Another slow burning season that ended with a bang, Fulham finishing with 5 wins in their last 8 games, this meant that Fulham secured a ninth place finish. Though this left the Craven Cottage faithful wondering what might have been- could Fulham have been challenging for a Champions League place?? With the loss of a few players over the summer, Jol will be hoping they are able to continue their fine form showed at the end of last season into the new campaign. For onlookers Fulham appear to be a sensibly run club with equally sensible fans, no shirts off antics, whom are content with a top half finish. Or are they???
When running through my key points to talk about with Fulham, the transfers to and from the club over the summer prove to be surprisingly intriguing. With the loss of Danny Murphy in the centre of midfield the fans are baffled as no player in the current squad seems ready to put on the boots of the 35 year old captain. While the snub by on-loan target man Pavel Pogrebnyak, leaves Jol seeking a new target man. Did Jol find his man? or will he have to change tactics and go for a different approach in the coming season??
Rodallega is arriving from Wigan Athletic this summer, he may not seem to fill in any of the roles needed for the dutch manager but he has proved that where ever he plays he performs consistent attacking football, even chipping in with a few goals here and there. He also adds plenty of Premier League experience, Fulham fans will be questioning this logic, but each year Rodallega has helped Wigan stay up, whilst also playing a high risk attacking style of football. If Jol gives him the chance to fit into the team and play on a regular basis we may see Rodallega being of the signings of the season with relatively small risk of going down he will be able to play more openly. This may see Rodallega shine in the coming season.
Petric, well he scored 2 goals on his debut this weekend so surely that will put to sleep any doubters. The Croation is not only a goal scorer but noticeably skill full, in the opening game he was combining well with Dembele and Ruiz. They appeared comfortable when pushing high up the pitch and this seamless play was as though they had being playing together for years. If the Croation can continue to keep up his good form and is able to miss out the early Premier League worry that some players have then Fulham will have no trouble forgetting that Pogrebnyak left only a few months earlier. It was, however, only against Norwich can he hold onto his good form against the stronger teams in the division, only time will tell??
As of the time I’m writing this blog Dempsey is still a Fulham player, so I cannot debate whether he is a terrible loss to the team. He is 29 and ever more demanding of Champions League football and playing some of the best football of his career Fulham may be wise to cash in on the talismanic Texan as he only has 12 months left on his contract. Hopefully, i’ll be doing a transfer update at the end of the window and I can discuss this topic in more depth then.
Plan A: Although the two previous managers at Craven Cottage preferred to use a 4-4-2 formation, Jol likes to use 4-2-3-1 as it gives Dempsey license to push into the box, where he seems most effective. Should Dempsey depart I can see Jol using Rodallega or Dembele in this role both players being given the freedom to create attacks and move around the pitch. Fact: Hangeland was one of just two top flight outfield players to play every minute of league football last season. Jol will be hoping his main man in defence can continue this run of games into the new season and no richer clubs come calling for their strong centre back.
Plan B: As with last season Jol can always resort to the pinpoint crossing of Damien Duff to swiftly get the ball into the box. The Dutchman calls the irishman “his Arjen Robben” and when thinks aren’t going well it is clear Jol will call upon his consistent winger. I can see Fulham using a standard 4-4-2 formation as backup but with Johnson and Pogrebnyak having left they may struggle to find two clear cut strikers.
Kelly, Hughes, Hangeland, Riise
Ruiz, Dembele, Duff
Note: this is assuming Dempsey leaves, otherwise Dembele would drop back to a deeeper role and the central 2 would need to alternate for consistency.
Lessons From Last Season
Keep it clean. The lack of suspensions was no doubt a contributing factor to their successful campaign, with Fulham the only Premier League team not to have a man sent off! Jol will be hoping for more of the same in the coming season.
With the new signings Fulham can only hope to acheive greater things this year. Fulham fans will be hoping for a cup run, and with no Europa League distractions a quick return to European football. But will they cope with the loss of Danny Murphy??? I think a top half finish for the London club, but its hard to predict whether they will achieve a European place.