The out-and-out striker Fulham have been waiting for has finally arrived. With five goals in only four games, Aleksandar Mitrovic is leading from the front, as Fulham look to push for automatic promotion back into the Premier League. Greg Margolis takes a look at how he compares to January striking additions for FFC.
What a new year it has been for the Whites so far! The organization has found it’s stride from top to bottom, and it has been capped off by the recent run of form that has seen us go undefeated in the league since the middle of December.
Even with this success, Fulham didn’t sit back, and went out and hit the mark in the January transfer window, bringing in much needed defensive support in the likes of Matt Targett and Cyrus Christie.
These investments were great for the play-off push, and for the long-term, as it now allows Ryan Sessegnon to play in a more advanced position, which is honestly where he needs to be and has been playing some world-class football, and it provided depth at full back.
On top of those signings, the best January signing since Pavel Pogrebnyak has to be Aleksandar Mitrovic. To be honest, I thought he would be an off-the-bench player, as someone who can be aggressive in the box and add a different threat if we needed a goal late in the game. But he has shown he is the complete package, and I have been extremely impressed with what he’s brought to the team.
His movement off the ball creates massive gaps in opponent’s defenses for Sess and whoever is playing right wing to get in behind. He also provides incredible hold up play, which allows our center midfielders to get involved easily. Finally, he is an absolute monster in front of the net. We have been missing a certified goal scoring threat for years, and I think he can really bring us into the elusive top two by the end of the season.
To show just how important Mitro has been, let’s look at strikers we have brought in during the January window in past years. I already mentioned Pavel, who I really wished Fulham had kept, because he fit the system at the time and had an eye for the net. Pavel scored five goals immediately after signing and was the fastest player to score five goals in Premier League history, while Mitro just scored his sixth and seventh goals in the Championship in only five games.
Pogrebnyak finished with six goals and helped Fulham finish in the top 10 of the Premier League, which at the time was still a big achievement for Fulham. He is my standard of what a January transfer striker should bring to the table. Put the ball in the back of the net and bring some grit and passion to the pitch. In comparison, Mitrovic is a far superior footballer, who has a ton of passion for the game, and I think has the talent to be a very consistent goal scorer.
But his intangibles are what make him so important to Fulham. The effort he puts in off the ball, and his ability to create opportunities for others makes him a better signing compared to Pavel, and anyone else we have brought in. Think about Konstantios Mitroglou, who literally did ZERO THINGS for Fulham.
They spent an asinine amount of money to bring Mitroglou in, and you could immediately tell he was one of those players who just wasn’t going to cut it in English football. Ultimately, I’m glad that we eventually recouped something from that disaster. Last season they brought in Cyriac, and again got nothing in return from him, along with Chris Martin who had some glimpses, but never really wanted to be here.
An outright goal scorer last season could have made a massive difference for us in the playoffs, and I think it is clear that the discourse going on internally with the club led to some extremely bad decisions from a transfer market perspective.
So, I believe Mitro has by far, been Fulham’s best winter transfer, due to three important factors. Firstly, it shows that Slav knows what he is doing and that the club has finally accepted they need to trust his processes to get Fulham back into the Premier League.
I was a huge fan of the decision to bring Slav in to right the ship and although I’ve been concerned at times with how the club was functioning, I believe all things are now moving in the right direction.
Secondly, Mitrovic adds a legitimate goal scoring threat to a team that is already scarily good. If Fulham does complete the jump back into the Premier League, he is a must-sign; because that shows a kid like Sessegnon that Fulham aren’t going to lie down in the Premier League if they win promotion, which may be a factor in convincing him to stay a little bit longer.
Thirdly, and as bizarre as it may seen, it was a sensible move to bring him in on loan. Finally, Fulham didn’t splash a bunch of money on a no name signing and made the right decision on a player that can truly help us return to the promised land.
I am excited to watch this team continue to push for promotion, and whole-heartedly believe this year will end the way we have hoped it would over the past few season.