https://www.sportinglife.com/ –Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic looks dejected after Fulham are relegated
Fulham were relegated from the Premier League following a 2-0 home defeat to Burnley.
Scott Parker’s men went into the game needing a win to avoid the drop, but yet again struggled in the final third and were unable to find the breakthrough.
Ashley Westwood slid the ball home to give Burnley a first-half lead, with Chris Wood’s effort from distance following soon after as the Clarets secured their place in next season’s top flight.
Fulham knew they would have to surpass their great escape from relegation in 2007-08, in which they won their last three matches, but their 12th home league defeat of the campaign ensured they would be playing Sky Bet Championship football next season.
Goals have been hard to come by for Parker’s team, with just 25 in the Premier League, and despite dominating possession they were unable to add to their tally.
Fulham started brightly and committed numbers forward. Frank Anguissa had the first opportunity of the match, but his shot was straight at Nick Pope inside the opening seven minutes.
Despite chances for Ademola Lookman, including a header which dipped over the bar from an Antonee Robinson cross, as the game went on, Burnley looked the more likely to find the crucial first goal.
The visitors had the ball in the back of the net when Wood tapped the ball past Alphonse Areola, but it was disallowed.
The France international was called on again from a corner to bundle the ball behind on the goal line, but Burnley looked to be getting closer.
The Clarets were then rewarded for their efforts when Westwood was picked out at the back post by Matej Vydra and he made no mistakes slotting the ball home.
With half-time approaching Fulham’s challenge was made harder, and their fate was all-but sealed when Wood struck the ball expertly into the top corner from distance.
Fulham went into the second half needing three goals without reply and, having managed just nine goals at home all season in the Premier League, it looked an unlikely scenario.
They continued to push forward, and just before the hour mark Aleksandar Mitrovic headed wide of the post after a hard-hit cross from Bobby Decordova-Reid.
Two penalty appeals were heard from the Fulham bench, first Lookman, who stumbled in the box, but a louder shout was when Ivan Cavaleiro went down under a heavy challenge, but neither were given.
Areola could have been awarded a red card himself, after coming out of his area to make a crucial challenge, but the ball appeared to strike his hand and VAR decided not to intervene.
Fulham kept up the pressure until the end, with a makeshift back three to commit more attacking players.
Anguissa came closest when he rattled the bar from the edge of the area, but Parker’s side could not get on the scoresheet and their Premier League stay came to an end.
What was the story of the season?
Fulham started the season in poor form, relying heavily on the squad which had got them into the Premier League via the play-offs, and it resulted in one point from their opening six league matches. The problems were evident when they shipped 10 goals in their first three games.
However a recovery followed, largely bolstered by a number of loan signings and a formation change, and defensive performances started to pick up over the winter months. Fulham secured draws against Liverpool and Tottenham and went on a five-match unbeaten run.
Despite improvements in the defence and their determination, the Cottagers’ struggles at the top end of the pitch continued and, after their relegation was confirmed on Monday, they have just five wins to their name.
What happened to Fulham’s attacking threat?
Fulham have scored just 25 goals in the Premier League, a record only bottom-placed Sheffield United have not bettered.
Aleksandar Mitrovic has, as even Parker admitted, not had the season he would have wanted on his return to the top flight, despite netting 26 times in 41 appearances on his way to the Championship golden boot last term. This season he has scored just three goals.
January saw Fulham sign Josh Maja, who scored twice on his debut but has not gone on to star in the role. Chelsea loanee Ruben Loftus-Cheek has also struggled since joining in the summer.
Did Fulham use their funds wisely?
Fulham were widely criticised in the 2018-19 season when they were relegated despite spending almost £100million on transfers.
This season they have dipped into the loan market instead, including for the experienced Alphonse Areola from Paris St Germain and Lyon’s Joachim Andersen, who has been stand-in captain for most of the campaign.
Many of the additions have undoubtedly been a success. Andersen has been linked with moves to the likes of Tottenham following his impressive form, while Mario Lemina and Ademola Lookman have started most of Fulham’s matches.
How did Scott Parker do in his first full Premier League season?
When Parker took over in Fulham’s last Premier League season, the club were all-but relegated, yet he led them back into the top flight at the first time of asking.
This time round, in part due to the use of the loan market, Fulham have gained some plaudits, especially for their defensive work, keeping nine clean sheets. However, despite Parker’s insistence that they were working on their attacking threat, they have scored just 25 goals.
Did Fulham shoot themselves in the foot?
A win at Anfield on March 7 should have been a catalyst for Parker’s men.
They had just made it 11 points from six matches and the previously ominous 10-point gap to safety had been reduced to just three, with the prospect of a game against then-17th-placed Newcastle on the final day of the season.
However, just as Fulham needed to kick on, their form slumped. Four successive defeats followed the win over Jurgen Klopp’s side and their inability to close out results was punished.
Wolves clinched a last-minute winner at Craven Cottage, while Fulham were denied all three points with almost the last kick of the game against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.