Match Reaction: Fulham 6-2 Birmingham City

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Goals at Championship grounds around the country are at the mercy of Marco Silva’s attacking machine. Every time the white shirts moved into Birmingham territory, there was a palpable expectation that Fulham would add to their tally…

19 goals in a week speaks for itself, and the statisticians have been busy sharing the permutations of score lines that would look more at home on Centre Court than Craven Cottage. The main take away is that Fulham have opened a 5-point gap at the summit of the Championship table as well as a establishing a goal difference that it is difficult to imagine any other team will match, especially considering that said goal difference is in excess of all the Whites’ oppositions “Goals For” column. 

There are many factors at play in The Cottagers form. The work on the pitches at Motspur Park and of Silva and his staff has to be commended. Adaptations have had to be made, Jean-Michael Seri has joined his nations quest for continental glory in Cameroon, meaning a heavier load is being placed on a resurgent Tom Cairney. The club captain has more than responded to his team’s call. His ability to break a press with his dribbling has added a new threat to his team’s already potent threat in transitions. 

Harrison Reed is flourishing in a deeper role again, having been asked to do his pressing higher up the pitch for most of the season. In addition, there is a more consistent contribution from Silva’s fullbacks, Denis Odoi assisted Neeskens Kebano for Fulham’s second, while Antonee Robinson tee’d up Fabio Carvalho for the third and later added the sixth. Reed’s work in front of the back four has freed the fullbacks to impact the game further up the pitch. 

Both of the fullbacks who started the most recent domination have shown genuine improvement under the Portuguese coach. Odoi has established himself as a worthy option this season, and while there will be hesitation to continue to rely on him should Fulham reach the Premier League, he has demonstrated more than enough to ensure there is little concern when Kenny Tete is absent from the team sheet. Robinson for his part still has moments where his decision making or technique let him down, but those are becoming rarer. His defensive ability remains strong and now his work in opposition territory is making a difference to score lines too.

Another beneficiary of the tweaks in The Cottagers’ system has been Fabio Carvalho. While he was perhaps catching opposition defences by surprise during the early part of the season, they are now more wary of his talents. But with the fullbacks offering more threat, and Cairney playmaking closer to the opposition goal than Seri likes to, it has become harder for them to pay him enough attention to prevent his goal contributions growing again. Two goals and an assist on Tuesday point to that. The Craven Cottage floodlights put a spotlight on the youngster, and he delivered an encore to his goal against Bristol City with a show stealing performance. How many more of these performances are seen by the banks of The Thames remains to be seen.

That Fulham scored 6 and Aleksandar Mitrovic did not add to his own monumental haul, speaks volumes of the sides numerous threats. Even when not scoring the Serb is impacting games. His mere presence caused Marc Roberts to put through its own net an he continues to link play and create space for his teammates. 

Everything suggests that this run of scores won’t continue, however, the number of goals scored across the season suggests that even if this is a purple patch, another one or two such patches will follow before the seasons end. New balls please.