If ever there was a game packed full of narrative, it’s the meeting between Fulham and Bournemouth under the lights at Craven Cottage. If a contest between the seemingly run-away top-2 didn’t provide enough implications, Scott Parker’s return to West London less than six-months after his protracted and somewhat sour departure has fans, pundits and press alike anticipating the Friday night offering of Championship football.
The story of Scott Parker’s time at Fulham is a well-known mixed bag. But several things can be equally true. He revitalised a club that had lost it’s way. As the third manager of dire Premier League campaign, he reunited the fan base and started his first full season amid a wave of excitement among the Fulham faithful. That season didn’t produce any of the most memorable moments, but a Wembley win against a local rival is not something to be consigned to history. The club needed promotion, and he achieved it, regardless of style. Had he not, there’s every chance the club is not in the position it is in now. Financially, it was imperative we got to the Premier League, otherwise future aspirations may have shifted significantly.
What happened next is what most will remember though. Another failed tilt at the big time, an ostracised hero and a rather underhanded departure. All of this has led to what will undoubtedly be a fiery atmosphere sure to thaw out the chill of the riverside setting.
Bournemouth are a proposition not to be taken lightly. Recent form has not been great, but they started the season with a 15-match unbeaten run. Whatever your feelings on the style used to achieve it, it is an impressive feat. But Fulham are on a 9-match run of their own, and for the most part, have amassed their points in far more impressive fashion.
The game also marks a meeting of what are widely regarded as the two top marksmen in the division. Dominic Solanke, is once again proving his worth in the second tier. His opposite number, though, is an international goal-machine, setting a record-breaking pace that looks like it may never be matched again. A striker who the visiting manager seemingly lost faith in, but is now ablaze in a way we have never seen before. And it isn’t just Aleksandar Mitrovic who will be relishing the opportunity to get one over on his former boss.
As we head into the match, The Whites are top and have the momentum, though that may have been slowed by the illness that recently crept into camp. It would be very “Parker” to attempt to stifle that momentum and strangle the game in search of a single-goal victory. Marco Silva rarely allows his team to settle for just the odd-goal margin. It’s a battle of title rivals, of old friends and foes. A tale of redemption and a clash of styles. What more could you ask for, asides from a convincing home win?
SCORE PREDICTION: Fulham 3-0 Bournemouth
PREFERRED LINE-UP: 4-2-3-1
H2H LEAGUE RECORD (OVERALL)
- PLAYED – 28
- FULHAM WINS – 7
- DRAWS – 8
- BOURNEMOUTH WINS – 13
- GOALS SCORED – 32
- GOALS CONCEDED – 44
H2H LEAGUE RECORD (HOME)
- PLAYED – 14
- FULHAM WINS – 4
- DRAWS – 5
- BOURNEMOUTH WINS – 5
- GOALS SCORED – 17
- GOALS CONCEDED – 20
LAST 5 GAMES
- BOURNEMOUTH 0-1 FULHAM
- FULHAM 0-3 BOURNEMOUTH
- FULHAM 1-5 BOURNEMOUTH
- BOURNEMOUTH 2-0 FULHAM
- BOURNEMOUTH 1-1 FULHAM
BIGGEST WINS AT CRAVEN COTTAGE
- FULHAM 4-0 BOURNEMOUTH AND BOSCOMBE ATHLETIC (1962/63 – League Cup)
- FULHAM 1-5 BOURNEMOUTH (2014/15)
PLAYERS IN COMMON
Harry Arter, John Beck, George Best, Kevin Betsy, Roger Brown, David Button, Lauri Dalla Valle, Adam Green, Emerson Hyndman, Scott Malone, Kieran McAnespie, Sean O’Driscoll, Gerry Peyton, Peter Scott, Tony Sealy, Harry Wilson.
Here’s a Bournemouth perspective from the Cherries Red Army YouTube channel ahead of Friday night’s top of the table clash…
What did you make of Scott Parker’s appointment over the summer?
Even those that were against his appointment will have been swayed by the results (up until the last few games). He certainly has a dress sense that sets him apart from other managers but play style was a worry for some given what we were hearing from Fulham fans. However, from the first pre-season game you could see the high pressing style he was going to implement and that excited me. The worry was going to be if the team could sustain it for a season and that is still yet to be proven. He’s also brought some really promising youth players into the first team picture that have been given the game time a lot of fans wanted them to get. A recent worry though, has been his formation changes in games which look drastic, desperate and haven’t produced results. Certainly he’s been a great fit for us so far and most fans would say they are happy we brought him in.
In recent years, Bournemouth have been associated with playing an attractive, entertaining brand of football. Putting results aside, has that style of play continued under Scott Parker?
So I mentioned the high pressing aspect already and really results have started to drop off when we haven’t sustained that for whatever reason. There has been the odd occasion where the team seem to be passing for passing sake (last time out at Coventry in particular) but there is no reluctance to play more direct to change our point of attack. The easy comparison is between this team and the 14/15 league winning team under Howe. Whilst this team is more solid at the back, it doesn’t go all out in attack quite like that team did. However, it’s easy to look back with Rose-tinted glasses and what could be described as the ‘Bournemouth way’ is still frequently present in displays from this team.
5 points in your last 5 matches. Is this just a blip or has the fast start just caught up with you?
Injuries have really hampered the last several matches. Lloyd Kelly and Jirdan Zemure have been big misses and Ben Pearson brings undoubted quality and security to the team whenever he plays. Chris Mepham has come in to replace Kelly and whilst I think he is certainly capable at this level, being played on his weaker left side has not done him any favours in playing out from the back. Leif Davis replacing Zemura has been okay but often looks very suspect defensively. Once we have all 3 of those players avaliable again I think we’ll come back out of this blip. We also could do with Ryan Christie finding some form again. He started brilliantly but has been pretty absent in the last few games for me. Also, if Jack Stacey could stop making game defining mistakes that would be great.
Dominic Solanke has been in good form this season, is this just a purple patch or is he the long term answer to lead the line for the Cherries?
He’s a modern day 9 and a 1/2. Presses tirelessly, is holding the ball up better than before and is frequently making the right runs to stretch defences as well. To top it off he started finding the back of the net on a far more regular basis. The drop down a division has really allowed him to develop and I think he’s ready for the Prem again. Would he ever make it at a team like Liverpool again? I doubt it, but he’s on the way back up no doubt. In fact, if there wasn’t a particular monster on the books at Fulham he’d be in with a shout for top scorer this season.
How much of a loss will Lerma be on Friday night?
Massive loss, particularly when I don’t think Pearson will be back fit. I get that a lot of teams don’t like him, and it’s easy to see why, but when he’s in your team it’s so great to have a combative player like that and a total wind up merchant too (though he is also prone to going too far with it). He’s a ball winner but also has a great pass on him and has scored a couple of great goals for us too. It’s no surprise that all 4 managers he’s worked under at Bournemouth have had him as one of the first names on the team sheet.
What has been your biggest strength/weakness so far this season?
Up until a few weeks ago, I would have said our biggest strength was our defence. We do still have the joint fewest goals conceded but that GA column looked a lot better even just 2 weeks ago. Our away record is also the best in the division and that may be down to our style suiting being the away team.
Our weakness has been not going for the kill in games were we are ahead. 2-0 is a score the team has settled for on too many occasions and it could have come back to bite us more than it has. QPR and Luton almost got something from us after going 2 down, whilst Blackpool and Coventry both did take a point in the end. It’s not a huge weakness but it’s the biggest frustration for fans so far about Parker’s reign I would say.
How do you see the game panning out?
I expect you to dominate the ball for large spells and create enough chances to score at least 1 goal. Although, our pressing game should have a strong impact at some point and I could easily see us taking advantage of a mistake to get ourselves a goal as well. If we’d had a fully fit squad I would have been more confident on our game plan coming off and could even see us winning. However, with current form and injuries I would be very happy with a point.
My heart says 1-1 but my head says 2-1 to Fulham.
LEAGUE POSITION: 2ND
LEAGUE FORM: DDLWL
AWAY FORM: DLWWW
LAST RESULT: BOURNEMOUTH 2-2 COVENTRY CITY
GOALS SCORED: 36 (2ND)
GOALS CONCEDED: 16 (23RD)
AVERAGE POSSESSION: 56% (4TH)
DISCIPLINE: 39 YELLOWS 2 REDS (10TH)
TOP SCORER: DOMINIC SOLANKE (15)
MOST ASSISTS: RYAN CHRISTIE (5)