David Bowie famously sometimes used the ‘cut-up’ technique to compose lyrics, cutting up phrases then piecing them back together at random. There is an element of that to Jokanovic’s team selection: this game saw him use his the 10th different defence and Sergio Rico replaced Marcus Bettinelli in goal, making Rico their third keeper used in 10 games. It’s worth noting none of the changes have been due to injury.
It’s only been five months since Fulham hearts were filled with hope after their promotion to the Premier League, but the optimism of that May day when they beat Aston Villa in the play-off final is long gone. This 3-0 defeat to Bournemouth was their seventh of the season, their 28th goal conceded in the league and another day when Slavisa Jokanovic looks increasingly like a manager guessing his way through the season.
Bournemouth, on the other hand, stride on. There’s nothing unexpected about their victories these days, and this was no exception. At no stage did they look in any trouble, a brace from Callum Wilson and one from the thrilling David Brooks more than enough for Eddie Howe’s composed and exciting side.
Fulham looked nervous in the opening exchanges, like someone doing their best to impress a set of intimidating in-laws, but went behind in the 14th minute. Callum Wilson was clumsily knocked over in the box by Timothy Fosu-Mensah and rolled the penalty home himself.
Fulham made a claim for their own spot-kick shortly afterwards, but referee Andre Marriner spotted that Aboubakar Kamara had very much gone down under his own steam, and duly booked him. Perhaps Kamara’s desperation to create something – anything – was a reflection of Fulham’s state of mind. He, André Schürrle and Aleksandar Mitrovic darted around, gamely attempting to find a hole in the Bournemouth defence, but no gap could be found.
The closest they came to a goal in the first half was a Denis Odoi header that flashed wide of the near post, and the mood of the crowd reflected the state of things on the pitch. A few boos were heard by the 20th minute, and when a fourth cross from deep was shanked well out of play the vibe downshifted to despondent.
Bournemouth, on the other hand, were in a much sparkier mood. They patiently probed when they had the ball and earnestly hassled when they didn’t. The implausibly young and skinny-looking Brooks belied his age and girth, standing out once again. But Jefferson Lerma looked like the team’s leader, a solid presence at the base of midfield who geed up his colleagues when they briefly looked slightly flat.
After the break, Simon Francis tested the extent of Rico’s agility with a rocket from way out, punched away by Fulham’s latest goalkeeper. The one concern for Bournemouth at that stage was a slight lack of urgency, the vague sense they thought another goal would come along soon enough, regardless of how hard they pressed for it.
On the hour mark, Jokanovic brought on Tom Cairney, so badly missed in the month he has spent out with an ankle issue. But while he introduced a little wit to Fulham’s midfield, he couldn’t do anything about a calamitous couple of minutes that confirmed Bournemouth’s win.
Adam Smith whipped the ball off Jean Michaël Seri’s toes, fed the squat, busy Ryan Fraser who in turn slid a beautifully weighted pass through to Brooks. The young Welshman barely broke stride in nutmegging Rico for his third goal of a seriously impressive nascent Premier League career. Brooks was on his way to another when Kevin McDonald tripped him, and with his sending off went any loose hope of a Fulham recovery. Wilson killed that off entirely with four minutes left, slamming home with extreme prejudice when a huge chasm opened in the Fulham defence. Many home fans got up to leave, discouraged by the prospect of a long season ahead.