Feeling the Heat


Image: David Rogers/Getty Images

Even on cooler days, Fulham will need to embrace the heat of the moment again and again this season. But they must also ensure it doesn’t derail them, as it almost did at Molineux.

As the teams emerged into the 32-degree heat, they were greeted, naturally by a large display from flame cannons surrounding pitch. This was particularly hard on travelling fans, already positioned low in the only stand at Molineux directly in the sunlight.

For the players, the heat, from the flames, and in general was nearly too much to handle. In particular for Aleksandar Mitrovic.

He is Fulham’s goal machine, and a player who can do it in the Premier League. But, as we approached full-time in the Black Country, he lost his cool in an altercation with Wolves midfielder Morgan Gibbs-White and was lucky to be on the pitch when the final whistle blew just minutes later.

Mitro has clearly done worked on controlling his temperament in recent years, and since joining Fulham in January 2019 has not been sent off. Yesterday was arguably the closest he has come in four-and-a-half years in black and white.

Last season, Mitrovic scored just over 40 percent of our goals in what was a stunning season both on a personal and team level. He will be relied upon this season to be responsible for a similar percentage of The Whites’ goals. The marked difference here is that both the number of goals scored as a team (21/22: 106) and by Mitro this season (21/22: 43) will be a lot lower. It’s highly likely that each goal will count for more too, being that they’re a lot harder to come by in in the top tier.

For Mitrovic to contribute his maximum level, it goes without saying that he needs to be starting as many games as possible, particularly at this stage of the season where other potential creative outlets such as Harry Wilson and new boy Manor Solomon are ruled out with injuries. A lot of the burden thus falls on Mitrovic to both lay on and bury chances in their absence.

He’s done an excellent job of it so far, but he needs to keep his cool at all times to ensure he doesn’t hinder the team by ruling himself out for games through moments of madness like Saturday’s. Mitro is simultaneously ice-cold and red-hot- we just need him to ensure he keeps his cool when provoked.

The game was devoid of any real quality for large parts, save for a couple of smart pieces of defending and the penalty that was well saved by Jose Sa. Yet, there were still other situations that arose and can serve as lessons moving forward this campaign.

Tosin Adarabioyo is almost the opposite to the Serbian talisman. Our most promising central defender, he can go on to do great things in the future. For what it’s worth, I think he partners new signing Issa Diop in our strongest 11. Cool, calm and collected, but almost to a fault.

Tosin is a great player, but more often than not he looks for the perfect pass in situations where he (and my heart rate) might be better served by just putting his foot through the ball. Playing out from the back is part of Marco Silva’s remit, but at times he can get caught up in the situation and before he knows it, he’s under pressure from opposition attackers and forced into mistakes.

Tosin’s numbers don’t make for bad reading, as shown by his pass accuracy of 89%, and at 24 he is still young for a starting Premier League centre back. With the pressure on, the way he plays is admirable, but it’s important to retain the presence of mind to mix it up when required. Wolves were wasteful in attack, but it is a fact that errors are more frequently punished in the Premier League compared to The Championship.

Around 2,700 travelling fans filed into the stand at Molineux, eager to see if we could build upon a sterling performance in the season opener against Liverpool, and will have left satisfied after waiting been 171 weeks for a Premier League away day. Incidentally, Wolves provided the opposition last time we were in a position to travel and watch The Whites play in the country’s top division.

The first two games have been a welcome surprise for the fanbase, and personally I’d have bitten your hand off for two points from them. It’s the first time since 2010 that we haven’t lost one of our opening two games in the Premier League. There are a plenty of reasons to be positive right now, and a great result could well be on the horizon against Brentford. You’ve got to be optimistic whilst you can as it can all change terribly quickly, especially if players don’t regulate their internal temperature in the current climate.