The Opposition Opinion is back for another week as Scott Parker’s slowly improving Fulham side travel to St James’ Park.
This week, we caught up with Matthew Wiggins from @Fulham_Focus, with him giving us the lowdown on all things Fulham and his views on Steve Bruce’s Newcastle United in the build up to tonight’s 8pm kick off.
Here’s what he had to say in response to our pre-match questions:
Q1 – What short of shape are Fulham in coming into this game? Keen to know what you’ve made of your start to the season & recent performances…
There’s definitely reasons to be optimistic for us in recent games. Beating Leicester and drawing to Liverpool recently has given us a massive boost plus taking a point against Brighton.
We are more defensively strong compared to the start of the season and we are not consistently shipping goals.
We’re gaining confidence and are looking like a competitive Premier League side.
Q2 – Give us your three best players, a ‘one to watch’ and any weak links in your side that we could look to exploit / may let you down...
Joachim Andersen – He’s been defensively solid since he’s come in. We’d shipped 14 goals before his debut against West Brom on the 2nd of November. His introduction along with a change in formation has made us more solid at the back.
Andre Franck Zambo Anguissa – A powerhouse midfielder who possesses strength and pace. He can create the transition from defence into attack. I feel Newcastle’s central midfielders will have their work cut out to keep Anguissa quiet on Saturday.
Ademola Lookman – His pace and creativity out wide is something we lacked last time we were in the Premier League. He’s creative, quick and carries a lot of skill. He’s made up from his penalty miss at West Ham with a series of brilliant performances since, especially away at Leicester when we picked up a win.
I couldn’t point out any weak individuals if I’m honest. The reasons we’ve struggled have been collectively as a team rather than individual blunders.
Q3 – As a team, what are the strengths and weaknesses of this Fulham side?
We have a lot of pace in our ranks, especially going forward in Lookman and Cavaleiro. Bobby Decordova-Reid and Antonee Robinson at wing back also have the pace to get up and down those wings, allowing a quick transition from defence to attack.
At the start of the season, we were extremely weak defensively, and teams knew how to exploit that, however, teams are finding it harder to break us down and I’m hoping that’s the same for Newcastle.
Q4 – Thirteen games in, what have you made of Newcastle’s start to the season under Steve Bruce and our recent form?
You’ve got the makings of a very good Premier League side, however you seem to be riddled with inconsistency.
Newcastle win games where you wouldn’t necessarily expect them to pick up a result and lose games where you’d expect them to win such as Brighton at home. Saturday will be interesting as your confidence could either be completely shot after conceding 5 against Leeds or you could be out to avenge what happened Wednesday night.
I don’t think Newcastle are out of the woods in terms of a relegation battle but come May I think you’ll be comfortably safe.
Q5 – Which players do you see as the strengths and weaknesses in our side and why?
If he’s fit, Allan Saint-Maximin would frighten us. His pace and skill are admirable as a neutral but I don’t fancy coming up against him so it would be good for us if he was unavailable.
Callum Wilson, a very good Premier League striker and consistent goal scorer will also be one to watch out for. He can get into some good positions and we need to be careful that we don’t allow that to happen on Saturday.
I don’t know enough about Newcastle to pick weaknesses but if I had to go for one I’d say defence. You seem to concede quite a few goals, and I think our pace might hurt the likes of Fernandez.
Q6 – What’s the Fulham XI and formation Scott Parker is likely to go with on Saturday night?
I’m expecting him to stick with the same formation of a 5-2-2-1 narrow. It worked well for us against Leicester and Liverpool, however I’d like him to go with a more ambitious formation.
I’m expecting Parker to pick largely the same XI injury dependent, however I’d like to see Mitrovic starting to see if he can get one over on his former club and get his confidence back by bagging a goal.
Q7 – What sort of game are you expecting this to be and how do you see it panning out? Give us a prediction...
I’m expecting Newcastle to come out and really try and go for the win as they’re probably expecting to pick up 3 points against a side in the bottom three.
I think we’ll look to exploit the gaps and hit you on the counter and try and nick it from there. Our defence has looked solid recently, but whether we can keep that going is another matter.
I’m going to go with 0-1 to Fulham and Lookman to score.
Q8 – Where do you see our two sides finishing in the 2020/21 table and which three teams are you backing to go down?
I think Newcastle will be mid table. With the squad you have I can’t see you fighting it out for survival. I’ll go with 12th for you.
As for Fulham, well it’s going to be a tough rest of the season, but we’re starting to look competitive and like a proper Premier League side. I think we’ll be in a battle until the end but I think we can stay up so I’ll back ourselves and go with 17th place for us.
Three teams to go down I’ll go with Sheffield United, West Brom and Brighton.
Q9 – Hypothetical of course, but if you could make TWO realistic signings from NUFC, who would go for?
Callum Wilson if that counts as realistic! As I said earlier he’s a consistent goal scorer and a very good striker in the Premier League. He has a bit of pace on him as well which would offer us something different in terms of an out and out striker.
I’d also go with Jamaal Lascelles. I’ve always rated him. A proper leader on the pitch in my opinion and seems a decent centre back that has played in both the Premier League and the Championship so he’d be my second choice.
Q10 – Aleksandar Mitrovic was like Marmite amongst NUFC fans during his time on Tyneside. What are your thoughts on him and his recent disappearance from Fulham’s first team?
Mitro is a hero down in SW6. He was what we needed to fire us to promotion when he came in on loan from Newcastle and that’s what he did. Loanees can be a tricky one, but it’s clear he loved the club and wanted to get us into the Premier League. He can cut it in the top flight, and his physical play can prove tricky for defenders.
His penalty miss at Sheffield United combined with his miss for Serbia against Scotland have seen a drop in his confidence combined with a different style of play by Parker, it’s not looking like he fits into the team which some Fulham fans don’t agree with. There’s a lot of talk that he’s off in January but I hope that’s not the case as I think he has plenty more to offer in a Fulham shirt.
Q11 – Finally, if you had our two squads to choose from and were asked to pick the best possible side, what would your starting 11 be?
(4-4-2): Areola – Tete, Lascelles, Andersen, Lewis – Lookman, Anguissa, S Longstaff, Saint-Maximin – Mitrovic – Wilson.
A big thanks as ever to Matthew for taking the time to answer our pre-match questions.
Next up we’ll have the thoughts of a Man City fan ahead of our Boxing Day trip to The Etihad!