“It’s no secret that I want to turn Fulham into the Manchester United of the south,” said Mohamed Al Fayed in the early 2000s, around the time Jean Tigana’s Cottagers swaggered into the Premier League.
Al Fayed’s ambition was admirable but always a little unlikely. Nearly two decades on, though, Fulham are emulating a Manchester juggernaut again… only this time, it’s City.
Fulham lie fifth in the table 10 games into the Championship season, although a win over Charlton on Saturday – live on Sky Sports Football – would put them top for at least a few hours. Results have been OK, but nothing more. It’s the underlying numbers that show how Fulham are trying to play the Pep Guardiola way.
The possession kings
It starts with possession. Fulham averaged 69 per cent in their opening 10 games, including 84 per cent in a 4-0 hammering of Millwall. No team in England’s top two divisions has enjoyed more of the ball. Fulham take care of the ball in a similar way to City, too – their 88 per cent passing accuracy is comfortably the second-highest in the top two leagues, and only narrowly lower than City’s.
Passing stats in England’s top two divisions this season
|Highest av. possession||Best passing accuracy||Lowest % of passes long|
|Fulham 69 %||Man City 89%||Man City 7.2%|
|Leeds 65%||Fulham 88%||Tottenham 8.7%|
|Man City 63%||Liverpool 83%||Fulham 9.1%|
|Liverpool 62%||West Brom 82%||Chelsea 9.3%|
- Fulham vs Charlton
- Championship table
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Fulham have settled into a 4-3-3 system with two playmakers in midfield ahead of a screener in front of the back four, a system remarkably similar to Man City’s.
Fulham vs Charlton
October 5, 2019, 12:00pm
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Fulham sit fifth with 18 points – not quite City levels of dominance, but it is their best start to a second-tier season since Tigana’s side swept to the title with 101 points in 2000/01. And their attacking output is looking promotion standard. They are joint-top scorers with Preston, while only Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds have worked goalkeepers and made chances from open play more often.