Luke Sargeant continues our countdown of Fulham player ratings for 2021/22 with the top 10 in ascending order…
Neco Williams’ late arrival was unexpected, but certainly welcomed after, cult hero, Denis Odoi left for pastures new on deadline day. Marco Silva had intimated on several occasions that he wanted more goal contributions from his full backs, and Williams quickly delivered just that, providing two assists in his first three appearances, and then two goals in the visit to Swansea. Not to mention being the thickness of the crossbar away from delivering the goal of the season when his solo drive to the half way line was followed by an audacious attempt to catch the Blackburn keeper off his line. He had an instant impact, and although the numbers didn’t maintain the course of the season, his attacking threat was always evident as he combined with his countryman Harry Wilson on the right-hand side.
So impressive was his loan spell that there are plenty of fans calling for the club to make his move permanent, or at least explore the option of bringing him back for a second spell as part of the push for Premier League survival. Rumours suggest that those in positions of power were equally impressed, and it is safe to assume discussions around Williams have already been had, at least internally.
JEAN MICHAEL SERI
It’s easy to forget that Jean Michael Seri made 32 league appearances (one less than this campaign) in his ill-fated debut season at Craven Cottage. For all the opinions that he wasn’t up to the task, all three managers picked him fairly consistently until Scott Parker decided not use him at all for the final 3 games of the season, with the club already relegated. There is no justifiable argument that he was a success in that first season, but the idea that he was any worse than many others is probably more down to the initial expectations than the actuality of what transpired.
After two seasons in the wilderness of loan moves abroad, Seri’s return to prominence has been the feel-good story of an exceptional season. His metronomic ability to control the game from the base of midfield, particularly in the first half of the season was a joy to watch. And although he was less involved upon returning from international duty at AFCON, his introductions still brought flashes of his brilliance. His impact most memorably encapsulated by a chipped through ball to Harry Wilson, to score the game-killing goal against Barnsley.
It has come as a surprise to many that Seri won’t be a part of the squad as the club returns to the Premier League, but could there have been a better way to say goodbye? After a mixed 4-year spell, Seri leaves SW6 with fond memories and a place in hearts of many a fan.
There was a time that some may have thought we’d seen the last of Tom Cairney as a first-team regular. His injury issues initially offered no sign of dissipating, as he missed the first 11 fixtures, and was an unused substitute for the twelfth. But all of that changed, under the lights and a downpour on Stevenage Road, when he entered the field of play at the start of the second half of the 13th match. Ironically after missing the first 12 games, it took just 12 minutes for Cairney’s moment of catharsis, lashing the ball into the net in front of the Hammersmith End to give The Whites the lead in a tight affair against Cardiff.
The club captain went on to play in 25 of the remaining 33 games, with 16 starts that included an uninterrupted stretch of eight matches, six of which ended in victory and only one in defeat. He has more than played his role this season in once again captaining his team to promotion, fittingly scoring the 100th goal of the campaign to start that glorious evening against Luton. How his body stands up to the rigours of the top flight remains to be seen, but Marco Silva has managed his skipper effectively this term, and may have lengthened the career of Fulham’s gifted playmaker. Cairney has always stood up when it counted in The Championship, and this season was no different.
It’s easy to overlook just how good Tosin Adarbioyo has been this season. He deals with so much, with such little fuss. As with any defender asked to play bravely, out from the back, there is always the risk that it doesn’t go according to plan and creates moments of uncertainty in and around the wrong penalty area, but the positives certainly outweigh the negatives in this instance.
Tosin’s range of passing has been key to Fulham’s effective counter-attacking and more direct play under Silva. Why make 6 passes when two will get you there quicker? Tosin provides the option to play fewer passes and arrive in the opposition box. He has been as important going forward this season as he has protecting his own net. Deservedly voted into the Championship team of the season, he doesn’t provide as many last-ditch hero tackles as his centre-back partner, but much of that is down to his initial positioning eliminating the need for such efforts. A certain starter for next season, it’s exciting to see where his ceiling is as he heads into his sophomore top flight season.
Harrison Reed is the type of player that could win player of the season every year and you’d find few people to suggest he doesn’t deserve it. His work-rate is unmatched, and his absence is almost always felt when not available. There have been suggestions that he is prone to injury, but in the unrelenting Championship he made 39 appearances, playing in all but three fixtures after returning from a knock that ruled him out until gameweek 5, which should dispel any concerns about his durability.
Asked to play in slightly different areas of the pitch this season as Seri and Chalobah were often tasked with his natural role in front of the back four, his pressing abilities were extremely useful as Silva encouraged the side to win the ball back in opposition territory. While the wait for his first Fulham goal agonises on, he provides so much more to the team that his value is never in question. He is the epitome of consistency, and once again he has proven to be Mr. Reliable for The Cottagers.
It’s taken the best part of 6 years to see the best of Neeskens Kebano, but after threatening to breakout at the back end of the covid-affected 19/20 season, the Fulham Faithful finally got to witness Kebano fulfill his promise in person as Marco Silva’s front-foot approach brought out the best in the winger from Congo. A constant threat when he played, and missed when he didn’t, Kebano earned his place as a first-choice winger this season scoring nine goals and laying on a further six, easily making it his most productive season by The Thames.
Almost forgotten last season, and eventually loaned to Middlesbrough, it was uncertain where Kebano would figure in the pecking order. The arrival of Wilson and the Portuguese connection Ivan Cavaleiro shared with the new head coach may have suggested he would play second fiddle at best, but after an inconsistent August, he cemented his place in September and never looked back. His infectious personality makes him a fan favourite, and his performances have solidified that status. He is what fans want to see, exciting, incisive and decisive in attacking areas. The club will look to upgrade in his position this summer, but that shouldn’t mean the end of Kebano at Fulham. A player of his skill will surely have a role to play in the Premier League. This could finally be his chance to showcase his flicks and tricks on the biggest stage. They’ve certainly been enjoyed over the last year.
Fans love nothing more than seeing an exciting youngster break into the first team. Fulham have previous after Ryan Sessegnon took the championship by storm as a bright-eyed teenager for two seasons between 2016 and 2018. This was the year of Fabio Carvalho. Scoring in the second match of the season in Huddersfield, he then terrorised Millwall at The Den. He was to go on to do the same to pretty much every team he came up against. He rode the tackles, took the kicks, and gave some back.
If seasoned veterans thought the rough treatment would deter the Portuguese star boy they couldn’t have been more wrong. Across 36 appearances he bagged 10 goals and eight assists. What happens next is disappointing to all those connected to Fulham as he will move to Liverpool hoping to transfer his talents to a higher level of competition. There are cautionary tales of such ambition, but with his undeniable ability and the structure of success already in place at Anfield it’s fair to believe he will go on to be the sensation he has threatened to be already. There have been numerous stand-out performances, Birmingham at home, away at Stoke where he took on the mantle in the absence of Aleksandar Mitrovic, and of course the nights of the pitch invasions following significant victories over Preston and Luton. He should leave with best wishes, and his future success is in some small part Fulham’s. He didn’t down tools after a collapsed dream move in January, he worked hard and secured it belatedly. It’s a testament to his character, something that will be just as important as his ability in the next chapter of his journey.
As a long serving squad member, Tim Ream has seen it all during his time in black and white. This season his know-how and experience has laid the foundation for the best season Fulham have experienced since the first relegation was suffered in 2014. He has captained the side no fewer than 29 times, as he was the only ever-present in the starting XI. To have completed the 90mins in 45 of 46 matches is extremely impressive, even before you consider his elder statesman status. His ball-playing isn’t bettered by any defender in the division, and he matches that with a determined willingness to put his body on the line for the team.
His performances more than warranted the contract extension he has signed, and while he most likely won’t be relied upon for every Premier League game; as part of a well-drilled system he has proven he can still contribute even at the highest level. His voice will be just as important in the dressing room as it is on the pitch when this Fulham team look to avoid the pitfalls of its predecessors. Ream has seen it go wrong before, he’ll know what to avoid and what is needed.
It’s been said that if a certain striker hadn’t scored 43 goals, Harry Wilson would have been named Championship player of the season. Double figures for goals and assists, with record setting numbers in the latter tells you just how effective the undoubted signing of the season has been. He can be guilty of drifting out of games, but that can be forgiven when he has decisively impacted so many contests.
A goal on his league debut set the tone for what was to come throughout the season, as he went on to develop a potent telepathy with Mitrovic with the pair sharing 13 goal combinations. Harry Kane and Heung Min Son, so revered for their striking partnership, hold the Premier League record for such link ups in a season with 14 to give some indication of just how brilliantly Fulham’s two principle attackers have worked together this term.
Wilson, like Mitrovic, often looked a Premier League player in the Championship, manipulating the ball with ease, mesmerising opponents with clever runs, direct dribbling and pinpoint deliveries. 19 assists tells its own story, but it’s also worth noting the impact of having a dead ball specialist in the team. Wilson may not have scored any of his trademark, direct free kicks this season but only two teams managed to score more goals from set-pieces than Fulham in the championship. Wilson took a significant portion of those, perhaps none more important than the kick that set up Mitrovic’s winner in Middlesbrough. He has brought a lot to the team, and will be a key player next season.
The numbers don’t lie, but they also don’t tell the whole story. 43 goals is incredible, but there was so much more to Aleksandar Mitrovic this season. The importance of the some of those goals cannot be understated. On the five occasions The Whites won by a solitary goal, Mitrovic scored. He also broke the deadlock on numerous occasions and added seven assists. When you add his exploits for Serbia, scoring the goal that secured his nation a World Cup berth, no one has been more decisive in world football this season.
Marco Silva has added to his game, with the target man dropping into midfield to link play and create space for willing runners such as Decordova-Reid, Wilson, Carvalho and Kebano. His range of passing has drawn gasps of awe at times and when coupled with his tenacity and strength, he has proven unstoppable. The other thing that goes unnoticed is his durability. Mitrovic is a physical player, and takes his share of bumps. I dare say he enjoys them. If we discount last season under Scott Parker, in his other three full seasons in West London, Mitrovic has missed just nine league matches. He is reliable, he is present, and this season he has been well and truly on fire.
There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the position of head coach as the summer began. Scott Parker ended up engineering an exit to Bournemouth, and there were rumours of Eddie Howe, Steve Cooper and Chris Wilder taking the Fulham hot seat. One name that was scarcely mentioned was that of Portuguese schemer Marco Silva. Somewhat unproven after Jekyll and Hyde spells across Hull, Watford and Everton, there was a mix of excitement and trepidation greeting the appointment. The arrival of former FFC captain Luis Boa Morte as Silva’s assistant did bring a lot of positivity though.
Silva won the fans over early as his team went on the front foot and took the Championship by storm. Free-scoring and playing with smiles on their faces, Silva rehabilitated players, brought the best out of others and motivated all. After two seasons of less than adventurous football, fans on the banks of The Thames craved a return to the attacking impetus of teams led by Jean Tigana and more recently Slavisa Jokanovic. They got just that as Silva’s ruthless Champions amassed 106 goals, three 7-0 wins and a further 11 victories by three goals or more.
For a manager to score 10/10 they would probably have to go unbeaten or break a points record, and while this team is not without its flaws, it’s been close to a perfect season under the leadership of a man lauded by the Fulham Faithful as a genius.