Villa’s Nine Minute Treble Sinks Fulham


For seventeen minutes, Fulham found themselves out of the relegation zone for the first time since mid-December.

However, after three attacking changes from Dean Smith, Aston Villa hit three in nine minutes to take themselves up to ninth leaving Fulham stuck in the drop zone.

Purposeful Pressing

The first sixty minutes of this game saw both sides try to wrestle some form of control. Both sides deployed similar systems, wanting to play out from the back and build through the phases but also stop their opponents from doing so.

Fulham started brightly and hassled the home side. They managed four shots in the first ten minutes (albeit it one of them from Mitrovic was from the halfway line) and they looked up for the game. After that though, Villa settled into their game plan.

Joachim Anderson has been a key cog for the London side, his passing ability and range is arguably the best in their squad. Dean Smith recognised this, and set his team up to press high, forcing the opposition long. The Cottagers were afforded little time on the ball at the back and in midfield. This is reflected by Andersen’s passing numbers.

Credit: Dan Cooke (source:

Instead of being able to pick out his teammates with his targeted long passes, such as his assist in their victory over Sheffield United, the Danish international was rushed into playing long balls, that scarcely found a white shirt. It was his worst long pass accuracy in the league since his debut back in November. His abilities to launch attacks from deep were sorely missed by Fulham as they struggled to get at the opposition back four.

Credit: Dan Cooke (source:

Over three-quarters of Villa’s presses were made in the middle and final thirds. They hounded their opponents and kept them at an arm’s length. Neither Mitrovic nor Loftus-Cheek are blessed with pace, this meant the home team’s high press and high defensive line prevented Fulham from getting into the box.

In only three other games this season have The Whites had fewer touches in the opposing box, managing just fifteen. Mitrovic comes alive in the box, and so was very quiet for large periods of the game, fighting his battles in less dangerous areas of the pitch.

Clinical Crossing

Despite the quality of their press, the home side were unable to create at the other end. Fulham once again under Parker looked defensively solid and they utilised their offside trap well once again. The back four use the line of the eighteen-yard box as their defensive line and it has proved very effective. Their opponents were keen to shift the ball out wide and deliver crosses, however Fulham’s defensive line meant these balls were coming in from deep and were easily dealt with.

Against two aerially dominant centre-backs, Ollie Watkins was starved of service. The newly capped England striker was the target of forty-four passes, but only sixteen actually reached him. Until the final fifteen minutes, it was another assured performance from a Fulham side who until Easter Sunday had conceded twenty-four goals in their last twenty-four games, the fifth fewest in that period of time.

Despite their crossing struggles, the home team’s three goals all came from crosses. What changed was where these crosses were being delivered from. After going ahead through Mitrovic, Scott Parker’s team retreated. They looked like a team that knew how important three points were and they felt that pressure. As they defended deeper, it allowed Villa to deliver their crosses from further inside the final third.

Credit: Dan Cooke (source:

These crosses were delivered across the face of goal, with more men in the box and closer to goal. Fulham could no longer deploy their offside trap, and their failure to track the runs of Trézéguet, Watkins and Davis meant they were dumped back into the relegation zone in a crushing nine minute period.

Stop and Start

In a game where there was such a battle for control of the ball and with both teams having combative central midfielders, fouls weren’t unexpected. However, the 43 fouls that were committed on Sunday was the second most in a league game this season. The visit of Burnley to Villa Park was the only game to have had more fouls.

Credit: Dan Cooke (source:

In both games, the home side were the victims. Fulham committed 27 fouls, six of those being made by Mario Lemina. Pundits and Parker himself criticised the team for being naïve at the beginning of the season, but Parker has certainly permeated his combative playing style through his squad since then. They have committed the most fouls by any side this season. More pragmatic than dirty, Parker himself has said that his team does not favour frantic, end-to-end games, and so the ability of his players to break up play is key to their style.

Up until the equaliser, Parker will have been delighted, they broke up play in the middle of the park, were defensively resilient and after a Tyrone Mings mistake, they looked to have their talisman, Mitrovic, back in the goals after a prolific international break for the Serb.

However, their capitulation with twelve minutes left to go will greatly trouble Parker. They played in a way that they haven’t often done since their terrible start to the season. A team that struggles to find the back of the net, needs to be able to hold onto any lead that they find themselves in. They have dropped sixteen points from winning positions and Sunday was another story of what might have been.

Dean Smith will be happy to take three points from a game where they probably didn’t deserve them. Their lull due to the absence of Jack Grealish has seen them stuck in ninth; they do desperately need him to return but that win is a very welcome one as they keep themselves within sight of a potential European spot. For Fulham, that is now three losses on the bounce since their win at Anfield. They get another chance to leapfrog Newcastle on Friday against Wolves but Parker will feel that they should currently be above them already.


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