How Meulensteen helped turn Richardson's Fulham career around

The Cottagers winger has played key roles in successive games against Manchester United and Liverpool and will be crucial in his side's battle for survival.

The signing of Konstantinos Mitroglou on deadline day could be considered a show of faith from the Fulham board in Rene Meulensteen or, on the flip side, a final roll of the dice.

The additions of Mitroglou and Lewis Holtby, most pertinently, were designed to lift a Cottagers side becoming at risk of being cut adrift at the bottom of the Premier League and, despite the Greek's absence, the likes of Holtby and fellow new signing Ryan Tunnicliffe have shown in the club's last two outings that Meulensteen's side are more than capable of avoiding the drop.

A stunning 2-2 draw at Manchester United was so nearly followed up with the same result against Liverpool, only for Steven Gerrard's late intervention, but the main talking point - at least from the home side's perspective - was one of a player firmly on the up in Kieran Richardson.

His recent upturn in form has yielded a goal and a key role in two of the Cottagers' four goals across their last two games, if not the desired change in results, as Meulensteen reaps the returns of a tactical switch which has seen Richardson moved further forward into a left-wing role.

Richardson had been deployed on the left-hand side of defence for the three previous matches, all ending in defeat, as the Cottagers' form threatened to cut them adrift at the foot of the league.

But the decision to liberate Richardson and offer him more attacking responsibility is an inspired one.

Fulham's shape now resembles a more rigid 4-2-3-1, with Richardson and Tunnicliffe flanking Holtby, who orchestrates the play from central areas and allows for one of top scorer Steven Sidwell or another new signing in William Kvist to make runs from deep.

This was evident in all its glory with Sidwell's opener at United as Holtby floated a ball into the area for the unguarded midfielder to steer home and Richardson's incessant counter-attacking helped snatch a point when his shot was parried by David De Gea for Darren Bent to nod home.

Richardson also provided the cross which led to Kolo Toure's own-goal in midweek before grabbing his second goal of the season, both coming under Meulensteen's guidance.

And it would appear no coincidence that his strike came from playing in front of John Arne Riise having done so against Manchester City.

Having shown a goalscoring touch, however, he was reverted back to a defensive base for the next game in the 2-1 win at Norwich City and, prior to his Old Trafford cameo, he played on the wing on just one more occasion under Meulensteen, as they ran out 2-1 winners over West Ham United.

The two tables below illustrate his performances in each of the positions, with the top table summarising his performances during the Meulensteen reign at left-back and the one below for the four matches where he has appeared on the wing.

The most noticeable aspect is his assist-making from forward areas, having created an average of one per match when tasked with attacking responsibilities compared to just 0.4 per match from deeper.

Likewise his own productivity is enhanced as a result of his position, having registered 0.75 per appearance in comparison with 0 from the majority of his appearances.

He is also able to make more crosses - tying in with an increase in attempted assists - creating 2.5 per appearance, which is an impressive feat given the lack of games in that position, while he engineers just 1.6 in the majority of his outings this season but that is not to say he is most successful in this particular area having delivered just 30% of his crosses when playing up in support of Bent et al in comparison to 38% when held back.

Interestingly, he has also attempted more dribbles from a defensive berth (0.6) but has won just 0.2 of those contests while at the other end of the pitch he has attempted 0.5 per appearance and has a 100% success rate.

His touches takes a hit from 55.6 at the back to 32.75 per appearance up front but it must equally be factored into the debate that this Fulham side are scrapping for survival and have been comprehensively outplayed at times during the Meulensteen era.

But the Dutchman has finally got a call in his favour and must stick with it to continue to get the best out of a man built to showcase his attacking exploits.

PlayerTeamPosTotal Att Assist / appsTotal Scoring Att / appsOntarget Scoring Att / appsTotal Cross / appsAccurate Cross / appsTotal Contest / appsWon Contest / appsTouches / appsAppsMins
Kieran Richardson Fulham DF 0.40 0.40 0 1.60 0.60 0.60 0.20 55.60 5 376
PlayerTeamPosTotal Att Assist / appsTotal Scoring Att / appsOntarget Scoring Att / appsTotal Cross / appsAccurate Cross / appsTotal Contest / appsWon Contest / appsTouches / appsAppsMins
Kieran Richardson Fulham MF 1.00 1.75 0.75 2.50 0.75 0.50 0.50 32.75 4 307

images: © Tom Cuppens, © Ronnie Macdonald

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