Time and excuses are running out for Fulham manager Slaviša Jokanović as his side surrendered an early lead to lose 4-2 to Cardiff City, who in the process recorded their first win since their return to the Premier League.
Cardiff will definitely have targeted this game as a must-win fixture considering their only points before this match arrived in two goalless draws, but the eventual ease to which they ran out winners in this game will have surprised both parties.
After André Schürrle’s early screamer for Fulham, a thunderbolt from 30 yards, Cardiff found their footing in both the match and the league, finding the match at 2-2 at the break and then regaining their composure and versatility to see out the match as worthy winners.
Jokanović on the brink
Slaviša Jokanović has known about Fulham’s weaknesses for a long time now, as have all of their fans – the 5-1 defeat to Arsenal two weeks ago confirmed Fulham as having the worst defence in the division bar none and playing against a side that had only scored four goals in eight games before this one, a clean-sheet against Cardiff was surely a realistic target.
Instead of a clean-sheet, Jokanović’s somehow managed to allow Cardiff to double their entire season tally of goals in one match – Fulham look so far away from the big-spending side that they proved to be in the summer transfer window.
It cannot be long until all the attention is shifted onto their manager, who has experimented with numerous back-four line-ups, changed formation more than once and failed to utilise the new defensive signings of Joe Bryan and Alfie Mawson, despite them costing a combined total of twenty six million pounds. If the blame comes to Slaviša Jokanović, which it surely will do soon, it will not be unjust.
Cardiff up and running – but warning signs remain
Despite Fulham’s woes, Cardiff deserve great credit for their display, particularly in the second-half where they tightened up at the back while remaining a danger both on the offence and the counter-attack. Bobby Reid finally got his first Cardiff goal and assist as well, confirming his arrival in the Premier League as an excellent young talent and a potential figure for the side to be built around.
However, the defending for Fulham’s second goal was extremely sloppy and if it wasn’t for the heroics of Neil Etheridge, the Cardiff goalkeeper, in the second-half, the game could have turned a drastically different direction. Cardiff needed to win this game – after all, they were playing a side who have now conceded twenty five goals in nine games – but attention should now shift to making their home a consistent venue for positive displays and points, and not to get carried away with this, their first win of the season.
Both sides are both still desperate for January
It should not be the case that after such a gluttony of summer spending by Fulham that they remain in desperate need of some new recruitment but this is the situation they find themselves in – they have not shied away from spending money this season but another bad window could signal the end of their Premier League visit. The most obvious area that needs desperate improvement is the defence, who have conceded nine goals in two games, but they have already shown that new, expensive and talented players won’t thrive under bad organisation. There may be another splurge this January for Fulham but the biggest question is not who will they buy, but rather who will be in charge to oversee it?
Cardiff may be feeling less desperate after this excellent win but improvements are still needed – Harry Arter, although occasionally late in the tackle has proved to be a very shrewd addition to the midfield, while Bobby Reid is finally proving his talent after a ten million pound switch from Bristol City – but their strike-force in particular remains lacking. Whether Cardiff have the pulling power to bring in a truly superb striker to help them stay up is yet to be seen but more performances like this may convince new recruits that this is a project worth joining.
Cardiff have now jumped out of the relegation zone, for a few hours at the very least, while Fulham have subsequently dropped into it thanks to their truly wretched goal-difference. The differing emotions on each opposition side couldn’t be more profound tonight, as Cardiff see a route to escape while Fulham are left staring into the abyss.
Man of the Match – Bobby Reid (Cardiff City)
Much pressure was put on young Bobby Reid after a disappointing start to the season with Cardiff City – some may have been beginning to question his capability to play at a level as high as this after his breakthrough Championship year.
Against the worst defence in the Premier League, however, Reid looked excellent – after a fortunate deflection bought the ball into his stride the finish was anything but lucky, a cool, confident low sweep through the legs of Bettinelli. His flick around the defender in the 65th minute of the match was enough for Callum Paterson to fire in Cardiff’s third goal – a goal and an assist for Bobby Reid helped define the outcome of the match and showed the crowd that he was worth taking a ten million pound risk on.