Finally the transfer window has slammed shut and Fulham can finally focus more on the upcoming games before the end of the year.
As expected, Fulham were in the market for a striker on deadline day and they managed to secure their top target, Chris Martin to a season-long loan deal. Interestingly, the fees around Martin’s deal seem to bounce from source to source, with some reporting it to be as much as a £2.5m loan fee with the buyout clause at £9m in January. A very hefty fee indeed, especially when Bony’s loan fee to Stoke was only £2m. I’m sure we’ll never get the true amount reported by the club, so it’ll be worth keeping an eye out on the reports in January. My guess is that it is nearer £7m.
Personally, I think that Chris Martin is the final piece in the jigsaw, with the Scottish striker boasting an impressive record in the Championship. Not only is he a proven goal scorer, just Ross McCormack created more chances in the last 4 Championship seasons. The third highest chance creator over that time period? Tom Cairney – So there will definitely be plenty of chances for our attackers to take this season.
Martin was pivotal for Derby in previous seasons when they opted to play a similar 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 system, so Jokanovic’s ideas and philosophies shouldn’t be too difficult for the forward to slot into. I wouldn’t be too surprised if he scores on his first start.
There was also a deadline day move for Lucas Piazon from Chelsea. The Brazilian arrived on an initial 6 month loan deal and although he didn’t set the world alight at Reading last season, their fans claim he is a gifted player. Despite being labelled with the ‘lightweight’ tag, I have a feeling that Piazon will deliver at Fulham. With his flexibility, he will provide cover and rotation options for the attacking midfielders, and will be able to operate as a number 10 or out wide – something that will be needed with the vast amount of fixtures we have this season. With Fulham expected to lose Floyd Ayite & Neeskens Kebano to the African Cup of Nations in January, I wouldn’t be surprised to see his loan deal extended at least to cover their absence next year.
Overall, I am really impressed with Fulham’s business this summer despite all the media hype around the use of ‘stats’. In all honesty, it’s the first window I’ve been proud of for a few years and I feel that the level of quality we have recruited is miles ahead of the rebuilds under Felix Magath and Kit Symons.
Despite the impressive partnership of Tomas Kalas and Michael Madl, Slavisa Jokanovic added Ragnar Sigurdsson to the squad. The former Krasnodar defender will be familiar with English football fans, after the Icelandic defender starred as Hodgson’s men crashed out of EURO 2016 this summer. Sigurdsson’s passion and physical presence will provide Slavisa with another option at the heart of the defence, and with Kalas’ ability to operate at right-back, there’s no reason why Madl, Sigurdsson and Kalas could all feature against Birmingham. The beauty of this summers transfer window is that there is big competition in every position, and Fulham will have the flexibility to change the system and try new things should they need to.
Looking ahead to our weekend clash with Birmingham City, I feel that this will be a tough test for Jokanovic’s men. Rowett’s Birmingham side will be resolute and be happy to soak up the pressure and have limited possession. Even though they have spent very little over the last 5 years, there’s no way we can overlook the quality their squad possess at this level. Rowett has managed to turn Birmingham’s fortunes around since he got the job, and they will be looking to build on a 10th place finish from last season.
Their last victory against Norwich (3-0) just goes to show that anything is possible in this division, and Birmingham will be a force to be reckoned with.
Before I end, here’s an insight from dedicated Birmingham City fan, Elliott Griffiths (@ElliottBCFC):
The summer was frustrating for some, but we got what we wanted in the end and it’s hard to be upset. We needed a left back, we got one, we needed some forward options and we got Che Adams and Greg Stewart – who are both exciting talents! We’ve started a little slow but have only lost once and after a 3-0 win against Norwich things are looking up.
Dangermen to look out for – it’s hard to look past Che Adams. Young English talent, very quick and direct player. Only played twice for us but has a goal and was a big part in the Norwich win. Other than that, Donaldson is a powerful forward, Maghoma is tricky and we have Stewart and Cotterill who are mercurial talents from the right.
We’re really looking to push on from 10th, as tough as that may be given we’ve only spent about £4m in 5 years. I personally would be happy with mid-table again, as long as our young talents get some game time.
Expect a tough game. We tend to give up a lot of possession and hit on the counter, though against Norwich we pressed high and played two up top. We have a lot of tools going forward so we can change how we attack on a whim. I imagine we’ll sit very deep and try to find Maghoma or Adams to carry the ball on the break, but we could press high with players like David Davis and Maghoma who love doing the defensive work too.
Final points, this is an intriguing match-up for both. One side in Fulham have made more passes than anyone else in the league, the other less than anyone else, so it’s a real style clash. I’ll predict a 1-2 away win, with a goal for Adams and a goal for Maghoma for us.
I’d love to see Fulham carry on their unbeaten streak with another victory, but I have a feeling that Birmingham will frustrate us, so I’ll have to predict a draw for this fixture.
Thank you ever so much to Elliott for his insight, and thank you for reading.
You can always tweet your thoughts to me @ABronsSmith.
Please note my column will feature in the matchday programme this weekend for our fixture against Birmingham City!