Last weekend, Fulham Football Club secured their Championship status in nerve racking fashion for the second successive year, thanks to two players who have saved the Whites from almost certain demotion. The Cottagers have shipped an astounding 76 goals so far this season – the second worst in the league. With such an abysmal defensive record, many would expect them to be relegation favourites. However, the heroics of Ross McCormack and Moussa Dembele – the deadliest strike partnership in England – have averted disaster and brought joy to the banks of the Thames.
At first glance, the duo seem an unlikely pairing. McCormack is a hardened Scot, a Championship veteran of eight years; while Dembele is a French teenager playing his first full season in England after arriving from Paris Saint Germain. Yet despite their polar opposite footballing backgrounds, the two have developed a brilliant partnership this season.
McCormack and Dembele have combined to score 36 league goals this season, a superb total that constitutes more than half of the club’s total goals for the campaign. Both find themselves perched in the top 10 of the top scorers list, with McCormack bagging 21 goals and Dembele 15. However, the productivity does not end there. The Scot also has notched nine assists this term, the most of anyone in the top five scorers list, and Dembele has chipped in with six; both wholly impressive statistics for strikers.
In addition, the two are some of the most efficient and effective strikers of the ball in the division. McCormack has the highest shots on target percentage of anyone in the top 15 of the scorers list, boasting a rate of 58 percent. The Scot and the Frenchman always seem to know exactly where the other is on the pitch, and this sixth sense has made Fulham one of the best attacking sides in the Championship.
But things were not always so rosy at Fulham. During the January transfer window, rumors were swirling around Craven Cottage, with reports linking McCormack to Middlesbrough and Dembele to Tottenham. In late January, it seemed as if Fulham’s prized strike partnership would be fleeing the confines of SW6.
Luckily, both moves fell through at the last minute, with McCormack eventually signing a new contract until 2019, with the option to extend it a further year. Meanwhile, Dembele’s proposed Spurs move fell through, leaving the dynamic duo intact in SW6. Manager Slavisa Jokanovic proclaimed victory at the time, achieving his goal of keeping both strikers at the club.
And what an inspired decision it turned out to be. The two have enjoyed a prolific season this year, sharing a telepathic relationship that breeds goals by the dozen.
A prime example of the lethal partnership is Fulham’s fourth goal in the 4-2 comeback victory over Reading in October. Dembele latched onto a loose ball in the opposition half, and quickly played a one time pass to McCormack ten yards in front of him. McCormack impudently back-heeled the ball to Dembele, who was making a surging run into the penalty area.
Moussa then took a touch and cooly slotted into the back of the net past the helpless goalkeeper. That goal perfectly encapsulated their season: an intelligent, devastating one-two that left opposition defenders in the dust, with a touch of panache and finished off with class. That’s McCormack and Dembele in a nutshell.
McCormack and Dembele’s outstanding form this season has surely saved Fulham from relegation. Defensive issues have plagued the Whites all year, and with one of the leakiest backlines in the division, it is worrying to wonder where Fulham would be without the strike duo’s vital goals.
But this summer will pose urgent questions in SW6. Dembele’s contract expires this offseason, and on his form Premier League offers will surely be flooding in. In addition, although McCormack has signed a new contract, he might still be tempted by top flight offers. Facing the prospect of losing our star strikers yet again, the club must invest in suitable replacements and shore up our ailing defence.
For now, all Fulham fans can do is hope. Yet we can still savor the closing stages of what has been a marvelous attacking season for the Whites. This year fans have been lucky enough to witness the best strike partnership in England in the flesh, and the Fulham faithful must cherish the last glimpses of McCormack and Dembele before it’s too late.