Manor Solomon can be Fulham’s wildcard as they chase a first European qualification in 10 years, according to boss Marco Silva.
The on-loan Shakhtar Donetsk winger put a torrid 12 months behind him by coming off the bench to snatch his first goal for the Cottagers and wrap up victory against Nottingham Forest last Saturday.
The last year has brought tumult on and off the pitch for the 23-year-old. His career at Shakhtar, for whom he burst onto the scene scoring the decisive goal in a 3-2 win against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu in 2020, was derailed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February.
He arrived at Craven Cottage in the summer after FIFA ruled on the temporary suspension of contracts for players at Ukrainian clubs, but suffered a serious knee injury the day after making his debut against Liverpool ruling him out until January.
His strike against Forest, drilled home late on after Willian had given Fulham a first-half lead, lifted a weight from the shoulders of the Israel international, and Silva thinks he has the attributes when fit to lend a different kind of threat to his high-flying side’s European charge.
“He’s improving,” said the manager, whose side can leapfrog sixth-place Brighton with victory at the Amex Stadium on Saturday. “He deserved the goal he scored, it was an important moment, because 2022 was a really tough year for him, in all aspects and in his personal life.
“Helping the team to win the match was really important for him. He’s still not at his best physical condition. But he’s showing his quality already. What he can add to our squad is slightly different from the other wingers that we have since we lost (Neeskens) Kebano. He has the capacity to take players on one v one and we need this type of player.
“He has really high competition for his position. Willian is in such a good moment. Some players have to be ready to help from the beginning of the match, some have to be ready to help from the bench as well. The main thing for me, if they come in during the match, they have to be able to help the team like he did last game.”
Solomon became Fulham’s 12th different scorer in the Premier League this season with his strike against Forest, though no player is close to matching the tally of top scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic who has 11.
After the match Silva called on his players to embrace the responsibility of sharing the goalscoring burden, with Mitrovic not having netted since scoring the winner against Leicester on 3rd January and the next-highest scorer, Bobby Decordova-Reid, having registered just four.
The 30-year-old Jamaica international has been a key contributor from the wing this season, starting all but one of Fulham’s league fixtures. He was inches from scoring a wonder goal when he smacked the crossbar with a flying 25-yard drive against Forest.
Despite the form of Decordova-Reid and summer-signing Willian, Silva called on Solomon to challenge the pair for a place in the team as the race for Europe enters its final months.
“He’s knocking the door, definitely,” said Silva. “Our two wingers, Bobby and Willian have been our best players this season so far. I have to say Manor is doing really well and he’s improving. But I have to recognise that Willian and Bobby have been so, so important for this football club this season.”
The manager would not be drawn on whether Solomon is likely to stay at the club beyond his season-long loan, adding: “We have to wait to take the decision. If I’m going to talk about Solomon then I have to talk about Willian who is (near the) end of (his) contract. I don’t want to be unfair on other players who are on loan as well.”