The secrets of the Fulham fun factory – how they became the most lethal team in Europe

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Fulham players celebrate after Birmingham City's Marc Roberts (not pictured) scores an own goal during the Sky Bet Championship match at Craven Cottage, London. - PA
Fulham players celebrate after Birmingham City's Marc Roberts (not pictured) scores an own goal during the Sky Bet Championship match at Craven Cottage, London. - PA

It's tough to pick the most absurd fact about this Fulham season. Is it their goal difference of +47, higher than the goals scored by any other team in the Championship? Perhaps it is their status as the top scorers in European club football, with nine more than Bayern Munich? Most shocking of all: this is basically the same side which finished 11 points below Premier League safety last season.

Just the 19 goals added in their last three games, with scores straight out of an Australian summer. First a dream start for England’s Ashes openers against Reading (7-0) then a straight sets victory: 6-2, 6-2 at home to Bristol then Birmingham Cities. The 7-0 at Reading was the second time they have scored seven away from home this season and they are the first second-tier side for 68 years to score six or more in three consecutive games. At their current rate they would end the season on around 124 goals, more than the career Premier League goals of Steven Gerrard, Dwight Yorke or Didier Drogba. These are not normal numbers, they are an anorak’s fever dream.

Speaking before Saturday’s trip to Stoke, manager Marco Silva looked as relaxed as you would imagine, preaching respect, focus and recognition of the feted “good moment.” He is not interested in breaking records, just achieving promotion. Only when that is achieved (and whatever he might say it looks like a ‘when’ not an ‘if’) will he discuss what Fulham need to avoid another yo-yo season.

“This will be a conversation for us to have in the future. It will be a long conversation, for sure," he said. “We do nothing for next year, we just do for tomorrow and the next match, and all the other matches that will come. Our focus is Stoke, working behind the scenes with our squad until the end of the January window and nothing more.”

Leaving aside an unhappy end to his time at Everton, he remains a convincing modern manager, serious in tone, thorough in approach. He has seized the flair in his squad, in contrast to Scott Parker’s more cautious style last season which had the unfortunate combination of dreary to watch and easy to beat.

Has Silva been able to savour the experience recently? “I’m not the type of manager that will be on the touchline and relaxed, I have a different way. I am not the most relaxed or the most expressive guy. I want to see always good things on the pitch. I want to see things that we have planned, that we have worked on on a daily basis on the training ground.”

On Tuesday night Birmingham City focused on keeping Aleksandar Mitrovic quiet. It worked insofar as he didn’t score but four other Fulham players did and they went in 4-1 up at half time. Left back Antonee Robinson scored the sixth and puts his side’s goal rush down to a clinical edge. “It's easy when you are winning a game by a big margin to deviate and try stuff that you haven't done before - lads doing individual stuff, trying to dribble when they don't need to,” he says. “We stick to what we've been doing and that's why we just keep scoring.”

The fans, predictably, are enjoying it too. Matt Boisclair presents the Fulham Focus podcast. “It's different this year because we're getting such big scores and we're playing so well. There's a great connection between the players and the supporters.”

The trouble is he knows how this film ends. “I hate being in the Premier League,” he says. “You join that group of six and seven teams at the bottom and join that mini league. You go to Man City and know you’re going to get smashed. The ideal scenario would be to win the league and then stay in the division and do it all again next year.”

Bobby Decordova Reid of Fulham at half time - EDDIE KEOGH
Bobby Decordova Reid of Fulham at half time - EDDIE KEOGH

Looking at Fulham’s recent games it is the mix of goals which stands out. There has been the odd screamer, especially Neeskens Kebano’s outrageous control, turn and blast for the sixth against Bristol City. But mostly it is good crossing, solid set pieces and the lethal finishing of Mitrovic which catch the eye.

Tom Cairney is pulling strings from midfield after nearly a year out, Fabio Carvalho is posing questions teams at this level cannot answer, former Liverpool winger Harry Wilson is excelling. They look simply too good for their opponents, like a school team playing the year below.

Promotion seems certain but if the fixtures are unkind, this time next year Fulham could easily concede 19 goals in three games. Teams that find the Championship too easy can be brutally exposed in the ruthless Premier League, so Silva and his employers must plan wisely to avoid becoming Norwich-upon-Thames.

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