for Fulham, while many observers believe their improvement began in that 1-1 draw against Liverpool, that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. On the contrary, they tightened up after losing their first three games 3-0, 4-3 and 3-0 to Arsenal, Leeds United and Aston Villa respectively, those seven goals accounting for 30% of their 24 goals conceded.
Interestingly, while they have lost the battle for expected goals nine times in 16 matches, they have only been beaten five times by a wide margin (Arsenal, Villa, Crystal Palace, Man City and Spurs). This further reinforces suggestions that Parker’s side have been unlucky in some matches or sometimes made bad decisions, with Lookman’s Panenka vs West Ham United failure probably a fitting example.
14 points separate the teams in the table, but Anguissa’s dynamism and the Anglo-Nigerian threat threaten to put pressure on a Chelsea side currently in trouble and under fire from Lampard.