As Tottenham Hotspur finally host Fulham in a make-up game from late December, there are some things about the Cottagers that should not surprise us.
Two weeks ago, when these two teams were originally scheduled to meet, Fulham was the on-form team having lost only one of their previous six matches. While that streak has run to 1 of the previous seven matches, Tottenham Hotspur have since played three matches – all shut out wins. While before Fulham was the on-form team, now both are playing well and Spurs need to be ready, so what can we expect from Fulham.
Fulham Getting Behind the Ball
Whether Fulham stick with their three-man back line with a five-man midfield in front or invert that and go with a five-man defense with a three- or even four-man midfield, expect at least nine players behind the ball for Fulham. The Cottagers will not completely park the bus and will be looking to counter, but their prime objective is going to be keeping a clean sheet.
Fulham have only given up two goals in their last five matches in all competitions. Both of those matches ended in 1-1 draws, including a draw with Liverpool one month to the day of the match. Scott Parker and his side understand their best opportunity to score is going to be on the counter and the best chance to counter comes from a well-organized defense.
Fulham Ready to Play
While Scott Parker was complaining about how much advanced notice, he and the club received prior to the match against Tottenham being scheduled, the reality is Fulham are not overworked. Yes, the club has several players and/or staff recovering from Covid-19, but the team has only played one game all month.
Whereas Tottenham have played three games, including one on Sunday, Fulham have played only the one FA Cup match on Saturday against Queens Park Rangers, a 0-2 victory. Admittedly a team would want to know about a game as soon as possible and even before that prior match. However, given them limited time involved in notifying Spurs about this same match originally being postponed, the time is more than adequate.
Early and Late Cottager Attack
Realizing that the overall game plan is to get bodies behind the ball, Fulham is going to look to get out to an early lead. Expect to see an extremely aggressive Fulham defense from the kickoff. The idea is that the Cottagers might catch someone early before they have settled into the game. If Fulham can get an early lead, Parker will look to capitalize on that as they almost did against Liverpool.
If Fulham cannot get an early goal, but neither do Spurs, expect Fulham to look to bend but not break and fight to control some possession deep for that middle forty minutes of the match. The idea would be if Fulham cannot score early, hang on and then the pressure shifts to Tottenham late, as any mistake that might lead to a Cottager goal would be devastating.
After scoring two goals in extra time against QPR at the weekend, Fulham is likely to come in with the confidence that they can find those goals late if they cannot get them early. Ultimately, it will be up to Tottenham to take control of the match as early as possible and ideally take the lead to force Fulham to become more expansive, which will create more opportunities for Spurs to score. While Fulham certainly can steal some points here, if Spurs can get on the ball early and maintain the momentum gained over the last two weeks, Tottenham should win.