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Evolution or Revolution – Fulham

Evolution or Revolution is a new series from Stats Perform looking at which teams need only a few tweaks ahead of the 2020/21 season and which require a fundamental reboot. In this piece, Jonny Cooper analyses what Fulham, relegated from the Premier League just two years ago, must do in order to be more successful this time around. 


By: Jonathan Cooper

A Lack Of Goals

Fulham relied heavily on the goals of Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovic to get them promoted – he scored 26 league goals, more than any other Championship player (excluding the play-offs), making up 41% of Fulham’s total. This was comfortably the highest percentage of goals scored by one player in the competition:

Fulham's Reliance on Mitrovic

Mitrovic finished 18 goals clear of second-placed Tom Cairney, a differential bettered only four times in the last 10 Championship seasons, including in 2018/19 with Norwich City when Teemu Pukki finished 19 goals ahead of Mario Vrancic. After winning promotion, Norwich then scored just 26 goals all season in the Premier League in 2019/20 – continuing their reliance on Pukki, who scored 42% of their goals as the Canaries finished bottom.

Difference Between First & Second Scorer - Championship

SeasonTeamTop ScorerSecond Top ScorerGoals Ahead
2012/13Crystal PalaceGlenn Murray (30)Kevin Phillips/Wilfried Zaha (6)24
2012/13Blackburn RoversJordan Rhodes (27)Rubén Rochina (5)22
2016/17Leeds UnitedChris Wood (27)Bartley/Doukara/Hernandez (6)21
2018/19Norwich CityTeemu Pukki (29)Mario Vrancic (10)19
2014/15Ipswich TownDaryl Murphy (27)Freddie Sears (9)18
2019/20FulhamAleksandar Mitrovic (26)Tom Cariney (8)18

While it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have a player in your team who can score 26 goals, it might be a problem if the goals aren’t coming from other areas as well. Fulham had fewer different scorers than any other Championship team.

Different Scorers - Championship 2019/20

Championship – 2019/20Different Scorers
Stoke City12
Huddersfield Town13
Queens Park Rangers13

Last time out in the Premier League in 2018/19, the Whites were relegated having had fewer scorers than any other side (10) and only Huddersfield scored fewer goals than Fulham.

Ultimately, Mitrovic was quite wasteful in front of goal despite having plenty of opportunities, firing in the second-highest tally of shots in the division.

Total Shots By Player - Premier League 2018/19

RankPlayerTotal ShotsGoals
1Mohamed Salah13722
4Raúl Jiménez11113
Stats Perform Verdict: Evolution Required

Possession Football Doesn’t Always Equate To Goals

Fulham’s style under manager Scott Parker is based around keeping the ball for long periods – they had 587 sequences of 10 or more passes in open play in the Championship last season, and also completed over 20,000 passes, both division-highs. But Fulham were completing 321 passes for every goal scored, the highest ratio in the division. It certainly was in stark contrast to their play-off opponents Cardiff, who scored more goals (68) and completed just 140 passes per goal scored.

Passes Per Goal - Championship 2019/20

Championship 2019/20Successful Passes Per Goal
Huddersfield Town276
Derby County273
Swansea City263

This was also an issue for Fulham in their last Premier League season in 2018/19, when they averaged 418 successful passes per goal, scoring just 34 times and completing over 14,000 passes. This ranked the second-lowest in the division, behind only Huddersfield Town, who only scored 22 goals, the third-fewest in a season in Premier League history.

Passes Per Goal - Premier League 2018/19

Premier League 2018/19Successful Passes Per Goal
Huddersfield Town548
Brighton and Hove Albion302
Wolverhampton Wanderers276

In 2019/20, Fulham had the most passes per sequence (3.8) and moved the ball upfield on average 1.3m per sequence, the second-lowest rate in the Championship, highlighting their slow build-up and lengthy spells of possession.

The player to complete the most passes in the Championship last season was Fulham’s central defender Tim Ream (2,811), over 750 more than any other Cottagers player, while the two players in the division who passed the ball to one another the most were central defenders Ream and Alfie Mawson, who passed to one another over 200 times more than any other duo (1,004 times in total).

Championship Team Playing Styles

Most Passes Between Players - Championship 2019/20

Championship 2019/20TeamPasses Between Players
Alfie Mawson and Tim ReamFulham1004
Ben White and Liam CooperLeeds United787
Joe Bryan and Tim ReamFulham743
Ben White and Luke AylingLeeds United728
Henrik Dalsgaard and Pontus JanssonBrentford655

Fulham will not compromise on their style: they have had the majority possession share in 50 of their 59 league (and play-off) games under Scott Parker, including five of their nine under him in the Premier League in 2018/19. However, the Cottagers will need to turn their abundance of possession into goals more frequently if they are to avoid a third successive Premier League relegation to go with their demotions in 2013/14 and 2018/19 – which featured Parker as a player in the former and manager in the latter.

Stats Perform Verdict: Evolution Required

Defensive Troubles

It isn’t just scoring where Fulham have had some problems over the last couple of campaigns; defensively they were outperformed in the Championship by several other teams.

Fulham Defensive Record 2019/20

Only one team attained more clean sheets than the Londoners in the regular season, but they gave up far more shots on target (168), compared to Brentford’s 137, Leeds’ 125 and even West Brom’s 155. This was reflected in the number of goals that they would have expected to concede – close to 60 when looking at expected goals against – where they ranked only seventh in the league. The fact that they conceded around 11 fewer goals than expected was down to some excellent performances from ‘keeper Marek Rodák.

Defence was clearly an issue last time Fulham were in the top-flight, so it’s a factor on which they will have to focus. No team had a worse defensive record than Fulham in 2018/19 and this resulted in their relegation.

Fulham Defensive Record 2018/19 Premier League

The Premier League season in 2018/19 saw Fulham post the third-worst defensive record of any team in the Premier League in the last decade, with the top spot also held by the 2013/14 Fulham side. Scott Parker will be only too aware of this bearing in mind he was a player back in 2013/14 and coach in 2018/19 as Fulham’s porous defence was regularly breached.

Most Goals Conceded Last Decade - Premier League

RankTeamSeasonGoals Conceded
4Hull City2016/1780
Stats Perform Verdict: Evolution Required

Review other pieces in this series:
Manchester United
Manchester City
Tottenham Hotspur
Leicester City
Leeds United
West Brom

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