Jack and Loz at the Cottage - Blog 265

Date: 10th December 2023

Opposition: West Ham United

Score: 5-0 (again!)

Goal scorers: Raùl, Willian, Tosin, Wilson, Vinicius

Weather: turned out nice again

Atmosphere: turned out fantastic again

MOTM: for the second time this week the players made it very hard to single anyone out as the top performer; they were all superb. However, Tom Cairney’s 300th game for Fulham was one of his best. Our masterful midfielder was the nerve centre of the team, controlling the play, making things happen, shaping the game. Like a single malt aged in oak, Tom is top quality

Lunch: Truth

Drinks: Riverside Studios

In 1961, man first blasted into space. And Fulham Football Club scored three or more goals in four consecutive top flight matches.

Manned space flight has had its ups and downs since then (obviously, there’s no gravity) as have Fulham. But 62 years later, Fulham are back at the top of the scoring charts with 17 goals since the beginning of November. Our goal difference is +10 in 5 days and our most recent 10 goals were scored by 7 different players. With two 5-0 wins we haven’t just become consistent, we’ve become consistently scary.

Despite obvious similarities, the demolition of West Ham was different to the obliteration of Nottingham Forest. West Ham are a better team and they started the game positively. The Fulham players meanwhile started the game as if they were still playing the remnants of Forest; except Tosin who started the game half asleep. We made life too easy for the Hammers by giving the ball away too much and inviting them to take free kicks and corners. Luckily, after a few of these, Tosin woke up and everyone else remembered how to play a decent opponent.

And that clicking into place of players and positions marked the end of West Ham as a threatening force in the match. They simply couldn’t cope with the way this Fulham team can play. The way the front line swap passes and positions at lightning speed, the way the midfield don’t just recycle the ball, they upcycle it. The way new acquaintances Tosin and Bassey play together like they’ve been close friends for years.

Raùl Jimenez scored the first goal, just as you’d want your centre forward to do. And it was a centre forward’s goal - lurking in the right place to divert João’s swooping ball into the back of the net. That’s 3 goals in 2 matches for a man most pundits had written off.

Anxious to prove he’s not just a penalty taker, Willian scored next although Andreas deserves most of the credit for keeping the ball alive on the by-line, and Iwobi some of it for doing a….thing to put the defenders off.

Just to show we can score 3 goals in the first half as well as the second, and to give the Putney Enders an extra treat, Tosin scored next. Because he’s very tall we are obliged by the laws of football writing to describe his effort as a Towering Header, but surely we’re not the only ones to have seen shades of Brede Hangeland in Tosin’s recent performances?

Before we describe any more goals - and how good it feels to type that - it’s time to think about why this is happening. Why are Fulham suddenly as prolific as they were in 1961? But, more intriguingly, what has changed since the start of the season when we could barely score 1 goal per match, never mind 5? Has the Motspur Park chef read a new book on sports nutrition? Is Harry Wilson actually a real wizard and he’s worked out how to do a confundus charm?

Of course, it’s mainly hard work and clever coaching but it’s also time. Iwobi hit the ground running in terms of his own ability but it’s taken him this long to find out where he fits into the team. Bassey was good on the right but now he’s on the left he’s looking better every game. Andreas has been suffering from the broken ankle version of long covid, but now he’s back to his imperious best. Raùl has rejuvenated to become the striker we were all hoping to see and now he can’t stop scoring. And Tom Cairney has taken 8 years and 300 matches to become a world class playmaker, an inspirational leader and a genuine Fulham legend.

Back to the action, and Harry Wilson replaced Willian at half time and, after a couple of false starts, scored the pick of the bunch by latching on to a soaring cross from Tom and blasting it into the top corner. Harry set up the final goal with as much generosity as skill and fellow sub Vini made the most of an easy finish.

In fact, Fulham made the whole match look so easy that we have to keep reminding ourselves what we’re seeing. This isn’t the Championship, these aren’t matches against newly promoted teams. Fulham are scoring for fun against established Premier League rivals. There could have been more goals had Andreas’s long shot come off or Raùl and Alex coordinated a little better. The midfield in particular were so dominant it’s like we had an extra man.

What’s even more remarkable is that, as against Forest, two of our best players had almost nothing to do. Leno was a bit busier than his part time performance on Wednesday, and João made the most amazing double barrelled tackle the league has ever seen but the rest of the squad has caught up with their quality and taken the pressure off their shoulders.

After the Forest match, we felt justified, in our Fulhamish way, in thinking that we might manage to beat West Ham too. But no one could have foreseen that dominant, flawless, exuberant performance. No one would have predicted the scoreline or the number of different names on the scoresheet. No one expected this to be our biggest win since….Wednesday.

Supporting Fulham has suddenly become exciting and interesting again. Most of all, it’s become fun.

Random musings:-

- We were honoured to join in the minute’s applause for the late Matt Edwell, a Fulham fan taken much too soon. Credit to the West Ham defender who paused his free kick until the moment was over

- The Brazil v England corner-off was narrowly won by England. Sorry Andreas

- Memo to West Ham: Areola is way better than the other guy

- Another ref who had a good game

- Who Put the Ball in the West Ham Net? Half the ******* team - chant of the season

- With Harrison and Harry coming on and Tosin back, it’s worth remembering this team has its roots in the Championship

- The Tom Cairney Olé celebration is going to run and run (we hope!)

Fulham fans had resigned ourselves to a long, dull and slightly nerve-racking season in which we’d be looking over our shoulders for reassurance that there really were three teams worse than us.

But that’s all changed. We’ve become a force to be reckoned with. Who wins two consecutive games 5-0 in the Premier League? A couple of weeks ago, Marco Silva wanted to rewrite the story. Now we’re rewriting history. Mainly thanks to him.