After scoring a barely believable 19 goals in their last three matches, Fulham find themselves on course to break a second-tier scoring record that has stood for 65 years.
Leicester City hold the record for the most goals scored in a single season, when they netted 109 times as they romped to the Second Division title in 1956-57.
Only twice since then has the 100-goal barrier been broken in the second tier, once by Sheffield Wednesday (106) just two years later and then again by Kevin Keegan’s Manchester City side in 2001-02. Unsurprisingly both of those teams were promoted to the top flight as champions too. Reading’s record-shattering 106-point season saw them fall just short, on 99 goals.
Marco Silva’s team have scored 70 goals in just 26 matches so far this season, beating Birmingham City and Bristol City by the same 6-2 margin at Craven Cottage in the space of four days off the back of a 7-0 win at Reading.
Marco Silva embraces teenager Fulham star Fabio Carvalho after the 6-2 win over Birmingham
Aleksander Mitrovic has scored 27 times in just 25 Championship matches so far this season
What makes those three results all the more remarkable is that they came off the back of a five-match winless run when just three goals were scored, as Fulham were pulled back into the chasing pack.
Fulham cannot yet afford to think of promotion as a guarantee, let alone the title, with Bournemouth and Blackburn just five points behind in second and third, but there is no doubt where they hold an advantage over their rivals. Blackburn are the Championship’s next-highest scorers on 44, a huge 26 goals behind Fulham, who have a game in hand on Tony Mowbray’s Rovers.
If Fulham continue to score at the rate they are going at, they will end up with 124 goals from 46 matches. While that will take some doing – and Peterborough’s 1960-61 English record of 134 goals in the fourth tier certainly will – they are well on course to usurp Leicester’s 1957 vintage and Keegan’s City.
Silva has to take plenty of credit for Fulham’s goal glut. Under Scott Parker, now in charge at Bournemouth, the Cottagers were the second-lowest scorers in the Premier League last season with just 27 goals as they were relegated. More pertinently, Silva’s side have already scored more goals than Parker’s did in their promotion season in 2019-20. Fulham were just the seventh-highest scorers in the Championship that year as they went up via the play-offs.
Parker has won plenty of admirers at Fulham and Bournemouth, but his style can perhaps be described as death by possession. He favours keeping the ball over everything else, even if the build-up is slow. Silva, on the other hand, likes his teams to go all-out attack, throwing bodies forward in desperation to score.
Marco Silva was sacked by Everton in November 2019 with them 18th in the Premier League
When it works it looks great and when it doesn’t it looks terrible – as Everton fans will attest to. After an eighth-placed finish in his first season, Silva was sacked by Farhad Moshiri after a 5-2 defeat by Liverpool in December 2019 left Everton 18th – though the Portuguese boss will point out that they were only five points off the top half at that stage too.
Perhaps being in less of a pressure-cooker environment is helping Silva to flourish and rebuild his reputation, and there is a certain poetry to the fact that his side are flying as Everton lurch through yet another crisis as Moshiri searches for yet another manager.
Silva’s best trick has been getting the best out Aleksandar Mitrovic, the Serbian battering-ram striker who seems to have been around forever but is still only 27. At his best, Mitrovic has shown he can be a decent Premier League striker. At his worst under Parker last year, he was out of the team as Bobby DeCordova-Reid operated as a false nine and Fulham tried to pass their way to safety.
Silva has ripped up Parker’s game plan and instead concentrated on feeding Mitrovic – to devastating effect. The Serb has scored 27 times in just 25 matches so far this season, contributing a further seven assists. He needs 43 goals to break the second-tier scoring record set by Portsmouth’s Guy Whittingham in 1992-93. It is doable.
Either side of Mitrovic, Harry Wilson, a summer signing from Liverpool, and PSG academy graduate Neeskens Kebano have licence to attack and have added a further eight goals each between them. Wilson tops the assist chart with 10.
Harry Wilson, a summer arrival from Liverpool, has been in fine form for Fulham this season
In the No 10 role, 19-year-old Fabio Carvalho is enjoying a stunning breakthrough season, with Silva nurturing the Portuguese-speaking England youth international who arrived from Benfica as an 11-year-old. DeCordova-Reid, Ivan Cavaleiro and young Brazilian striker Rodrigo Muniz have all chipped in too, making Fulham’s attack look worthy of the Premier League.
Behind the frontline, Silva has built on the foundations that Parker laid by moulding his team around the steady and tenacious midfield displays of Harrison Reed, while he has got a tune out of another Portuguese speaker in Jean-Michael Seri. Club captain Tom Cairney has returned from injury in recent weeks and excelled in a deeper midfield role, while he remains an option as a No 10. Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, on loan at Napoli, will come back into the equation if Fulham are promoted and England international Nathaniel Chalobah is on the books too. Silva’s midfield, like his frontline, will not need major surgery if promotion is achieved.
Defence had been Fulham’s problem for years, dating back to their promotion under Slavisa Jokanovic and relegation in 2019 after Claudio Ranieri and Parker both tried and failed to turn things around. The main issue at the back was a constant chopping and changing of personnel. Fulham relied on loan players to get promoted, then suddenly needed to go on a spending spree just to fill their Premier League squad.
Players who had earned promotion were discarded in favour of those seen as mercenaries – as Anguissa and Seri were before they won fans over. Fulham spent over £100m on new players in 2018, only to finish 10 points adrift of safety.
Although Parker warned against making the same mistakes, Fulham did make the same mistakes two years later, with 13 players coming in. Although the overall outlay was closer to £40m this time, it took the first half of the season for most to settle, by which time the damage was already done and Fulham were relegated again.
Scott Parker couldn’t keep Fulham up and is now in charge of rivals Bournemouth
Goalkeeper Alphonse Areola performed well in the Premier League last season, but the discarding of Marek Rodak after he had been instrumental in promotion seemed harsh. He is now back between the sticks for Fulham and performing well again, and surely he has to stay there if they are promoted.
At centre back, Tim Ream is another who seems to play when Fulham are in the Championship then drop to the bench when they are promoted. He has formed a solid partnership with Tosin Adarabioyo this season, with Fulham conceding just 23 goals, and deserves a fairer crack of the whip in the Premier League if they go up.
If there is one area Silva will look to improve if Fulham do go up it will be the defence, and he has a surplus of centre backs in Michael Hector, Alfie Mawson and Terence Kongolo, who could all make way for a signing to try and have the impact that Joachim Andersen did while he was on loan last season.
If Fulham do go up, it should be third time lucky in their bid to stay in the Premier League. Lessons have surely been learned from their previous failures, and the fact the only one player on the books currently is on loan bears witness to this – and Domingos Quina barely plays. On the evidence of this season, Silva only needs to make two or three quality signings to improve his already formidable team.
Until then, there are a couple of records in Silva and Mitrovic’s sights.