The last time Tottenham Hotspur played Fulham was Spurs’ opening home match of the season at Wembley Stadium. It was a different time back then — Fulham had just dropped over £100m on new players after successfully promoting from the Championship under Slaviša Jokanović. With players such as Jean Michael Seri, Andre Schurrle, Aleksandr Mitrovic, and Callum Chambers alongside Spurs target Ryan Sessegnon, there was a serious buzz around what the Cottagers could do this season. Fulham had an offseason with INTENT, and I for one thought they might not only survive, but even finish in the top ten.
A lot has happened since then. Fulham have won only three league matches this season, and their defense has been shambolic, conceding a staggering 49 goals already this season. Far from competing for the top half, Fulham are second from the bottom, three points ahead of Huddersfield. Jokanović is gone, replaced by EPL TITLE-WINNING MANAGER Claudio Ranieri. Relegation is not assured, but it’s sure looking like a distinct possibility.
In short, Fulham are a hot mess.
So in some ways, the Cottagers are maybe the best club Spurs could come up against when missing their two leading scorers. It seems reasonable to assume that Spurs should be able to put goals in the net past this Fulham defense without Harry Kane or Son Heung-Min — heck, Burnley managed to beat Fulham 2-1 last weekend without registering a shot on goal.
On the other hand, in the rare times that Fulham have had success it’s been at home. All of their wins have come at Craven Cottage, and while they’ve come against Burnley, Southampton and last-place Huddersfield, it’s never wise to underestimate your opponent at their stadium. And it’s not like Spurs are exactly brimming with verve and confidence heading into this match. Nobody’s quite sure how Spurs are going to play going forward. A loss to Fulham would be embarrassing, but the narrative would be off the charts.
How will Tottenham line up against Fulham?
Your guess is as good as mine. I mean, really, we’re in completely uncharted waters here. Terra incognito. Spurs finally have a fully healthy back line, but their midfield is still essentially a smoking crater and they are missing their two best attackers in Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min. This could end up fine, or it could be hilariously awful.
There are a number of ways Mauricio Pochettino could go. First, although Eric Dier will start the match on the bench, Spurs could cobble together a diamond formation that, if you cock your head and squint, is similar to what they have been running out for the past month or so. That would, however, involve a midfield pivot of Harry Winks and Oliver Skipp, who are, quite literally, our only healthy natural center midfielders.
Considering Kieran Trippier is likely to start the match again and that Moussa Sissoko, who has essentially been his defensive security blanket, is out for this match, this formation has its concerns. Most critically, asking Oliver Skipp to cary the same kind of defensive water as Sissoko is a bit unfair, and that potentially leaves huge holes in behind Trips if he decides to go a-rangin’. That in turn leaves Spurs susceptible to the counter, as we saw against United.
Which brings me to another option — a back three. We have seen a back line of Davinson Sanchez in between Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld before, and it was super effective. So much so that many of us wondered why Poch decided to abandon it almost entirely this season. Three CBs would provide the defensive cover for Trippier without having to rely on Winks to suddenly be good at defense again. It would require Spurs to either rely on Trippier to provide much of the offense from wide right, or play more narrow through the center of the pitch. Pochettino could also roll the dice and do something crazy like push Juan Foyth or even Danny Rose into the center of the midfield, depending on the health of his players and their fitness.
But who’s going to score the goals? Kane and Son are huge losses, and Lucas Moura is also questionable after picking up a knock recently. Again, there are two options. The first is Fernando Llorente, whom Spurs had supposedly lined up a return to Athletic Bilbao this month before pulling the plug when Kane went down. Spurs would need to tailor their offense around Llorente’s particular skills, which do not involve the same sort of movement on and off the ball as Kane, but it is one way they could go.
The other could involve pulling a Chelsea and going with a striker-less formation that relies on Dele Alli or Erik Lamela operating as a false nine. There are possibilities there, as the forward attacking band could operate in a very fluid manner that could throw off opposition defenses. Or it could end up being a muddled mess with few decent chances, we just don’t know.
The end result? One ginormous Japanese shrug emoji. I don’t have the foggiest idea, fam. What I do know is that there isn’t any manager in the league I would trust more to squeeze blood out of this particular stone than Mauricio Pochettino. It’s helped by the fact that Fulham’s defense is made out of tissue paper and Alfie Mawson. If ever there was a good time to experiment, it’s now.
I have no idea what Spurs’ starting lineup will be. What are your ideas?