The Whites go into the international break on the back of another defeat, their sixth defeat on the spin in the competition. Despite this, it is on the back of a respectable performance against one of the Premier League’s most irresistible forces. Having conceded a huge 29 goals in their first 11 games, it seemed to many, that the result would resemble more of a cricket score by the end of the 90 minutes at Anfield where the hosts are unbeaten for 18 months. Instead, what came about was a performance of ‘what if’s’, where there were plenty of positives to be taken.
A new 4-4-1-1 formation was trialled, with Chambers deployed into a defensive midfield position alongside Zambo Anguissa. There was fluidity in the formation, as at times when under pressure, Chambers would drop to create a back 5, with Cairney coming deeper to fill the vacant gap.
After the first 15 minutes when it looked like Liverpool may score with every attack, the side grew into the game and created opportunities of their own. A great chance fell to youngster Sessegnon who was put through on goal by Mitrovic’s flick, but put his shot narrowly wide, that he may have buried in the Championship last term. Alisson was further tested by Schurrle and Mitrovic, before the turning point of the game occurred.
A cross from deep was powered home by the Serbian striker, only to see his strike disallowed by the linesman’s flag. Replays showed that Robertson had failed to push up, and if he was offside, it was by the tightest of margins. To add further salt to the wounds, Liverpool took a quick freekick and released Salah through on goal for a chance he dispatched. Just 14 seconds passed between the ball being in the back of each net. If the questionable offside decision wasn’t enough, it appeared that as Alisson took the freekick the ball had not stopped rolling so should have been retaken. These moments became the difference between going in behind or with something to come out and defend in the second half, leading Jokanovic to claim the referee had shown his team ‘disrespect’ in the game.
An early second for the Reds via a Shaqiri cushioned volley seemed to end the game as a contest, although the damage had already been done. The team then defended well for the remaining 35 minutes to contain the score line to a respectable one, when in weeks gone by it would have become five or six. Although this looked like a more solid back line performance, it must also be remembered that there hasn’t been a goal at the other end of the pitch for four games. Jokanovic must find a way to balance the expansive attacking football with a solid defensive unit.
Although one of the favourites for the sack, Slavisa appears to have the fans on his side for now, recognising that he normally makes a slow start to league campaigns. They know how devastating he is once his team clicks and gets on a winning streak. Alan Shearer writing an article explaining why he should keep his job indicates how well respected he is within the footballing community.
Further, Fulham are in a lucky position that there are six other teams in as just an awful state as them, in Huddersfield, Southampton, Crystal Palace, Cardiff, Newcastle and Burnley. Despite just one win all season, the club are only 3 points away from safety, and 4 from 14th. It seems that three of these teams will go down, so even in November matches against each other already seem like relegation six pointers.
And Fulham’s next game appears to be just that, at home to Southampton. A win is a must, and it feels like the team may be sorting themselves out just in time.