How Claudio Ranieri steered Fulham to a vital first clean sheet at the perfect time
Fulham were in desperate need of a clean sheet heading into their clash against Newcastle United, with the Whites sporting the league’s worst defensive record and sitting bottom of the league.
Although Fulham didn’t win on Saturday, Claudio Ranieri steered the club to its first clean sheet of the season at the perfect time.
The Italian manager instituted a five-man defence for the relegation six-pointer, utlising Tim Ream, Denis Odoi, and Alfie Mawson as centre-backs. In addition, Joe Bryan and Cyrus Christie filled in at wingback and completed the backline that held out for a 0-0 draw.
The Fulham backline showed a resilience that has been absent all season, with the Cottagers denying Newcastle a single shot on target the entire match.
Bryan and Christie were tireless workers on the wings, and Mawson, Odoi, and Ream patrolled the centre expertly, clearing danger at every opportunity and appearing shockingly resolute.
The contrast to last weekend could not have been any more stark. Against West Ham, Fulham wilted at the slightest pressure and conceded two goals on two first half shots.
But against the Magpies, the new-look defence appeared compact and determined, owing to the smart decision to reinstate Christie to the starting lineup and move Odoi to a more central role.
In all, with Fulham finally clearing the mental hurdle of earning their first clean sheet of the campaign, Claudio Ranieri can now push on and deliver much-needed victories in the second half of the season.