New era under Ranieri? Why Fulham’s performance against Southampton is a promise of better things to come


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Fulham can look forward to better things after a 3-2 win over Southampton

Fulham got off to a fine start under Claudio Ranieri with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Southampton at Craven Cottage on Saturday.

The Cottagers would have hoped for a clean sheet in their first game under Ranieri but Southampton took the lead 19 minutes into the game, Stuart Armstrong finding the net after Maxime Le Marchand failed with his headed clearance from Nathan Redmond’s cross.

Fulham have been exciting in the attacking third all throughout the season and found a way back into the game as Aleksandar Mitrovic’s header found the net from Le Marchand’s cross. The Cottagers soon took the lead as Ryan Sessegnon produced a moment of brilliance on the left flank and picked out Andre Schurrle’s run at the far post with an inch-perfect cross.

As vulnerable as Fulham have been at the back this season, it was no different under Ranieri and the Cottagers could not close down Stuart Armstong quickly enough, handing the chance to the former Celtic man to find the top corner with an emphatic finish.

Ranieri had every reason to be a worried man with the score locked at 2-2 as Fulham currently have the worst defensive record in the Premier League.

However, Aleksandar Mitrovic, who has pretty much been Fulham’s standout player of the season so far, showed a wonderful technique to find the net with a fine first-time finish off Cyrus Christie’s cross from the right. Ensuring that Fulham have the perfect to Claudio Ranieri era at Craven Cottage.

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To be honest, Fulham have plenty of positives to take from their display against Southampton. They have been susceptible at the back all season and both the goals that they conceded on Saturday were largely down to defensive errors, although one might argue that Stuart Armstrong produced a brilliant strike from outside the box for the second. However, it is quite certain that Maxime Le Marchand should have done better with his headed clearance to prevent the first.

Cyrus Christie, who has been at the receiving end of a lot of criticism for his nightmarish displays at right-back, rose to the occasion to assist Mitrovic for the winner and also looked quite solid defensively. The central defence looked much more organised with Denis Odoi and Alfie Mawson dealing quite well with everything that came their way.

However, Ranieri has every reason to be happy with his team’s build-up play in the midfield. Calum Chambers seems to be much more comfortable playing as a holding midfielder and played a part in the build-up to the first goal. In fact, all the midfielders, including Jean-Michael Seri and Tom Cairney were involved in the passage of play which led to the equaliser. Tom Cairney, in particular, looked a lot more impactful in his advanced role in the midfield.

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Ryan Sessegnon’s performance up front deserves a lot of credit as well. The youngster kept probing away at the opposition and crafted some good moves down the left with his pace and guile, assisting Schurrle for the second goal.

Fulham faded away from the game after scoring the third goal, allowing Southampton to dominate possession but they absorbed the pressure really well, managing to keep the Saints at bay with some solid defending.

The last time that Mitrovic scored a brace was against Burnley when Fulham won 4-2 and he was once again on target as the Cottagers showed signs of turning their fortunes around under Claudio Ranieri, demonstrating that he is the most valuable player in their forward line.

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The victory against Southampton would definitely have done a world of good to Fulham’s team morale and Claudio Ranieri can now look forward to a tough December schedule that features games against Chelsea, Leicester City and Manchester United in successive weeks.

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