Marco Silva believes losing Rodrigo Muniz to injury is a “big blow” for Fulham after the Brazilian striker was ruled out for “three to four weeks” with a knee injury.
Muniz, 22, made his first Premier League start against Manchester United last weekend but was forced to withdraw in tears after suffering a knee injury in the second half.
The former Flamengo forward has had an interrupted start the season and has mainly played second fiddle to Carlos Vinicius and Raul Jimenez. However, a strong display against Ipswich Town in the Carabao Cup, and then against Manchester United before his premature departure, suggested he was close to becoming first choice.
“It’s a big blow. We can’t hide that,” said Silva. “Rodrigo was growing. In preseason he arrived so well and he looked sharp, confident. He got a (muscle) injury in the Summer Series and that broke his momentum too. I believe the way he started pre-season, he would have started the first game of the season.”
Muniz signed for Fulham from Flamengo in 2021 in a deal thought to be worth around €8million. He spent his first season playing as an understudy to Aleksandar Mitrovic in the Championship, scoring five goals from 25 appearances, before enduring a tough loan spell at Middlesbrough last year where he featured only once during the final five months of the campaign.
Of the injury, Silva said: “It is not really serious, but he is not going to be involved in the next few games. You have to be careful with a knee injury. The international break is going to help us. It’s difficult to give a clear timeline, but it looks three to four weeks.”
There was better news concerning Kenny Tete, Tosin Adarabioyo and Adama Traore. Silva confirmed that the trio are now back in full training, although they are not yet able to play a full 90 minutes. Defender Issa Diop, meanwhile, will require more time to recover from a foot injury.
Fulham travel to Aston Villa on Sunday, who have won their last 12 Premier League home matches.
Fulham are doing a lot right but mistakes are costing them on and off the pitch
‘Muniz’s luck is out again’
When Muniz left the pitch in tears last weekend, it was evident that it was not just the knee pain that afflicted him. For the 22-year-old, this was his chance.
Ever since arriving in England, he has had to bide his time, whether that be behind Mitrovic at Fulham or on the bench at Middlesbrough. But again, his luck was out. Just like in pre-season, where he caught the eye before suffering a muscle injury, he’s faced a set back just as he was about to seize the initiative.
Muniz had impressed in his cameos. His hold up play has noticeably improved this season and that has propelled him forward as a possible starting striker. He has a poacher’s instinct; his goals-per-minute rate in the Championship (0.92) was only slightly behind Mitrovic (1.01), despite far fewer minutes. That earned him the start against United, ahead of Carlos Vinicius and Raul Jimenez.
His injury means Marco Silva has to look elsewhere for an attacking solution. There is no hiding the fact that Fulham have not adapted well to life without Mitrovic. He scored 14 Premier League goals last season but his influence went beyond that; he was the focal point that the team were built around. After 11 games last season, Fulham had scored 19 league goals. That is 10 more than this season’s return.
Raul Jimenez and Carlos Vinicius have both struggled to fill the void this term, with Jimenez’s goal drought — which dates back 18 months in the Premier League — weighing heavy on his shoulders. One of those two will need to step up on Sunday, if Fulham are to have any hope of ending Villa’s terrific home form.
(Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)