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? Ad Brons-Smith takes a look in the latest edition of the Craven Corner.
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 of 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 weeks 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 offloaded 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 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 one 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 right hand 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 would 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 be 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 love to have 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, 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 derail 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!
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