Liverpool vs Fulham: Slavisa Jokanovic on borrowed time, Reds find form and the Fabinho conundrum

Liverpool 2-0 Fulham: The home side made light work of their opponents, who remain bottom of the table

Jack Watson
Sunday 11 November 2018 14:56
Liverpool 2018/19 Premier League profile

Liverpool ended a tricky seven days with a comfortable 2-0 win against Fulham to put further pressure on Slavisa Jokanovic as his side remain rooted to the bottom of the table.

Mohamed Salah opened the scoring 12 seconds after Fulham thought they had taken the lead when Alexadar Mitrovic headed in from an offside position.

Xherdan Shaqiri added a second on his return to the team as Liverpool maintained their unbeaten start to the season.

Here are five things we learned from Anfield

1. Jokanovic’s future looks increasingly bleak

Jokanovic came into the game already on thin ice, but another loss means that the cracks are beginning to form below him as his future looks increasingly ominous.

The Fulham manager launched a bizarre rant where he claimed that the players are to blame for the team being rooted to the bottom of the table, not him. “I am a fantastic coach,” he added before unpicking where his side went wrong in the 1-0 defeat against Huddersfield.

Fulham looked hopeless after going a goal down and there was no desire, leadership or motivation to get themselves back into the game. Granted they were playing Liverpool at Anfield, but there is a basic expectation from a team to at least try and make a game of it or show some fight after conceding. Both these traits were lacking and that stems from the top.

2. Liverpool return to winning ways

There was something of a faux inquest into Liverpool’s last two results, 1-1 against Arsenal and a 2-0 defeat against Red Star Belgrade, but back at Anfield they extended their impressive home record with a comfortable win. Their last home defeat in the league was in April 2017, and there seems to be no sign of that run coming to an end.

The return of Shaqiri to the midfield was a boost for Liverpool. Against the lesser sides in the league this appears to be an excellent way to force another attacking player into the side. He was lively throughout and took his goal well, a calm volley to convert Andy Robertson’s cross and double the lead.

The defensive improvement has easily been their biggest achievement this season. Klopp’s side have only conceded five league goals this year. To put that into perspective, they had conceded 17 after 12 matches last season. If it was not for Chelsea and Manchester City’s relentless brilliance, Liverpool would be well on their way to asserting themselves as title favourites.

Xherdan Shaqiri played well on his return to the side

3. Fulham punished by Premier League quality

It’s been the story of their sorry start to the Premier Legaue. Fulham’s expansive style of play, and refusal to defend with any degree of discipline, has seen them concede goals and chances that would perhaps not go against them in the Championship. The reality is that the quality is higher and the mistakes are punished on a far more regular basis.

Premature celebrations when Mitrovic headed in from an offside position did not leave just an embarrassing note on the first half, but it also contributed to going a goal down. Fulham seemed to switch off as Liverpool quickly worked the ball forward to Salah, who kept his cool to finish well and open the scoring.

The whole 12 seconds between Mitrovic being flagged for offside and Salah putting Liverpool ahead passed Fulham by like a flash, showing that they still have not adapted to the faster and higher standard of play.

If the first goal was bad, the second was much worse. The defence switched off when Robertson whipped across towards Shaqiri, who was left in space by Cyrus Christie’s bizarre policy of not marking attackers, something you don’t see catching on.

Fulham were unable to get close to Liverpool

4. The Fabinho conundrum continues

It seems that every week the same discussion about Fabinho is raised. ‘Is he good enough for Liverpool? Is it just taking his a while to adapt? Is he getting better?' On today’s evidence, the verdict, again, is that he is still a shadow of the player Liverpool spent almost £50m on.

He admits that he feels “horrible” when he is left out of the first and that he’s never lost “confidence or doubted” his ability, but you sense that he is running out of chances.

Against Fulham he had the poise of someone that was making his first team debut in fortuitous circumstances as a late replacement from a youth squad. At times the speed and tempo of the game took him out of the contest and there was seemingly little he could do about it.

Of course, there were some good moments. A few tackles and some well-intended passes, but these were few and far between, and not the kind of consistency that Klopp requires in the centre of his midfield.

Fabinho continues his slow start

5. Ryan Sessegnon falling short

Fulham’s success in the Championship was the result of an attacking style of play that allowed the creative players to express themselves, and spearheading this play was their talisman and one of their own, Ryan Sessegnon.

The 18-year-old’s 16 goals last season in the second-tier fired Fulham towards the play-off final, where he set up Tom Cairney to score the goal that secured promotion. However, the English winger has not been able to justify his billing in the Premier League.

Regarded as one of the most promising players of his age and highly valued by Fulham, Sessegnon has been unable to replicate his previous form. It is worth noting Joe Bryan’s injury has forced him to accumulate more defensive responsibility in some matches.

With the television cameras watching, his big chances came in the 24th minute against Liverpool but he failed to give his side the lead when through on goal. It was a well-worked move, a Mitrovic flick into the path of the inside-forward, but he dragged a left-footed effort wide of Alisson’s post.

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