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Fulham defender Tosin Adarabioyo returning to his football roots

last updated Friday 04th February 2022, 4:43 PM

Fulham Football Club

FulhamDefender Tosin Adarabioyo
Fulham Defender
Tosin Adarabioyo
Tosin Adarabioyo
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Fulham defender Tosin Adarabioyo is all too willing to share Marco Silva’s message to his players ahead of a trip to Manchester City. It doesn’t just serve as a tactical plan, after all, but a rallying cry.

“We’re going to go and play how we play,” Tosin says, echoing his manager. “We keep our identity. We know it’s Manchester City, and they generally have so much of the ball, but we want to try and play our game also.”

It’s the sort of assertiveness that comes when your team have scored 23 goals in their last five games. Fulham are going to treat the Etihad like it’s their own home, but that’s a bit more literal for Tosin.

He is a boyhood City fan who was born in Manchester and spent 18 years at the club from the age of five. It was only in 2020 that Tosin left the Etihad, a highly sought-after product of their youth system who had made Pep Guardiola’s first team. It could be quite an emotional situation for a lot of players, all the more since it’s an FA Cup tie, but Tosin didn’t feel it when going back last season and doesn’t really feel it now.

He’s too collected, something that comes across in the 24-year-old’s game and how he speaks.

“Nah, it’s not strange,” Tosin says. “It’s just another game, a big game. It’ll be nice to go back and see everyone there but it is just a game.”

It is admittedly a game against the best team in England, and probably the best team in Europe, who also tend to make matches hell for opposition sides. Tosin will be in the centre of the furnace as a centre-half, and he’s felt the heat before. He played all 180 minutes of Fulham’s 2-0 and 3-0 defeats in the Premier League last season.

“They are a great team. They try and drag you all over the pitch. They take you to one side, and then take you to other side, until they overload you and space is vacated. You just have to keep concentration, especially as a defender, to not vacate those spaces.

“It’s a whole team job, though. Everyone has to get across the whole pitch, to make sure you don’t get overloaded.”

The mere five goals that Fulham conceded last season were pretty respectable given the sort of scoring form that City were in, but Tosin has other experience to draw on. He made seven appearances under Guardiola, including four in the Champions League, and offers one of the most insightful explanations of what it’s like to work under the Catalan.

“You do end up seeing football completely differently. It almost becomes a numbers game, where you see it in terms of ball retention and the like. His game is positional. You learn to hold positions in certain situations, like the wingers staying wide, so you come to see the triggers. As a centre-half, when on the ball, you learn when and why you should pass to certain places.

“It was about getting into daily habits. You could gradually feel the change.”

Tosin was primed for that - as well as the more aggressive football Silva now demands from his centre-halves - through his years in the City academy. One of the aims soon after the 2008 takeover was to overhaul the entire club around modern ideals, and specifically an ideal like Guardiola as a manager. That meant a fair few years of all players at the club being coached in the most progressive football, at what has become considered the best academy in the country.

Having been at City since 2003, Tosin witnessed the transformation directly.

“You first noticed it when the facilities started to get better, they started to do up the changing room, started to do up the gym. There were small signs quite early on, but the big difference came about seven years with the academy.

“You went from average facilities to world-class facilities. It was amazing.”

And to world-class coaching. It was just another area where City insisted on “best in class”, to use the term often said around the club like a mantra.

“It was the education the coaches have, their knowledge of the game. A lot played the game too, so they were able to pass down their experience and give advice. Playing out from the back as a centre-half was something we knew well and that I enjoyed.”

It all meant he instantly fit at Fulham on going to Craven Cottage at the start of the 2020-21 season, after loans at West Brom and Blackburn Rovers. Scott Parker put Tosin straight into the team alongside Danish international Joachim Andersen, and he very quickly impressed in superb defensive performances against a series of big-six clubs. The 1-1 draw at home to Liverpool and 1-0 win away undeniably stood out. Tosin offered defensive command and technical poise.

He was one of a few reasons Fulham earned a lot of respect under Parker, despite getting relegated. That wasn’t due to the defence, since there were six teams that conceded more goals.

“We played good football, which was why it was a shame to go down. We’re a good team.”

There was a feeling it had the potential to go wrong this season with the departure of Parker and the appointment of Silva. The Portuguese had endured a mixed career in England, to say the least, bringing an added pressure. Silva’s time at Fulham has only been going one way, though. That has been back to the Premier League, and through almost constant pressure on the opposition. The side are five points clear of Blackburn Rovers at the top of table, and with a game in hand, having scored 74 goals in 28 matches. That works out at 2.64 a game.

Tosin credits the focus of the manager as much as his tactics. Silva was completely clear with the players when he first came in.

“He told us the goal was to win the league. We were all on the same page, him and his staff.”

Whatever about the same page, Fulham were in symphony over January, as they beat Reading 7-0, and both Bristol City and Birmingham City 6-2 in consecutive games. Tosin describes it as one of those rare periods when everything just comes together for a team. The 24-year-old himself even hit the fifth goal of his career against Reading. It wasn’t just something subconscious or automatic, though. It was a lot of hard work and planning, of preparation paying off.

“It all just clicked. We’re a team enjoying our football, and those results are a consequence of that. The manager loves offensive football, that’s how he wants to play, to go out and attack and show what we can do.

“Our preparation didn’t change much for this game, really. It’s a knock-out picture, so we had to practice penalties!”

That may seem ambitious, but that’s been Fulham this season. It has led to Tosin looking to bigger goals of his own, too.

Although a former England underage international right up until under-19, he is eligible to play for Nigeria. Both of his parents moved over from Nigeria, before he and his two brothers were born in Manchester. Tosin is naturally considering Qatar.

“The World Cup is coming up this year. It’s definitely something I need to have a think about.”

For now, Fulham are only thinking of City, but not about just sitting off. Tosin, certainly, is ready to treat the place like he’s been there all his life.

Source Miguel Delaney at The Independent
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