Plenty of heart, but little quality
While it was nice to see a rip-roar clash with Arsenal, the likes of which we haven’t been treated to in recent times as at least one of us has been below par, for all the passion involved there was a significant lack of quality on display. Indeed, the game was essentially dictated by errors, with even the usually unflappable David De Gea getting in on the act. Mourinho has often been found cursing the lack of high-end arrivals, despite the huge sacks of cash spent in recent windows, but where once there was a midfield four of Giggs, Scholes, Keane and Beckham, the wing-backs and central midfielders on view against the Gunners read Darmian, Herrera, Matic and Dalot from left to right. It’s just nowhere near the same standard.
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Fulham’s woeful defence
Claudio Ranieri may tinker away all he likes but it will take something more significant to sort out Fulham’s problems at the back. The Cottagers hold by far the worst defensive record this term, and in fact the 36 goals they’ve conceded across their 15 matches is the most anyone has conceded at this stage in Premier League history – barring Barnsley way back in 1997/98. Indeed, they’re yet to muster the resolve to produce a shutout and have conceded fewer than two goals in just a fifth of their games. They may have improved slightly under Ranieri already, but their 2-0 defeat away at Chelsea leaves them without a point from seven encounters versus the teams above us in the table. Having conceded an average of three per game across these, we should fancy our chances at causing them problems.
Fulham’s final-third troubles against the big guns
While Fulham have been so poor at the back, they only netted twice across those seven matches against the teams above us, and the win to nil looks like it could be highly profitable here. As Ranieri tries to make the Cottagers a more stable unit defensively to give them a shot at survival, a more negative approach will inevitably have consequences at the other end. Fulham are the top scorers amongst the bottom seven, who are beginning to form a league of their own as the gap between West Ham and Newcastle has spread to five points, but if they couldn’t manage goals against the better teams when playing a more adventurous brand of football under Slavisa Jokanovic, we don’t fancy their chances at registering on the board under new management.
Betting tip: Man United win to nil at 2.50 (was 2.20)