After a perfect January, there’s plenty of reasons to get excited at Fulham.

The transfer window has closed, and Fulham have kept their stars, while adding a few top quality additions over the course of January too.

First of all, the board deserve a lot of credit for their work during January. Not only did they manage to keep the likes of Ryan Sessegnon, Tom Cairney and Ryan Fredericks at the club after some serious interest from Premier League clubs. But, we managed to sign Cyrus Christie, Aleksandr Mitrovic & Matt Targett – three signings that add true quality to this squad.

Mitrovic is an outstanding signing and will be the name that gets the headlines now the window has closed, but upon reflection the three signings strengthen any weak points in our squad. Mitrovic is the answer to our striker worries, after Aboubakar Kamara and Rui Fonte haven’t scored consistently over the course of the season, and Targett is the perfect addition to allow Ryan Sessegnon to play further forward for the second half of the season.

As for Cyrus Christie, it’s a signing I never expected to happen, but after thinking it through it makes a lot of sense. With Fredericks’ long-term future at the club still in doubt, Christie brings a similar profile to that right-back position. While, I still expect Fredericks to be the first choice for that role, Christie signing on a long-term deal means we have a decent replacement ready to go for next season, should Ryan not sign a new contract before the end of the year. Fredericks has been in contract talks with the club for a good six months, and with both parties failing to reach an agreement so far, Christie’s arrival means we haven’t got to panic buy in the summer, and that also means Cyrus can settle at the club before taking the right-back slot on a full-time basis next year.

As for the players that departed Fulham this month, my pre-window predictions came true. With Yohan Mollo & Rafa Soares both having their contracts terminated, after failing to impress Slavisa this season. While there were further departures for Jordan Graham, Michael Madl & Ragnar Sigurdsson, all of which struggled to make an impact at the club and while I wish Madl all the best for the future, he sadly fell behind Kalas, Ream & Odoi for the centre defensive role in our side.

But, there’s a great vibe around Craven Cottage at the moment, both the fans, players and staff all seem optimistic about what we can achieve this season and once again, Fulham were rampant at home this weekend. Slavisa stuck with the same front three that destroyed Burton in our last home fixture, and while it was the right thing to do, Fonte failed to make the same impact against Forest as he did against Burton. His performance lead to an introduction for Mitrovic before the hour mark and the Serbian’s presence was definitely felt by all. It’s safe to say that the Newcastle loanee is a passionate player, and his work-rate and physicality proved a tough challenge for the Forest back four, with the Serbian coming so close for a debut goal after his header was cleared off the line. Despite his fiery past, Mitrovic is still only 23 years old and with his talent and structure, this loan move to Fulham could be the changing point in his career, and if his cameo was anything to go by, Jokanovic has finally found a striker he can rely on.

Although, I have been a fan of Kamara this season, he will be behind Mitrovic for the second half of the second. But, I do hope that we see AK47 feature a lot in the remaining games, and with Jokanovic having both Mitrovic & Kamara in his match-day squads, I really hope we see Fulham line up with both strikers starting before May, as that would be a really exciting duo.

Despite all the excitement around our attacking talent, I have to commend the efforts of Marcus Bettinelli and Tomas Kalas this weekend. Betts’ double save in the second half was just as valuable as a goal, and Kalas looked back to his best, being calm on the ball and dominant when called upon. Their efforts were rewarded with a much deserved clean sheet, and it’s great to see Bettinelli improve on his distribution too this weekend, as that’s been an aspect of his game that many fans have criticised.

As for the second half of the season, the sky is limit if I’m being honest. We’ve really turned the screw in recent months, and have climbed up the Championship week after week. Currently in 5th, with Tom Cairney still to come back to the side again once he’s fully-fit which means we’ll only get stronger as the season progresses. Not only that, but we’re currently unbeaten in our last 8 league games, and if we keep up that form there’s no reason why we can’t make a push for the automatic places this season.

February will be an incredibly tough month for the club though, and it will determine how good this squad really is. With games against Bolton, Aston Villa, Bristol City & Wolves to come, Fulham will be taking points from the sides around them if they are successful in February. If Fulham can take 9-12 points from the next four games, then Slavisa’s men would have closed the gap on the automatic spots, putting themselves amongst the promotion places at the business end of the season.

After such a successful January, on and off the pitch, I can’t be more excited as a Fulham fan as I really feel we’ll get even better with each passing game; and with Mitrovic leading the line and Cairney still waiting in the wings, Fulham will have a great opportunity to prove just how good they really are.

P.S – For those of you who are travelling to the Bolton game you may see a Q&A with me in the match-day programme!

Thank you ever so much for reading and for your continued support. If you have any thoughts or feedback, please don’t hesitate to message me on Twitter – @ABronsSmith


The Transfer Window has opened, but what’s in store for Fulham this month?

With 2017 firmly behind us, the New Year brings a fresh start for everyone, but could there be some fresh faces arriving at Craven Cottage this month?

Well, I think it’s safe to say that the rumour mill will be in full flow this month, with many of the stories set to focus on the likes of teenage superstar, Ryan Sessegnon. Although the fans are in for a month Sessegnon being linked with every top European club, I’m fairly confident that the talented youngster will stay with the club this season. He’s well looked after, and is a regular starter at our club and that could be something he may not achieve elsewhere.  Even though, we’ll have to endure a month of rumours linking him with the likes of Real Madrid, PSG & Manchester United; unless a silly offer of around £40m or higher is received, I really can’t see the club selling their prize asset this month. Personally, I have a lot of faith in Sessegnon, and I think he knows that he is at the best club for his development right now, and with him becoming one of the first names on the team-sheet at this age, I really can’t see him jumping ship in a similar style to Patrick Roberts anytime soon.

There will definitely be a lot of movement around the club this month, and if I’m honest, I think a lot of the moves will be players being off-loaded rather than flooding through the gates to the club.

One of the first names that could be leaving Fulham this month is Austrian defender, Michael Madl. Many news outlets are now linking the defender with a move back to FK Austria Wien. With the Austrian struggling to find regular game-time under Slavisa Jokanovic, the move makes a lot of sense, although I will be sad to see him leave. Madl arrived during Kit’s reign and made an immediate impact, and even last season formed a strong partnership with Tomas Kalas. Despite some strong performances, the resurgence of Tim Ream pushed Michael Madl down the pecking order, and with Jokanovic preferring to use Dennis Odoi at centre-back, Madl’s time is coming to an end.

Another player that has been linked with a move away is defender, Ryan Fredericks with Premier League sides, Swansea & Stoke City interested in the former Spurs man. This is an interesting story, as the club have denied receiving any contact from the aforementioned clubs, but it’s a story that has definitely gathered some pace in the last 48 hours. Maybe, it’s a story driven by his agent, considering the player only has six-months left on his contract, and talks over a new deal stalled in the summer. I’d hope the club keeps Fredericks, as I believe he makes such a big impact on the side, especially with his pace and contributions in the attacking third of the pitch. But, if there was concrete interest, I wouldn’t be too surprised if the club decided to cash in around the £4m mark. While, it would be hard to replace the attributes that Fredericks has, that sort of money for a player with just six months left on his contract, could make financial sense. I hope the story ends with Fredericks receiving a new contract, as I’ve been really impressed with how he’s developed in the last two seasons, and I think he’ll only get better with time too.

Finally, for the departures, I wouldn’t be too surprised if some of the summer signings that have failed to make an impression are moved on. Yohan Mollo and Jordan Graham are the first two names that spring to mind. Both wingers have failed to feature heavily in the starting eleven, and with their game-time limited to reserve team football, I’d expect the loan for Graham to be cut short, to free up some space for new faces, while Mollo will either be sold for a nominal fee, or his contract mutually cancelled. If you had told me if this would have been the case at the start of the season, I would have been shocked. With Mollo’s early cameos and career, I really thought he would take this league by storm and have a strong impact on our season. While, after hearing the glowing references from Wolves fans about Jordan Graham, I honestly thought he’d be a player that would be part of that front three rotation, but for one reason or another, they have both struggled to be a part of Slavisa Jokanovic’s plans.

As for the rumoured arrivals, Bournemouth forward, Lewis Grabban continues to be mentioned. After scoring twelve goals for Sunderland this season, Grabban decided he no longer wanted to play at the Stadium of Light, and his loan spell was terminated. Now he is back at his parent club, Bournemouth, Eddie Howe has confirmed that the striker is looking for a permanent move this month; with Fulham, Aston Villa, Cardiff City & Wolves all reported to be interested in the forward. For me, I don’t think Lewis Grabban is the much-needed forward for our team, and that may come as a surprise to some fans. Despite, his goal-scoring record this season, he’s been very inconsistent for the past few seasons, and hasn’t consistently delivered for a season since his first season at Norwich City, during the 2014/2015 season. Furthermore, with the player reported to earning around £30,000 a week, plus Bournemouth wanting a fee around the £3-5m mark, I think our money is better invested elsewhere.

Not only that, but Grabban isn’t a target-man and I feel that’s the role we are most lacking up front in our current squad, with Fonte failing to deliver after his £9m move in the summer. With Kamara now finding his feet in this division, I think a move for Grabban would hinder AK47’s development, and with the Bournemouth striker now 29 years old, there’s better options to pursue. If there is money available to sign a forward, I’d still like the club to take a second look at Wout Weghorst at AZ Alkmaar. Weghorst was the player, I wanted to sign instead of Rui Fonte for a number of reasons, and with value around the £3-5m mark, any potential Grabban money could be spent more wisely by going Dutch. The Dutchman was enquired about back in the summer, and after another impressive season in the top division in Holland, the 25-year old, 6’6 striker looks a real talent, and someone that I would adore at the club. A player of his stature would provide the focal point we’ve lacked this season in the final third, and would provide the squad with a real target man, something we utilised so well with Chris Martin, before the contract & McClaren affair.

Finally, with the upturn in form from AK47, I have a feeling that the board may not invest in a striker at all. Considering the £14m that was spent this summer on Rui Fonte & Aboubakar Kamara, with one of them now firing, the board may think the money could be invested in another position, and if so, I hope the money is invested in the defence, which has been our weakness all season.  With Denis Odoi and Marcelo Djalo our only options as back-up for Tomas Kalas & Tim Ream, should either defender be suspended or injured in the second half of the season, our defence could be even weaker, and that’s something we really can’t risk, should the aim of this season still be to achieve a top six finish.

Outside of the world of transfers, I think we’ve been very lucky to have finished 2017 within touching distance of the play-offs. At times, we’ve looked very lacklustre and often lacked any real cutting edge, but somehow we’re only four points behind sixth, and should the team have a good run of form early in the year, a top six finish is definitely achievable. As for the managerial situation, I’ve said a few months back that Jokanovic’s honeymoon period as coach is well and truly over, and last season’s achievements no longer mean anything. Now, the Serbian has to prove that he is the right man for the job, and the constant outbursts in press-conferences about the transfer situation and whatever else needs to stop. It isn’t professional, and it doesn’t bode well for any fans listening in and I’m sure it doesn’t help the team’s morale and confidence, while he throws his toys out of the pram in front of the cameras. These are conversations and aspects of his role that he needs to keep behind closed doors, and I’m confident these were things he was more than aware of when he signed his new contract last February.

After all, I think January will be a defining month for Fulham this season, and with the club now out of the FA Cup, the managerial and playing staff can now focus on the league and breaking into that top six. While, I’d love to see our club do all of its business early in the window, Fulham are notorious for leaving it late. So let’s just hope there isn’t any last minute distractions this window to de-rail any chance that we may still have of achieving promotion this season.

Thank you ever so much for reading. I hope you’ve all enjoyed the festive period, and I hope 2018 is a massive success for you!

Please feel free to contact me on Twitter – @ABronsSmith with any feedback, thoughts or feelings about the Craven Corner or football in general!

The pressure is mounting on Slavisa, and all Fulham fans want for Christmas is three points (or a plan B)

On paper, November seemed to treat Fulham well. With the club picking up 7 points from the four fixtures, but things don’t appear to be so rosy as some would believe.

It’s safe to say, Fulham had a slow start to the month after being outplayed throughout the game against Wolves, and then a poor second half against Derby County, cost Fulham a much-needed three points.  Although, wins followed against Sheffield United and Milwall, performances often fell below expectations of the fans, and team selections have asked more questions than they have answered.

For example, in the Derby game Fulham looked the better side for the first 45 minutes, and despite Cairney only being around 70% fit, he looked to be back to his best, and it was clear to see how much impact he has on this Fulham side. But, after the break Derby came out as a team with a purpose, constantly pressing and posing the bigger threat in front of goal.

That pressing game was always going to reap reward for Rowett’s men, as Fulham were caught playing the ball out from the back, and before you knew it, Lawrence had put Vydra through one-on-one and Derby had equalised. Some may argue that a point against Derby County is a good result, considering the quality that they possess in their squad, but it’s disappointing as it seems to be the same mistakes costing us goals, time and time again.

I understand that Slavisa Jokanovic wants his side to play the ball out of the back, and stick to the methods he has ingrained in his players, but there is a time and a place for those methods, and his plans need to be much more flexible depending on the game outcome.

Yes, Fulham have probably played their most attractive football under the Serbian, but there simply isn’t a plan B, and that’s something that I’ve discussed all season. Last season it worked well, because teams simply didn’t expect that from us, and we pressed much higher up the pitch and therefore, the possession style of play that we grew accustom to worked well. But, it’s a different situation this year, our opponents know exactly what we want to do, pushing us further back towards our own goal, and this is when mistakes happen. Often, we see Button playing it short across his own goal, or to a defender under pressure 15-20 yards away from his goal. This seems to end in some panic while we have possession, allowing the opposition to push more players up the field and apply pressure, forcing a misplaced pass, and leaving Button exposed. You only have to take a look back at a number of goals this season to see that our persistence to play out from the back has cost us a number of goals, let alone the amount of points we have lost from winning positions.

This goes back to not having a plan B, and I think Slavisa and his staff are in a lucky position at the moment, considering there are very few managers available to put his role at risk.

Despite, last year’s season being our best in a while, Slavisa’s persistence and ignorance of a backup plan has cost Fulham far too many points at this stage of the season. Sometimes teams have to play longer and that’s not a bad thing, after all, points aren’t awarded for style – Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City are a great example for that, but they are in the play-off spots and Fulham are not.

Even the best footballing sides have a tendency to go long when needed, just to reset the state of play, forcing the opponent to track backwards, allowing your team-mates to push further up the pitch into a safer position, preventing the defenders from having to play risky passes across the face of their own goal. Relieving the pressure by playing longer, can help players regain their position and it also creates opportunities for winning the second ball further up the pitch, switching the pressure onto the opponent. But, this is something Fulham simply haven’t done all season, and while playing a target man would benefit this, Fulham could choose to start a diminutive forward like Floyd Ayite or Neeskens Kebano, but press higher up the pitch, forcing the errors on their opponents, something Fulham done more of last season.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s easier to say than do, but it’s not like the players would have to learn a new system or position – it’s just simply doing the basics right and clearing their lines if under pressure, rather than trying to play their way out of trouble.

The importance of changing the system and philosophy of the side is growing every week. Especially when you realise that Fulham hadn’t kept a clean sheet in thirteen games prior to their 1-0 victory over Millwall; and for a side that is targeting promotion this season, that’s simply unacceptable.

Time is no longer on our side, and we’re no longer discussing the first five games of the season. We’re approaching Christmas and Fulham sit 15th, 9 points behind the play-off positions, with just five games left of the calendar year.

There has been a positive this month and that comes in the shape of Ryan Sessegnon. The youngster capped a tremendous performance at Bramall Lane by scoring a hat-trick. A performance that settles the argument that he should play further forward on a more regular basis. For his age, Sessegnon is probably the best youngster we’ve had at the club in a number of years, and despite being asked to play at left-back, he is much more naturally suited to playing on the left-side of a front three. Considering we still have Denis Odoi and have signed Rafa Soares on loan this season – a player with a £15m buy-out option in his deal – it baffles me that Sessegnon is still asked to play in a back four and this is something that has to change. Despite, Ryan only being seventeen and still considered a raw product by some fans, he’s been our brightest spark going forward and with our other forwards failing to hit the target, there’s no reason why Sessegnon shouldn’t be the first name on the team-sheet in attack.

Thankfully, Sessegnon signed a new contract this summer, but don’t be surprised if a number of Premier League clubs look to buy him in January. While, I think the chances of Sessegnon leaving Fulham this season are small, there will be interest and media stories of a big money transfer for him. But, his future at Fulham depends on the club turning the results around, because if Fulham can develop their position alongside Sessegnon, he would have no reason to leave as we could potentially offer Premier League football and game-time, something that is a high priority at this stage of his career.

Personally, I think the club would only sell if an offer of £30m or more was officially submitted, but I don’t think he would leave if Fulham were in a stronger position come the new year. If Fulham could close the gap on the play-offs, get Tom Cairney back to full fitness and become more ruthless at defending leads, it would fill the youngster with confidence that this is a club moving in the right direction. If the remaining 2017 fixtures end in disappointment then he may believe the grass is greener on the other side, and weigh up his options. For now, I’m trying to remain positive and I’m still hoping that Fulham have a strong end to the year to keep our hopes of promotion alive.

To conclude, I think Slavisa’s position will start to come under threat as we approach 2018 if the results don’t pick up, because I think his honeymoon period from last year has come to an end.

Furthermore, I think December will be the month where we see if Slavisa is the right man for the long-term future at the club, as we can’t carry on the inconsistencies this season has shown. But, that isn’t going to be easy and he has to find the right solution sooner rather than later, because out of the five games that remain, we still have to play the likes of Sunderland, Cardiff and Hull City, all of which that can beat anyone in this division on their day.

It’s been a rollercoaster of a season so far, and although it’s been disappointing for the fans so far, I’m remaining positive and hoping that we can still make a push for the play-offs this season.

Thank you ever so much for your ongoing support and taking the time to read the article.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me on Twitter – @ABronsSmith it’d be great to hear from you!

Time for Fulham to stand up and be counted.

In last month’s article, I stated that Fulham should take a minimum of nine points from our October fixtures, but we only got two.

A lot has happened since the last Craven Corner post, and it feels weird to be deflated as a Fulham fan, especially after a decent return of points in September.

On paper, October should have allowed the team to continue its momentum, and pick up at least six to nine points and continue their efforts for a promotion place.  With games against Villa, Preston, Bolton and Bristol it’s gutting to look back at the games this month and realise that we only collected two points, and we left it late to secure those too!

So what’s happened? Where’s it all gone wrong?

Well, it’s safe to say that Fulham have struggled with fitness this year, with the absence of Tom Cairney and even though he was reintroduced in recent games, it’s clear to see he’s not up to speed just yet.

But, we can’t pin all our misfortune on the absence of our captain, because we’ve got a very capable squad, and one player doesn’t make a team.

Last year’s success was built on the midfield trio of Tom Cairney, Kevin McDonald and Stefan Johansen, with the full-backs Ryan Sessegnon and Ryan Fredericks overlapping on the counter. This year, we simply haven’t seen that in action.

Despite, Johansen’s goals winning us points this year, he still hasn’t hit the heights of last season and at times has looked passive in the centre of the park. While it may be harsh to say, his goals have probably kept him in the side, when some may have questioned his involvement. McDonald, has been instrumental though, and realistically it could be a good idea to let him captain the side, taking off any pressure from Cairney as he returns from fitness. Although McDonald has been his usual self, unfortunately he hasn’t had the same contribution from team-mates, and time after time the back four have been torn apart by poor positioning or a simple through ball, which could easily be prevented.

Not only that, but we’ve been a blunt sword in attack this year too. Despite spending the best part of £14m on two strikers this summer, Rui Fonte and Aboubakar Kamara haven’t lived up to their price-tags. While, you can argue that Fonte has been played out of position on a number of occasions, it’s clear that a lot of people were short-sighted by his goal-return last year, rather than look at his career-wide contribution, which is far from what you’d expect from a striker for 9m. Kamara on the other hand, is still incredibly raw and I think he probably has more potential out of the two. Not only is he younger, but he hasn’t played at this level yet, and over time with some coaching I think the club can mould him into a decent forward. But, in the mean-time we simply do not have the forward needed to lead the line and be successful. Even though Chris Martin was a tool off the pitch, he was the perfect forward for us in terms of what he offered to the side.

While Kamara thrives from getting in behind the defenders, we need a focal point in attack where the ball can stick, and sadly Fonte has struggled to offer that, and it’s no surprise that we gone sideways when in the final third, or even backwards due to the lack of options. Despite having the attacking threats we have in Yohan Mollo, Neeskens Kebano, Sheyi Ojo, Floyd Ayite etc, their pace is nullified if we play against a team that sits deep, and it’s games like that where we need a target man, to play to and hold the ball up.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we need to play hoof-ball tactics and bring in the likes of Sam Allardyce, but I think Jokanovic needs to invest a lot of time into a plan-B for Fulham, because we simply don’t have it at the moment. Sadly, style doesn’t win any points at the end of the day and for a long time I’ve been writing about the need to win ‘ugly’ in this division if you want to get promoted.

While, it’s great to see a side play the ‘pretty’ or ‘tiki-taka’ style, teams in this division know exactly what Fulham are going to attempt to do, and in all honesty a well-disciplined team will easily nullify anything Fulham try to do.

This is why we’ve dropped points against the likes of Bristol City, Bolton Wanderers & Burton this year. There’s many ways a side can win ‘ugly’ and it doesn’t mean a complete re-shuffle of players, but more a change in attitude from the manager and the players on the pitch.

This means applying more pressure, and not being afraid to play more direct, should that mean earlier crosses, playing straight into the striker and shooting on sight, rather than taking the time to take ten or so passes around the 18-yard box, waiting for a small gap to open to thread an eye of the needle pass to create a chance.

Our forwards need to start creating a presence about them too. Look at the likes of Troy Deeney – not the most talented of forwards, and you wouldn’t see him doing tricks and flicks, but he’s one of the most feared forwards in the Premier League, simply because he causes troubles with his positioning and strength for centre-backs. He’s an outlet and always an option in attack to hit long or short, and with the right players close to him for knock-downs, Watford have been successful this year, and they play ‘attractive’ football while doing it. Something that Fulham need to start doing, and while Fonte and Kamara may not have shown that side of their game yet, it’s down to Jokanovic and his coaching team to be flexible with the resources he has and create a plan-b or a killer instinct in this side.

There’s no questioning the player’s talent in this side, but at the moment our side resembles a Lamborghini with flat tires – it looks good, but not getting anyway fast at all.

Address the lack of a plan-B and this season can still be a success.

Considering we’re only four points off the play-offs currently (this really is a bizarre season) there’s still plenty to play for, and if we can have a strong run until Christmas, then there’s no reason why we can’t still finish in the top six this season.

Finally, there has been some changes off the field too, with the news breaking that Craig Kline has left the club. Craig Kline became a name involved in most people’s rants over the last few summers and is now no longer involved with the football club.

This is interesting, as I know a lot of the fans were saying it provides Slavisa Jokanovic with the full control ‘he needs’ in January, but it is understood that James Lovell will step up to work in a similar role to Kline for the time being. Lovell has been at the club for a number of years, and has been heavily involved with the match and player analysis, as well as the club’s scouting process. Lovell was also part of the analyst team at Wolves during their promotion campaign in 2008/2009, so will be a lot more familiar with the nature of this division. Fingers crossed, he can work more successfully with Slavisa Jokanovic and his team in a working environment, as I know I’m not the only one that got a bit tired of Jokanovic’s little digs at Kline during the summer interviews, mainly as it gave the media a story to string about complete unrest every 2-3 weeks.

But, as I mentioned before, we can still turn this season around but it’s time for Slavisa Jokanovic and his team to step up and really prove their worth. They are unable to live off the successes of last season, and with fan and club expectations increased this year, time is running out on discovering a plan B.

I’m still going to remain optimistic about our season as it still is very early in our season, but these are the moments where both our players and managerial team earn their money and prove the talent and quality that they possess.

Thank you ever so much for reading, and continuing to support The Craven Corner.

You can always contact me on Twitter – @ABronsSmith.

Keep smiling!   


Despite the slow start, Fulham fans have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about this season.

At the start of the month, the fans would have feared the September fixtures, but after 11 points from the 6 fixtures, Fulham are starting to move on up.

It’s been a slow start to the season for Jokanovic’s Fulham this year, and that’s mainly due to the absence of key players, with Tom Cairney still missing. Despite the slow start, a strong September has pushed Fulham back up to tenth, just three points away from the play-offs.

Personally, I think we’re in a surprisingly good position at this stage of the season, as a lot of the teams above us which occupy the promotion spots, won’t be there in May. Even though Cardiff and Sheffield United have been impressive in the opening eleven games, I don’t believe that they have the strength in depth as some other teams do in this division, and if you compare our position to the other ‘favourites’ for promotion this season, we look much healthier. (Notice how far Reading have fallen after a big summer, and rumours that Jaap Stam may be fired – It’s okay, you can admit it…. it feels good to see them in 20th).

Even though it’s not been the best start for Fulham, it’s good to see the side grinding out results even when we are not in top form, and that was obvious against QPR on Friday.

While, derby games are always unpredictable, I was surprised to see our side sit so deep against QPR. It allowed QPR to really put pressure on our back line when they were in possession and there was far too many passes that were knocked across our own area from a goal kick. Luckily, the defenders didn’t give the ball away, but one mistake and Button would have had to deal with a one on one opportunity.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that by sitting deep, it brings the QPR back-line further up the field and then the likes of Ojo and Mollo can use the space behind on the counter. But, I would have liked to have seen a more direct approach at times from Fulham, or even push further up the pitch to relieve some pressure that was on us throughout the game.

Friday’s game was a strange one though, as I didn’t expect Sheyi Ojo to retain his place in the side, especially after Kebano scored against Forest, but Jokanovic kept his faith in the Liverpool loanee.

After watching Ojo’s performances this season, I don’t think he’s warranted a starting spot over the options that we have out-wide, and I still think he’s a bit too raw for this level and will need a lot of coaching to improve. There’s no denying that he’s a talented footballer and his physical attributes are an asset to any side, but there’s too many times this season he hasn’t got his head up and picked out the pass in the final third, and when you spend £9m on a striker like Fonte, you have to make sure he’s getting service from the wingers selected.

Unfortunately, Ojo was stretched off the field on Friday with a dislocated shoulder, which was sad to see. He chose to join Fulham over many other clubs, so to see him side-lined for three months when he was just getting started is a shame. On the other hand, I think he will then need more time after his injury to earn his spot back in the side, and having to work hard to force his way back into the side in the new year, will be a good experience for him. Especially, when he is up against the likes of Neeskens Kebano, Yohan Mollo, Ryan Sessegnon, Jordan Graham, Floyd Ayite & Lucas Piazon – all of which possess a lot of quality. But, for now – I hope Sheyi makes a swift and full recovery!

As for the other winger Yohan Mollo, it was a pleasure to see him starting for the club, after a series of impressive cameo’s from the bench. Even though he didn’t see enough of the ball during his time on the pitch, it’s clear that he is here to prove a point after a bit of journeyman-like few years at different clubs. The former Nancy star, looks a handful and you can clearly see that he has played a lot higher level than the Championship as his decision making and creativity is very impressive. Despite, the early high praise for Mollo, I still think there’s more to come from him.

As he continues to settle and gets a solid run in the starting eleven, I think he’ll become a key asset for us this season and his performances will only get better.

There was also another new-boy this month who stood out from the crowd, and that was forward, Aboubakar Kamara. The French forward, managed to score in back to back games against Nottingham Forest and Middlesbrough, and his performances started to show glimpses of what he is truly capable of. In August, the former Amiens man looked very rash with his decision making and control of the ball; but after notching his first goal for the club, he is starting to show signs of improvement. It was gutting to see him pick up a light injury against Nottingham Forest, but once he recovers, he will provide the much needed competition for Rui Fonte, who still needs to settle himself.

As for October, Fulham have four winnable fixtures, with the hardest challenge coming away to Aston Villa on the 21st. While, an away day at Villa Park has many good memories, any side Steve Bruce manages is incredibly tough to break down, and with their recruitment over the summer, Villa possess one of the strongest squads in the league.

But, with games against Preston North End, Bolton Wanderers & Bristol City all in October, I don’t see why Jokanovic’s men can’t take a minimum of nine points from their next four league fixtures.

That may sound too ambitious or optimistic, and no disrespect to the sides we’ll face this month, but if we are serious about promotion this campaign, then we need to take maximum points from those games. Especially when November starts with back to back games against Wolves and Derby, two incredibly hard games against sides that will be in the top six come next summer.

But, on the other hand, I can’t see any reason why Fulham fans shouldn’t be optimistic about this season, especially when we should see the return of Tom Cairney back by the end of October, and with TC in our side, Fulham shouldn’t fear anyone in this division.

Although Oli Norwood has done a great job in deputising for Captain Cairney, there ain’t nobody, like Tom Cairney.

Thank you ever so much for reading, and if you have any feedback, please don’t hesitate to contact me on Twitter – @ABronsSmith


After a successful summer transfer window, the future is bright for Fulham.

As the summer draws to a close, Fulham can finally focus on matters on the pitch, rather than the rumour mill that forever spins during the summer months.

Upon reflection, it’s been a successful summer for the club and despite the Twitter rumours climaxing this year, I think the business by the board has been top class.

Following the successes of last season, it was paramount to keep the foundation in place, and to build upon it this year. Therefore, signing Ryan Sessegnon, Tom Cairney and Marcus Bettinelli to new deals and bringing Tomas Kalas and Lucas Piazon back to the club, the spine of the side remained intact. Pricing the likes of Brighton and Nottingham Forest out of the market for Kevin McDonald also lowered any threat of losing the key trio in the centre of the park – the engine to our success last season.

By doing this, the club have managed to keep the star players together ahead of the upcoming campaign, despite losing Scott Malone & Sone Aluko in this window. Even though, Malone and Aluko departed this summer, the club have achieved a tremendous amount of money for the players – especially the £7.5m for Aluko.  Although I was a big fan of Sone, £7.5m is crazy money for his services, and while he may be a gent off the pitch, and a fairly decent Championship player, he wasn’t clinical enough in the final third for that sort of money. Not to mention, that both players were signed on a free transfer last year, so over £10m in sales from them two alone, nearly funded our entire summer spend. Not bad at all!

In fact, if you take the fees for Lasse, Burgess, Jozabed, Adeniran and Stearman too, Fulham probably broke even or marginally made a profit on this summer’s dealings, which is outstanding considering our squad looks stronger in depth this year. Being able to demand the fees that we did for the departures, has been a relief as a Fulham fan, as time after time again I’ve felt we’ve rarely let a player go for an acceptable fee in the past, so seeing the board standing firm other valuations is a relief, and steers us away from another FFP embargo.

Even though, our best signings this summer were contracts for TC and Sess, it must also be noted that the board cancelled a deal to allow Denis Odoi leave the club in the early days of the window, and that’s proved to be a master-stroke. Despite, a return to Belgium on the cards for Odoi, Fulham quickly pulled out of a deal with Genk, and Odoi has since gone from strength to strength, and now providing Jokanovic with another option in the heart of defence. While, some fans may have wanted another centre back to sign this summer, the emergence of Odoi as cover for right-back and centre back, fills any void we may be missing, and with Ream and Kalas forming a strong partnership, I’m not as worried as some others about our options. Lastly, Marcelo Djalo was arguably Man of the Match for his appearance in the cup game against Wycombe, so once he settles I’m sure he will be able to step up when called upon.

There were calls for the board to make a ‘marquee signing’ in the last few days of the window, but I don’t necessarily think we needed much more in the final few days of the window. While there was talk of £15m move for Dwight Gayle, I couldn’t have faith in that rumour especially as he is approaching 28 years of age. Although, Sky Sports ran the story, many other outlets reported that the club had denied any bid or interest – and with Matt Smith denying the rumours on the radio about a TC and Gayle swap deal, I doubt there was much to it anyway.
Although Gayle would have provided us with another option upfront, I don’t think we needed him in all honesty. Fifteen million would have been a risk as he would have to have another twenty goal season for the club to get any profit the following summer should he be sold if we got promoted and I can’t see anyone offering close to £20m for him, now or in 18 months time. Plus, we had already spent £15m on two strikers this summer in Rui Fonte, and Aboubakar Kamara. While, Fonte and Kamara provide two different options up front, signing Yohan Mollo and Jordan Graham gives us further options out wide, allowing Ayite and Kebano to play more centrally when required without weakening our wide options, so maybe a striker wasn’t needed after all.

There were Twitter rumours of a move for Fernando Forestieri and Jota, but both of those were quickly crushed and proved to be non-starters – and would we have really needed them for rumoured fees? It would have been close to 20m to sign both, and considering our squad depth this season, I think it’s best to save any left-over funds for January to reinvest should we need to spend mid-season to cover any injuries we may pick up.

As for Deadline Day signings, Graham and Mollo, I’m quietly excited about their arrivals if I’m honest. Graham is incredibly highly rated by Wolves fans, and stats-wise, is an impressive performer at Championship level. While, Mollo is a bizarre character to say the least. Arguably tipped for big things during his time at Nancy and early days at Saint-Etienne, but has struggled to settle at any club since. Only 28, and on a deal which could see him here for the next two years, his versatility to play on either side of midfield, will provide Jokanovic with more options for the upcoming season. A player with a lot to prove and a chance to rejuvenate his career, and I hope he makes the most of his time at the club.

Finally, Fulham picked up a massive three points against Ipswich who had started the season strongly last weekend, and with Tom Cairney returning back to full fitness, I don’t see why Fulham can’t push for maximum points from their next five games. Yes, that’s optimistic and very ambitious considering our slow start, but when we’re at full strength, we are arguably the best team in this division; we proved that last season by beating Huddersfield 9-1 over the course of two games, and beating Newcastle home and away.
Also, in the next 5-6 weeks, we should see Rafa Soares make his debut for the club, which will allow Ryan Sessegnon to play further forward, like he did last season with Malone. This will prove to be vital for Jokanovic and the club this season, as it will provide Sessegnon with the platform to play in his preferred position, and should he notch up a few goals this term, don’t be surprised if a few Premier League clubs look to spend £40m or more on his talent in January or next summer. By signing Rafa Soares to play left-back, and potentially allowing Sess more time further forward to shine, Sess’ development could bankroll our transfer window next summer, and that’s incredibly important – regardless of where we finish next season.

To conclude, I’m really pleased with the business this summer and it’s another successful summer under this stat-dependent system, and while it’s had its critics, the standard of player that has been signed under its implementation has been much higher than any one signed by Felix Magath or Kit Symons since we’ve been in this division – so onwards and upwards!

Let’s get behind the club, and give it everything this season – COME ON YOU WHITES! 😀

Thank you ever so much for reading. Please share this article with your friends and family, and feel free to contact me on Twitter – @ABronsSmith.



A busy end to the transfer window awaits Fulham, after an interesting start to the season.

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