It’s been an interesting month since my last article, and it’s safe to say a lot has happened…
First of all, the club have welcomed the signings of Oliver Norwood, Aboubakar Kamara and Ibrahima Cisse. All three signings have shown glimpses of quality in their appearances in a Fulham shirt, with Norwood playing a vital role in the games against Norwich and Reading.
Norwood was a player I was particularly interested in when the deal was announced due to his versatility and ability to play in any of the three midfield roles that Slavisa implements.
Norwood showcased that ability to deputise for any of the key midfielders, after filling in for the absent McDonald against Norwich City, and then replacing Cairney in the line-up for the second game of the season against Reading. Personally, I think he was best suited to the deeper role that was asked of him on the opening day of the season, as his presence was noticeably missing in the second half when he was substituted for Ibrahima Cisse. While, Norwood doesn’t have the imposing structure that McDonald is blessed with, Norwood’s passing ability shone brightly, especially with the rest of the team creating space and giving the Brighton loanee time to pick out a pass and turn that Norwich defence. The signing of Norwood on loan may not have set many fans heart racing, but I’m positive his impact on our season will be huge and over-looked, but considering he’s only been with us shortly, the midfielder has really settled into the squad and philosophies, and the early signs have been nothing short of promising.
As for the other two signings in Cisse and Kamara, I’m quietly confident that they will deliver when called upon. Both players were wanted by the club in January but sadly both deals for the players fell through for different reasons.
So, it was no surprise that they did arrive this summer with Kamara arriving for a big fee, of around £5.35m, the biggest fee since McCormack I believe. His appearances against Norwich and Wycombe prove he’s got the ability to score goals at this level, despite his talent being very raw. He’s a channel runner, and his movement up front will definitely create opportunities for the side, but his decision making has a lot to be desired. But, considering the giant step up in competition he’s got to adjust too and a new country, I strongly believe that AK47 will be become a leading striker for the club.
But, as every fan will know, Fulham need another striker sooner rather than later. While, the signing of Kamara was welcomed with open arms, our only other striker on the books, Cauley Woodrow looks set to re-join Burton Albion for another season, which leaves Slavisa with very little options for that striking role. Many names have been linked and with stories of Diego Rolan joining the club still circulating, anything is possible. But, over the last 48 hours Fulham have heavily been linked with an agreement for Braga forward, Rui Fonte worth around €9m – a monstrous fee!
Even though some fans may be getting excited around the potential signing of Rui Fonte, I truly believe the excitement comes from the club willing to spend such a large sum of money on a needed forward, rather than the potential arrival of the player. The reason I say that is because, I’ve managed to watch quite a lot of the Portuguese forward in his career, and I honestly believe there are better options available than €9m for Fonte.
Especially, when you cast your mind back to our opening bid in January and the summer of around €3m – a third of what is reportedly agreed, which to me, screams desperation to get someone in at the last minute, which should frighten people rather than excite them. For me, Fonte is a player very similar to the build of former Arsenal forward, Chamakh and while he doesn’t excel at any particular aspect of the game, he’s very clumsy and has failed to be consistent over his career, despite having the opportunity at some big clubs like Sporting Lisbon, Espanyol & Benfica. Yes, Fonte had a strong season last year scoring 11 league goals for Braga, but considering the fee and the fact he has only had one strong season at senior level, this isn’t an investment that seems sensible to me – far from it! Not to mention, he’s had his fair share of injuries, making it rare for him to last a full season at any club.
When you compare the reported fee’s that were agreed for Fonte and Rolan, and then you compare the age and records of both players, Rolan looks the better deal all over – Yes, it doesn’t look like Rolan will join, but spending €9m for Fonte is ludicrous in my eyes.
Although, after I’ve said all of this, he’ll end up having an injury free season, scoring 20 goals and I’ll end up singing his name at one point – and if I’m brutally honest, I hope he proves me wrong, but for now, I’m concerned.
Another striker that Fulham were linked with was the AZ Alkmaar target man, Wout Weghorst. While the Weghorst rumours lasted about a day, it was a shame that this story never came to fruition as he would have come in at a similar price to Rolan’s £5m, and with an impressive goal-scoring record, and standing at 6’5, the Dutchman would have been the perfect alternative option for Jokanovic’s squad. He’s also a player that despite his lanky frame, is very mobile and always seems to be in the danger zone, a true finisher and if there was the ideal forward for us, I would have recommended him time after time again. A shame there was no follow up from the media on this story, but I believe he was someone to get excited about if our interest was concrete.
Fulham have also been linked with Maxime Poundje and Joe Bennett as they look for a permanent replacement for Scott Malone following his summer transfer to Huddersfield Town.
Out of the two options that have been mentioned, I’d hope we manage to sign Poundje over Bennett, although I feel a deal for Bennett is more likely. Personally, I believe that Poundje is more of a natural fit to the system, as he’s very good going forward but also quite the athlete in terms of speed and build, and having another powerful presence to support the attack is something we need. On the other hand, Bennett is probably the more reliable defender, but with Jokanovic demanding his full-backs to play like second wingers for most of the game, Poundje seems the better fit. Sky have reported that a deal has been agreed for Poundje, but Twitter rumours suggest the player has already failed a medical – so we’ll see how that pans out. While, Bennett reportedly has a buy-out clause, which would mean a deal is possible this summer, but no other information has been gathered at this stage.
Finally, it seems that the club will continue to do its business late in the window, with another 3 players expected to join the club. With Lucas Piazon unfortunately picking up a serious injury last night, a replacement for him will also have to be found – although I suspect, the imminent arrival of Sheyi Ojo will fill that void. Losing Piazon is gutting, and if I’m honest, he’s hit the ground running this season and is one of the few players we have in that wide position that is very comfortable in a more central role too, so his presence will be missed! Get well soon Lucas!
Ideally, I’d like to see another centre back join the club as rumours of Michael Madl moving to Legia Warsaw have begun to gather pace, leaving Jokanovic with Djalo as the only recognised back-up option, despite Denis Odoi deputising in an unfamiliar central position against Leeds and Reading. Despite Odoi performing well at centre back, an experienced head will be welcomed, just in case Odoi is needed to play at full-back, should the squad be hit by any more unfortunate injuries/suspensions.
As for the goalkeepers, I was expecting a new number one to arrive this summer, but it’s clear that Jokanovic has faith in both his keepers, after Bettinelli has struggled for fitness and David Button has looked rejuvenated in the league after a questionable pre-season. While, another goalkeeper is on the wish-list of many fans, realistically the squad will need improvements elsewhere and with Nottingham Forest and Reading’s interest in Button cooling, it’s unlikely a new keeper will be sourced this summer.
Nevertheless, I still have faith in the club to deliver against their season aims this year and I’m confident money will be spent in the right areas to provide Jokanovic with the best platform to succeed this season.
Three games in and three points on the board isn’t a bad start considering the quality of the opposition we have played, and we’ve been without key players for those games. Once the new additions have settled and the transfer window has closed, I’m confident this season will be one to remember.
Thank you ever so much for reading and your ongoing support of The Craven Corner. Please feel free to get in touch with me on Twitter – @ABronsSmith and to share the article with fellow fans and friends.
Thank you J