Ademola Lookman completed a laudable turnaround on Tuesday when he was named in the Premier League Team of the Week—as selected by Alan Shearer—following his exploits for Fulham over the weekend.
Lookman was arguably the Cottagers’ outstanding player as they defeated Leicester City 2-1 away for only their second victory of the season, climbing out of the bottom three in the process.
In early November, the wideman was the Londoners’ pariah after spurning a late penalty against West Ham United to deny the newly promoted side the chance to take a valuable point away from home.
If missing a late penalty is—perhaps—forgivable, the nature of Lookman’s failure was not, as he appeared to hesitate, dithering, on his run up to the penalty, before sending an unconvincing half-hearted paneka into the hands of Lukasz Fabianski.
There are times and places to attempt a flamboyant panenka, and there are ways to execute the technique, this was neither the context nor the approach, and Lookman was left as the brunt of ridicule on social media.
It’s not easy to make Scott Parker, the mild-mannered, softly spoken Fulham manager, angry, but Lookman succeeded in doing just that, with the ex-England and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder taking aim at the Anglo-Nigerian youngster after the match.
“I'm disappointed and angry,” Parker told Match of the Day. “You can't take penalties like that and he knows that. He's a young player and he's learning.
“The boy has made a mistake. Ade is the first to understand that,” Parker added. “When you're young and you're learning you have to learn quick.
He is disappointed and rightly so,” he concluded. “This is part and parcel of football, of growing as players and as a team. We'll get around him now.”
To his credit, Lookman held his hands up after that miserable moment, taking to social media to accept the blame and responsibility for his poor decision-making, while vowing to bounce back stronger.
However, words would only carry the youngster so far, it was imperative that Lookman picked himself up off the floor—he was clearly affected by the miss—and responded on the pitch.
“Ademola is devastated, apologetic,” Fulham captain Tom Cairney told journalists, as per BBC Sport.
“He's a young man who has had a good start here and is a big player for us,” he continued. “We'll get around him and pick him up, he knows he could have got us a point.”
Lookman has responded in style, firmly banishing memories of that hideous penalty.
Against his former club Everton, he contributed an assist during a vibrant and eye-catching display, albeit in a 3-2 defeat, and looked undaunted by the previous failure hanging over him.
His dribbling caught the eye—only Ivan Cavaleiro and Alex Iwobi completed more take-ons—while Lookman’s three key passes highlighted his creative qualities.
Against Leicester, Fulham finally got the result that their improving performances have deserved.
He was magnificent, with his pace and incisive movement allowing the Cottagers to play on the counter knowing that they could launch forward with speed and precision and trouble the Foxes in behind.
The ex-RasenBallsport Leipzig man opened the scoring in the 30th minute—with credit going to Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa for the sensational assist—and was a threat throughout.
He took four shots—two of which were on target—registered one key pass, and was the second most effective dribbler on the pitch.
Suddenly, with a cutting edge—even though Aleksandar Mitrovic was again only fit enough for the bench—Fulham are looking like a side who can grind out results, who can score against some of the league’s better teams, and are increasingly competent across the board.
Zambo Anguissa contributes both defensively and offensively—it’s not too far to say that he’s among the best central midfielders in the league outside the top six—while Parker will be happy with the contributions of Tosin Adarabioyo, Ola Aina and Bobby De Cordova-Reed in his defensive unit.
If Lookman can maintain his recent form, then he too can play a big role in Fulham beating the drop and ensure that he’s no longer looked at as a player who frittered away his vast potential.