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Scout Report: Possession, Pace & Power - What can Sunderland expect of today’s opponents Fulham?

Sunderland welcome Fulham to the Stadium of Light this weekend looking to finally win a game at home this year. Fulham, however, will be no pushovers and are currently showing signs of improvement after a slow start to the season.

Fulham v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Play Off: First Leg Photo by Harry Hubbard/Getty Images

Story so far

Fulham are underachieving this season after being touted as promotion candidates at the start of the campaign. Seven wins, eight draws and six defeats leaves the Londoners sitting in 12th place and eight points out of the playoffs.

It took Fulham seven games in all competitions to seal their first victory of the season with a 2-0 victory away at Ipswich. Only one defeat in September, though it was against lowly Burton, put Fulham in a far healthier position, but after that they struggled to find consistency.

A 5-4 win away at Sheffield United at the end of November ended a run of six games without a win, though. They have now won three of their last four to move away from the lower-end of the table, and will be keen to continue their climb with a win this weekend.


Last time out

Last weekend Fulham won an important clash against strugglers Birmingham City thanks to Liverpool loanee Sheyi Ojo, who scored the all important goal in the 14th minute.

Jeremie Boga missed a penalty for the Blues in the 75th minute which would have snatched the visitors a point - though a draw would have been highly undeserved on the balance of play. Fulham had 17 shots and 11 corners in a dominant display while also having nearly 70% possession; the win was well earned.


Dangerman

Tom Cairney is the man that instantly jumps out as someone to watch out for when you look at the Fulham team - especially after last season’s heroics whereby the Scottish international bagged 12 goals and 11 assists.

The former Hull man has bundles of quality and will surely be plying his trade in the Premier League soon. This season has actually been a bit underwhelming for the man so heavily courted in the summer - he has only one goal and no assists to his name. However, regardless of this dip in form, Cairney is someone we need to keep an eye on.

Birmingham City v Hull City - Pre Season Friendly
Tom Cairney began his career at Hull City - though he made a name for himself elsewhere at Blackburn and now Fulham
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Manager

Slavisa Jokanovic had a accomplished playing career where he made 69 appearances for the Serbia and Montenegro national team. He also won the Yugoslav First League twice and La Liga with Deportivo La Coruna. He moved to Chelsea in 2000 and played nearly 40 games for them before leaving in 2002.

Jokanovic began his managerial career in 2007 at Partizan, though he did not really enjoy success until 2014 when he guided Watford to second place in the Championship, and automatic promotion. A shocking sacking followed with Watford opting for a new manager to guide them through their first Premier League season back - and Jokanovic ended up at Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Fulham bought him out of his contract in December 2015 and Jokanovic has just enjoyed his 100th game as manager of the London club.

Brentford v Fulham - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Harry Murphy/Getty Images

Referee

Stephen Martin is the ref this weekend and this will be his fourth game refereeing the lads already this season. He took charge of our draw at Sheffield Wednesday, our home draw with QPR, and our away defeat at Aston Villa in Chris Coleman’s first game as gaffer.

Martin has officiated Fulham once this season, in their 2-1 away defeat at Burton Albion.

The Staffordshire referee likes to keep his cards in his pocket and hands out just two yellows on average per game. He has also given just two red cards this season - hopefully that means the Sunderland players can stay out of trouble!


Statistical analysis

Fulham lined up midweek with a false nine - playing Stefan Johansen in that position. They like to have the ball, playing short passes similar to what we saw with Reading a couple of weeks ago at the Stadium of Light. Subsequently, patience and organisation will be key for Sunderland if they are to find any success this weekend.

The wings are another area in which Fulham enjoy success as Neeskens Kebano and Sheyi Ojo will looks to utilize their pace in order to create attacking opportunities as often as possible.

Credit whoscored.com

Basically, if Sunderland are to get a positive result this weekend they will need to be tight and compact while trying to break with counter attacks. We will not have the ball much and we will struggle against their attacking players. It will probably be wise if Coleman matches their three in midfield, and a player like Didier Ndong returning could be crucial to our chances of breaking up Fulham’s play.

Statistically speaking Fulham are the worst kind of team for Sunderland to face since they are so good with possession, especially if they dominate the game early on and the home crowd gets tetchy. With our ball winners either suspended, injured or not 100% fit it will be a tall order to expect Darron Gibson, Lynden Gooch, George Honeyman, Elliot Embleton or Ethan Robson to stifle Fulham’s midfield. Hopefully, Coleman has the Lads well prepared in order to find our first home win in what feels like forever.

Ha’way the Lads!