After looking at the defence yesterday, today I will analyse the possible permutations in midfield for the clash against Fulham. My major concern here is that we could be overrun like we were against QPR at times.
The quality of the Cottagers’ midfield is a class above our last opponents with the creative duo of Stefan Johansen and Tom Cairney likely to cause all sorts of problems in the final third.
I have been going back and forth on this all week, but I’ve decided there’s no way we can keep a grip on this game playing a traditional 4-4-2 like we have been at home. I’m backing Garry Monk to go with a five to block up the middle to prevent our opponents getting through a porous backline. So, how should we line up in midfield?
We have a lot of similar players in the middle of the pitch. Maikel Kieftenbeld, David Davis, Cheikh N’Doye and Craig Gardner can all work hard in the middle, without any really being able to play as a playmaker.
My view is we should go with Maikel and Cheikh as the holding midfield pair to nullify Johansen and Cairney. I’m leaning towards playing Davis further forward. When he did play in a more advanced forward before his injury, he scored and assisted goals in wins over Sunderland and Sheffield Wednesday.
I can definitely understand the view though that this would see us set up too negatively. Alternatively, we could allow Che Adams to play in a deeper lying role behind Lukas to make up the five.
This is a bit more clear-cut. Jacques Maghoma is a first player on the teamsheet after an excellent season, while we will need a creative spark on the opposite flank as well. If we do go 4-5-1, the temptation may be to shunt Che out wide, and drop Jota, but the Spaniard’s ability in the final third will be needed to exploit Fulham’s weaknesses at the back.
Our opponents have kept a number of clean sheets in recent weeks, but we can create opportunities against them if we play positively.
Obviously, the switch to a five-man midfield isn’t ideal. We could be under the cosh for long periods if we don’t offer enough support up front. However, we have to win the battle in midfield, and the recent defeat to QPR has certainly coloured my thinking on our tactical approach to the match.