Anyone who has seen Fulham lately will realise that despite the small points gaps in the relegation battle, the Cottagers can have no complaints about sitting last place. There are obviously various reasons they find themselves there, but the lack of a transfer policy and forward thinking has caught up with them and meant a squad lacking youth, imagination and cohesion.
When Rene Meulensteen was brought in as Manager in December, he was left with a pretty uninspiring squad. However, most people felt that with the right additions in the Transfer Window and a few good results, things would improve. The New Manager couldn’t be blamed for the previous summers transfers, which did little to help and aging squad. Fulham brought in what you would now have to class as some real unimaginative signings, which were the opposite of what they needed. However, the last transfer window has done little to make the squad see much improvement. Other clubs with similar budgets targeted young players, but with a good reputation. With the change of ownership, fans of the whites would have been waiting with anticipation to see some ambition from the off.
One area that has been slightly improved in the Winter Window is Defence, with Dutch International John Heitinga arriving. The usually solid Brede Hangeland has been paired firstly with the now-departed Senderos, then occasionally un-inspiring summer arrival Amorebieta and recently youngster Dan Burn. The availability of the likes of Steven Caulker (now Cardiff) last July, would have been the perfect type of player. A player with big potential, and could play week in week out with Hangeland. However, Martin Jol signed unproven Amorebieta from Spain and also went with the underperforming Hangeland. Luckily, Heitinga has been brought in now – one piece of decent transfer work.
In Midfield, the club has never planned forward. The three options in there are all the wrong side of thirty. Both Scott Parker and Steve Sidwell normally start, but neither now find it easy to dictate the tempo of the game. The third is the veteran Georgios Karagounis, who is now thirty five. The loan signing of Defensive Minded Midfielder William Kvist a couple of weeks ago seems even more strange, when you consider the type of player the club seems overloaded with. Again, it stems back to the start of the season though. Most people will tell you that the summer window is the time to get the best players. Players like Tom Huddlestone (a good tempo dictator through passing) or even Jonjo Shelvey (who can break from Midfield with energy) went to Hull and Swansea. Surely they are the type of players that a club like Fulham should be competing for.
Even in Forward areas, they haven’t been scoring enough. Dimitar Berbatov was allowed to leave – which some will say is no bad thing. However, it’s still a gamble to let that talent go mid-way through a season. Big money has been spent on Konstantinos Mitroglou from Olympiacos. It would seem he has the attributes to be a good Striker, but he may take time to settle – something Fulham haven’t got. So the main pressure for goals currently falls to Darren Bent. Unless he gets better service though, he will struggle to score. That will fall at the feet of loan signings Lewis Holtby and Clint Dempsey, who will be tasked to play the ‘number ten’ role. Wide areas will need to up their game – another part of the team which needed better options. With his Manchester United links, should Meulentsteen have gone all out to loan Wifried Zaha? His pace on the wing couldn’t have been a bad thing. Relying on Damien Duff to deliver every game is too much to expect of a thirty four year old. Other options like Kasami and Kacaniklic are too inconsistent to think they will make the difference more often than not.
All in all its not looking good for the Cottagers. However, the way the Premier League is at the moment, they are certainly not a lost cause. The players will have to stand up and be counted soon though, as Fulham look to avoid the Championship.