Aleksandar Mitrović: What impact has his lengthy suspension had on Fulham?

2N4JYA4 Aleksandar Mitrovic #9 of Fulham during the Emirates FA Cup fourth round replay match Sunderland vs Fulham at Stadium Of Light, Sunderland, United Kingdom, 8th February 2023 (Photo by Mark Cosgrove/News Images)

Fulham have had an excellent season and are on course for their first top-10 finish in the Premier League since 2011/12. However, the fallout from their implosion at Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter-final has put that position in jeopardy.

They had two players and their manager sent off and threw away the lead in a complete capitulation. Marco Silva received a two-game touchline ban for his actions, but the biggest absence is the eight-match suspension for Aleksandar Mitrović for shoving referee Chris Kavanagh.

Mitrović is such an integral part of how Fulham play and none of their other options have a similar play style to him (not many in 2023 do). He is also their top scorer in the league with 11 goals, and runners-up Andreas Pereira, Bobby De Cordova-Reid and Manor Solomon only have four each which shows how depleted their firepower is.

Fulham’s alternatives are Carlos Vinicius, a player who profiles similarly to Mitrović, and the duo of De Cordova-Reid and Daniel James, who between them have both started in a false nine role in the club's last three games. Below is a look at how they compare to the Serbian in some of his best categories.

Mitrović Reid Vinicius James
Goals 11 4 2 2
Goals p-90 0.5 0.1 0.2 0.2
Shooting grade 73.4 81.9 76.4 66.1
Aerial duel grade 75.5 54.4 49.7 51.9
Aerial duel win % 46% 26% 20% 10%

Clearly, Fulham are going to be deprived of their aerial threat until Mitrović’s return for their final three games of the season. Four of his eleven goals have come from headers and none of his replacements are going to be as effective if Fulham are wanting to continue to exploit Pereira’s 89.1 crossing grade (second-best in the league).

De Cordova-Reid and Vinicius do have slightly higher shooting grades but these are both from a smaller number of attempts and neither has had the same consistency as Mitrović with his current average of a goal every other game.

With that being said, there are advantages to Fulham having to diversify how they create chances. With Mitrović in the team, Fulham averaged 9.14 chances per game. In the last four games, they’ve averaged 9.75. While only a small rise, this could be evidence of them having to spread the ball around and find different ways to score, instead of relying on Mitrović.

The chances created are also coming from different players. Pereira averaged 2.4 chances created per game when playing with Mitrović, but since Mitrović’s ban has averaged only 1.0 chance created per game.

The team has created more chances while their go-to provider has created less without his target man. Hopefully for Fulham, this will continue when Mitrović returns and while still being the spearhead of their attack they won’t be as reliant on him.

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