On Sunday afternoon at Craven Cottage, a slightly more determined Fulham were seen away by a Liverpool side that, although not at their best, had enough to win on the day.
Fulham displayed a bit more resilience and desire under Scott Parker on Sunday than in recent times, but their overall lack of quality hampered their efforts and allowed Liverpool to dominate the ball which ultimately led to their defeat.
Liverpool nowhere near their best, but does that matter anymore?
This was a Liverpool performance that could be vitally important should they go on to win the Premier League; it’s obviously great for Liverpool to win every game they play three, four, five nil, but gritty, unimpressive 2-1 victories like this may be more crucial in the long-run.
Here they relied on Fulham’s overall lack of quality, plus a supremely silly late tackle by goalkeeper Sergio Rico on Sadio Mane to give them a penalty, and that’s pretty much the story of the game – Fulham show resilience in patches under Scott Parker but not a whole lot of much else and continue to struggle in picking up points.
Fulham are showing determination but it isn’t proving to be enough
Scott Parker is not finding it difficult to impress in charge of Fulham, such are the low standards associated with the club at the moment. The players, while not showing a particularly evident new awareness of defending, have been showing a bit more determination and a bit more desire in crucial areas under the new manager.
Yet, as evidenced at Leicester only a week ago, Fulham still can’t defend. Individual mistakes are costing the team week on week and that is something that Parker clearly cannot fix quickly – at least not before the end of the season. These silly errors were on display once more on Sunday after Sergio Rico’s mindless challenge on Sadio Mane giving away the penalty to Liverpool. It still doesn’t seem even remotely possible that Fulham beat the drop, but Parker is at least showing that the team have the ability, the limited ability, to keep games close.
Salah was poor against Fulham, but his recent form isn’t as bad as people suggest
Egyptian star Mohamed Salah wasn’t at his scintillating best against Fulham it is fair to say; he was man-marked out of the game for extended periods and when opportunities did indeed arise, he wasn’t clinical enough to take them.
And yet extended talk of Salah’s poor form should be seen as exaggerated – although his goals have undeniably dried up, he was fantastic mid-week against Bayern Münich in the Champions League, with a late outside-of-the-boot cross putting it on a plate for Sadio Mane to head home. Salah’s Senegalese attacking partner may be making all the headlines, but perhaps the attention that Salah invites, such is the danger that he poses, is a contributing factor to that.
Speaking of Sadio Mane…
The Senegalese winger is in ridiculously good form at this point in time and, such is Liverpool’s poor collective form, Mane is proving more and more invaluable as the weeks roll on. It was two against Münich on Wednesday and a goal and assist on Sunday for him and although there were suggestions that Mane would not be fit for Sunday’s game it was a real blessing that he was fit and available.
Yet the question remains as to how Liverpool will do if Mane suddenly goes off the boil and does not score a couple every game – it feels like he is leading from the front, taking charge of every game at the moment, and Liverpool may not be playing well enough to get by without him should he suddenly disappear. He is the player out of that front three that are fulfilling their potential and yet if Liverpool’s other players really hit their stride, perhaps suddenly they are the favourites for the title itself.
It doesn’t get any easier for Fulham
It’s Manchester City up next for Fulham, the Premier League Champions and the team that many are tipping for an unprecedented quadruple trophy haul this season. If Cardiff win their game in hand over Fulham they will be fourteen points in front of them, with only seven games remaining, it has gotten to the point now where Fulham need to realistically be thinking they need to win every single game from now until the end of the season if they are to pull off the unlikeliest of miracles.
Yet herein lies the problem: Fulham are getting relegated, Manchester City will most likely blow them away, and that planning for the Championship is most likely already underway. Whether Scott Parker will be anywhere near the managerial role for that period seems irrelevant at this stage, as Fulham’s most obvious problems are seen as being the responsibility of those above the manager, most notably the recruitment team.
Fulham need an overhaul, from top to bottom, but a fire-sale in the summer for all of the players they bought last summer may not give them the proper funds necessary for a rebuilding process. Teams like Swansea, suffering for their Premiership transfer woes down in the Championship, should serve as a big warning for the Fulham hierarchy.