Fulham ended their campaign with a 1-0 victory over relegated Bolton Wanderers and whilst the campaign ended on a win, there was very little to cheer for the Fulham fans this season.
Last summer, Fulham in theory recruited very well signing numerous Player of the Year winners in; Jamie O’Hara, Richard Stearman, Tim Ream and Tom Cairney. But a season later, only Cairney can really hold his head high after the performances this season. O’Hara started brightly and he looked like the player he once was, but sadly the system was found out and teams began to press him, stopping him from that passing game he thrives upon, which would in turn put our back four under immense pressure as we lost possession.
Stearman was arguably the second option after chasing Lewis Dunk all summer, and the former Wolves man hasn’t looked comfortable all season, being caught out time and time again. Tim Ream has a had a difficult season with his better performances coming from a left back position.
Jazz Richards has failed to set the Cottage alight and Matilla has been starved of game time and will probably be moved on in the summer.
Ryan Frederick’s joined last summer and while his defensive game needs improvement there is potential to become a decent full-back at this level with the defender possessing natural pace, something that is now a requirement for a modern full-back.
Loanee Joe Lewis failed to demand the number one shirt despite a few decent performances in Lonergan’s absence and with Bettinelli fit again, Lewis will sadly be looking for another club in the summer. Lonergan’s arrival was doubted by many and he must be given some credit with some truly top saves when called upon.
But just like the last two summers there will be a complete squad overhaul this summer, with realistically as many as 20 players leaving the club.
Sadly, Dan Burn has stated he will be leaving the club this summer after failing to agree a new deal with the club and in all honesty, I think that’s a big shame. The youngster was arguably the highlight in our relegation season, flourishing under Rene Meulensteen earning us a tough point away to Manchester United, but he has never been fortunate enough to have a good run in the starting eleven. A player that is incredibly passionate on the pitch and very genuine man off it. Dan will be missed and in my opinion has been one of our best defenders this term, and nearly scored a world class goal against Bolton after running with the ball and hitting the post from twenty yards out. All the best with the future Dan, and thank you for your efforts.
His partner against Bolton, Shaun Hutchinson could have his contract extended with the club possibly activating his one year extension clause.
Alexander Kacaniklic is expected to leave the club too after finding time limited since his return from the loan spell at Copenhagen. When he returned last season, he looked a bright spark with Kit playing him in a variety of roles including behind the forwards, but with Jokanovic’s arrival the Swedish international has rarely featured and while he had had his moments, the winger has failed to perform on a consistent basis.
In case you missed it, loanee Zakaria Labyad has also departed the club after failing to settle in London since joining from Sporting Lisbon in January.
With the club giving the backing of Jokanovic this summer to revamp the team, the summer recruitment must be perfect this year to ensure we can challenge for a promotion spot next season.
The club has to build around stars like Tom Cairney and Ross McCormack, to take the pressure of their shoulders in the final third of the pitch but this will be hard.
There has been some rumours of a return to the club for Chris David, a mercurial talent who could flourish under the philosophies of Jokanovic and has spoken highly of the club since his departure to Dutch football. I’d be very impressed if we do sign David again, as he is very technically gifted and has a similar play style to Cairney. Having David and Cairney playing in the same side could provide the creative freedom, strikers like McCormack thrive upon.
The key point to this seasons downfall was the sacking of Kit Symons. The club failed to have a replacement already lined up and those 9 managerless games killed of any play off hopes and really demoralised the squad. The only benefit of this season is that Jokanovic will have had enough time to settle and assess the quality of the squad and see who is vital to his plans.
Scott Parker is out of contract this summer, and while he is a high earner at the club, no one can fault his passion and leadership on the pitch and a new deal for the Captain should be on the cards. Even if Scott decides to take up a coaching role at the club at the same time, a former England captain is the presence we need in the dressing room.
We’ve been far too ‘nice’ at times this season when we should have been ruthless and took the game to the opponent more. Leadership is a key element to success, you only have to look at the amount of former captains Roy Hodgson had in his Europa team, many of the players had captained sides at international or former clubs and that experience ensured the squad remained organised to see out results.
Let’s forget about the season that has just gone as we start fresh with Jokanovic being able to mould the squad he desires. Business should start early for Fulham with many players out of contract this summer. Recruiting early will be better for maximising the preseason time, so next season can hit the ground running from game 1.
Thank you for reading, please feel free to contact me on Twitter @ABronsSmith