Championship Gameweek Eight: Fulham Class To Show In Second Half?5 min read
Garry Monk has his first home game in charge of Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday – but will he begin his reign with back-to-back wins, or will Fulham show their promotion credentials?
Monk’s winning start
Without being able to give their manager a summer to evolve a squad that finished 12th last season but posted the fifth-worst shot data in the Championship, Sheffield Wednesday needed somebody pragmatic and capable of adapting to his resources.
Great fans. #swfc pic.twitter.com/XSBRNqLRVJ
— Fabian Weißbarth (@weissbarth) September 15, 2019
Monk did that admirably at Birmingham and generally, he likes his teams to go long from deep to a target man, which will be Steven Fletcher in this case –he also likes them to press into the opposing half, pounce on opposition mistakes and attack quickly in transition.
Monk’s first game in charge resulted in a 2-0 victory at Huddersfield, where the Owls seemed to carry out his blueprint to the letter, winning through headers from Steven Fletcher and Sam Winnall.
Fulham’s mixed start
At times, Fulham have shown the brilliance that the front-four of Aleksandar Mitrovic, Anthony Knockaert, Ivan Cavaleiro and Tom Cairney naturally possesses – the 4-0 win over Fulham being the prime example.
The Whites can take positives, too, from the control they exerted in the first half of last Saturday’s 1-1 home draw with West Brom.
If there is one criticism that Fulham fans have of rookie head coach Scott Parker, it might be that he can be slow to react to changes to the pattern of games – he tends to trust his players to deliver one way of playing effectively, unless there is a red card like Harry Arter’s dismissal in the 1-1 draw at Cardiff.
"@HarrisonReed was very good, reading the game and mopping up, playing it simple and starting attacks for us. We know what he’s capable of." – @bobbyreid93
Game recognising game ??
— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) September 15, 2019
Interestingly, though, the Cottagers have in fact fared better in the second half of their games this season than they have in the first – they have scored a combined three goals in the last quarter-hours of their matches, too.
The fact, therefore, that Parker has made just three substitutions before the 75th minute since the opening day has not necessarily been a hindrance, even if his patience was not rewarded against West Brom.
The Tactics Board
We can expect Wednesday to try to start at a high intensity and show the fans, most of whom will be witnessing Monk’s work live for the first time, his intentions.
They will play early balls into Steven Fletcher and hope to get Adam Reach latching onto the knock-downs quickly.
They may try to take advantage of the lack of physicality in Fulham’s midfield trio of Bobby Reid, Tom Cairney and Harrison Reed – although the latter has been faultless at the base of the midfield since coming in for the suspended Arter.
Fulham right-back Steven Sessegnon had 30 touches within the width of the 18-yard boxes last time out – 10 more than the opposing two full-backs combined – which shows he likes to come inside and act almost like a temporary midfielder at times.
If Sessegnon plays in a similar way here, the resultant space is something Wednesday’s Kadeem Harris, an impressive, direct left-winger who loves to hug the touchline, will look to exploit in transition – especially early on when fresh.
Fulham have only scored one goal in the first half hour of their matches so far this season – and they have been underwhelming in the first half against Barnsley, Huddersfield, Nottingham Forest and Cardiff, all of whom employed high energy game plans.
It’s generally in the second half, when the opposition press drops off, that the Whites tend to dictate play more and that theme could continue here.
The Betting Angle
Our best bet is the Half-time/Full-time: Draw/Fulham at 11/2.
We can expect the Owls to produce a sufficiently competitive display to please natives, especially in the first half, but Fulham may pip them on quality after the interval.
Tip: Half-time/Full-time: Draw/Fulham