Inside Track: Fulham

By SFC Media Thu 22 Nov Fulham v Saints
Photo by Steve Bardens | Getty Images

Ryan O'Donovan, Fulham reporter for Get West London, gives us an insight into Southampton's Premier League opponents this weekend...

With the arrival of Claudio Ranieri, what’s the current mood like at Fulham?

It's certainly given the mood around Craven Cottage a boost. With seven defeats in a row, the squad felt very flat before the international break and that togetherness we saw last season had all but evaporated. But with the arrival of Claudio Ranieri, everyone has a clean slate and that's given the place some much needed positivity. There's also a sense of optimism now that Ranieri can get this team playing to their potential.

Is there a belief that Slavisa Jokanovic has laid the foundations for the Italian to oversee an upturn in fortunes?

Yes and no. Jokanovic had an amazing two and a bit years at Fulham and turned them from becoming a League One team into a Premier League side that played easy-on-the-eye football and what he did for the club can never be understated. However, this season he struggled to find his best team and most importantly, his best defence, and the style of play just didn't seem to work and it looked like he had perhaps ran out of ideas.

I think if Ranieri turns the fortunes around it will be his own doing - there seemed to be no real system for the first part of the season and it will be up to Ranieri to develop one and get Fulham keeping clean sheets and playing again.

Are you expecting many changes in terms of the style of play and formation following his arrival?

I'm expecting a lot of changes. Under Jokanovic in the Championship, Fulham played stunning football and it was some of the best I've ever seen a team play, but it didn't transfer into the Premier League and it just didn't work.

With Ranieri, he has said that first and foremost he needs the side to defend, so I'm expecting a far more defensive set-up under the Italian than we've seen in recent years in west London.

He wants everyone to defend, starting from Aleksandar Mitrovic up front right back through to his goalkeeper, so I'm expecting a lot of men behind the ball and then, when the side do attack, I expected them to use the wings and get balls into the box.  Jokanovic played a lot of different formations this season after his 4-3-3 in the Championship, but under Ranieri I reckon we'll see a standard 4-4-2 with an emphasis on defence.

It'll take some getting used to!

Who will the key men be for Fulham this weekend?

Tom Cairney will be key for Fulham - when he plays everything goes through him and he seems to make the side tick. He's been injured for a lot of the season and hasn't really performed in recent weeks since coming back, but when he's at the top of his game he's a very good player indeed.

I have to mention Aleksandar Mitrovic too. He started the season on fire and got five goals but hasn't scored since September, mainly because Fulham struggled to get any type of ball to their striker.

Under Ranieri, I reckon we'll see lots of crosses into Mitrovic so he'll be getting that service that has been missing in recent months, and when Mitrovic gets service we all know how dangerous he can be.

What sort of game are you expecting?

I think we'll get a cagey, defensive game in all honesty. Ranieri won't want to lose his first game in charge and will want a clean sheet at all costs, while Southampton certainly won't want to come away from the Cottage with a defeat.

The game in the FA Cup last year wasn't a memorable one and I reckon this will be very similar - I wouldn't be surprised if we see a 0-0 or a 1-1 draw here.

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