These early season reports are usually framed in terms of ‘what we learnt’ and arriving at Craven Cottage this August lunchtime the suspicion was that the answer would not be much.
Liverpool, one point and one Vinicius Junior away from an unprecedented quadruple, were already up and running after beating champions Manchester City in convincing fashion in the Community Shield last weekend.
Fulham, meanwhile, were already heavily tipped for a third relegation in five seasons, the initial sinking feeling hardly lessened when Marco Silva – without many substitutes – named a starting XI which included Nine were included in the squad that failed to beat the drop two years ago. .
Instead, however, the yet-to-be-written form book was torn up as Fulham put in a brilliant performance, full of the kind of grit and passion that they have needed in the absence of a much-proven Premier League side. will be required to be placed in the division. Quality, to come close to a famous opening weekend upset.
Eventually, the home side were forced to draw 2-2 after first Darwin Nunez and then Mo Salah canceled out Aleksandar Mitrovic’s brace.
So, here’s what we learned…
When Mitrovic unexpectedly found himself in space inside the Liverpool box with the ball at his feet in the opening minute, you expected the net to spring up. It was only a half chance, really, but you can’t score 43 goals in 44 games in any division without conceding them too.
So, when the Serbian hesitated and then went all out, the fear was that we might be looking at the player who struggled badly in the top flight two seasons ago, rather than the one who had the previous one. The season had blown the championship, in short. Entered
Since then, however, the centre-forward has been exceptional. He bullied Trent Alexander-Arnold at the back post to open the scoring with a trademark header, then squared Virgil van Dijk to win the spot-kick.
It was a passage of play in the middle, however, that offered clear evidence that this is a better, more mobile, quicker Mitrovic than on his last visit to the Premier League when he easily outpaced Jordan Henderson in midfield. Defeated, Cruyff then turned away from Van Dijk and spread the ball to a teammate.
The 27-year-old has scored just three Premier League goals in 2020/21 and is already close to hitting that mark.
Summer’s signature shines, but more is needed
With Silva’s main protest at the lack of transfer activity this summer concerned about his defense and a look at the Portuguese’s line-up, it wasn’t hard to see why.
Kenny Tate, Anthony Robinson and Tosun Adarabio were all regulars in a backline that went down two years ago, when Joachim Anderson – brilliant for Crystal Palace – was the fourth member and Alphonse Areola – likewise last for West Ham in the Europa League. For the period. – Stood between the sticks.
An upgrade is still needed on 34-year-old skipper Tim Ream, who was excellent here in fairness, and ideally older than 30-year-old Shane Duffy, while Bernd Leno will be expected to usurp Marek Roddick fairly quickly.
But if Silva is otherwise forced to rely on the aforementioned trio, it was an encouraging start.
Robinson, Adarabio and Tate were each vastly inexperienced ahead of their first Premier League campaigns and although still young defensively – they are 24, 24 and 26 respectively – are too old for that second crack at the top flight. Should be better prepared. Robinson, in particular, was superb here, going toe-to-toe with the division’s most dangerous attacker throughout Salah.
Darwin Nunez is a star.
The margin of defeat in last season’s title race means it will be difficult for Jurgen Klopp’s men to see this result as anything but two big points dropped but it could easily have been worse had it been off the bench. Nunez would have had no effect.
The £85million summer signing replaced the ineffective Roberto Firmino minutes after half-time and put the spotlight on what was a surprisingly flat Liverpool display.
The 23-year-old should have shot over when trying to square for Luis Diaz, but twice got to his man to meet Salah’s cross, once denied by Roddick but the second brilliantly parried by the Fulham keeper. Left behind.
He then had an effort cleared off the line by Ream before Salah set up an equaliser. There was a degree of luck involved in the assist, but there is already a motivating spark between the pair and when Crystal Palace travel to Anfield on Monday week, Nunez will surely be involved from the start.