Craven Corner: Serious Signing Business

30th July 2018
Photo Credit: PA

It’s been an incredible summer it’s been and it’s not over yet! Craven Corner with Ad Brons-Smith is back for 2018/19 and he’s taking a look at Fulham’s successful transfer business so far.

Kev’s been halfway round the world, sinking a pint for every minute he’s played all season, Marcelo Djalo has got some game-time, while Tony Khan has been working his magic behind the scenes.

With just a fortnight to go until our first Premier League fixture in 4 years, there’s never been a better feeling around the club.

Fulham seem to have a plan for this window, and with deals for Alfie Mawson and Aleksandr Mitrovic reportedly close, things will only get better!

So let’s go back to the start of the window and go through the business so far.

Jean Michael-Seri

First through the door were Jean-Michael Seri and fellow OGC Nice team-mate, Maxime Le Marchand for a combined fee of around £22m. When Seri was announced, it’s safe to say that the footballing world was stunned. Newly promoted Fulham had beaten the likes of Borussia Dortmund this summer to the signing of a player, that just narrowly missed out on joining Barcelona last season.

Seri
Photo Credit: Fulham FC

Last summer, Barcelona Legend, Xavi had this to say about our summer arrival [August 2017]:

When I was told that a Nice player was nicknamed the “African Xavi,” I followed him very closely. I watched matches and a ton of videos. I didn’t know him… and I was spellbound: I’m not used to seeing such a talent in midfield. Short passing, long passing, tactical intelligence, distance shooting, personality, organizing play, that last magic pass … “madre mia!” He would do very well at Barça! He can play anywhere in the middle. Seri is fantastic. I can say, without hesitation, that he has what we call “Barça DNA.”

High praise indeed, especially from Xavi, who’s arguably been one of the best players in the game for over the past decade.

If I’m being honest, I’m still in shock about Seri’s move to Fulham. Not only have we managed to beat some of Europe’s elite to him, but our first transfer back in the Premier League and our chairman immediately broke our previous transfer fee record – that shows ambition!

As many have already said, I expect Seri to play alongside Cairney in the middle of the park, and possibly replace Stefan Johansen in the starting eleven. Seri thrives from being the distributor and creator in midfield, and with McDonald’s discipline and Cairney playing through the lines, Seri will have the freedom of the field to help us retain possession at crucial moments. Incredibly efficient in both boxes, Seri will go down as one of the best, if not the best transfer of the summer – by any club. He’s one to enjoy next season, so make sure you get down to Craven Cottage this season at every opportunity.

Maxime Le Marchand

Photo Credit: Fulham FC

Now, for his former OGC Nice team-mate, Maxime Le Marchand. While Le Marchand’s arrival will go under the radar this summer due to the timing of his arrival, I strongly believe the Frenchman will play an important role in our side next season.

With a similar build to Tim Ream, Le Marchand is more than capable at playing in the heart of defence or at left-back. While he is much more suited at centre-back, the potential arrival of Mawson could force Le Marchand to playing LB more regularly. Alternatively, he is more than comfortable in playing in a back three and his mobility and ball-playing skills will make him fit Jokanovic’s style of play from the beginning. Already in the pre-season games I’ve managed to watch, he has looked incredibly calm on the ball and has a wonderful left-foot on him too. While he won’t get down the wing like former full-backs, Matty Targett & Ryan Fredericks would, his distribution and physique will be called upon against the top teams next year.

Fabri

Then twelve days later Fulham went on to sign Besiktas goalkeeper, Fabricio for around £5m.

Fabri
Photo Credit: Fulham FC

A new goalkeeper was definitely on the shopping list at the start of the window, we needed an experienced goalkeeper to push Bettinelli, and Button wasn’t the man for that.

Therefore, with the arrival of Fabri I think our goalkeeper situation is much healthier. Plus, Fulham managed to get £4m for David Button, despite him losing his place in the last two seasons, so that makes Fabri’s arrival even sweeter.

Normally, you can tell if you’ve signed decent player from abroad when the team’s supporters take to Social Media and express their sadness/disappointment that the transfer was sanctioned. While, many may point to Fabri’s howler in the Champions League last season, his performances have been highly spoken about. A more commanding presence than Bettinelli at set-pieces, and a talented shot-stopper Fabri will prove to be a solid addition at Fulham.

Also, it’s worth noting that our goalkeeping coach, José Sambade Carreira has worked with Fabri at Deportivo and Besiktas in the past, so that mitigates the risk too. A very smart transfer by the board and managerial staff. Only 30, Fabri has a long career ahead and fingers crossed he settles quickly and become our number one in the near future. While, it may be sad to see Bettinelli eventually lose his number one spot again, sadly when you play at the highest tier of English football you need to improve in all areas. I still feel Bettinelli will start our opening game, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Fabri takes the starting spot shortly after the season has begun.

Andre Schurrle

Then on the 25th July, Fulham once again shocked the footballing world by announcing the transfer of Andre Schurrle from Borussia Dortmund on a two-year loan deal. The former Chelsea winger, still only 27 shows that Fulham are targeting a higher level of player this year.

Schurrle
Photo Credit: Fulham FC

Although Schurrle hasn’t had the greatest two years at Dortmund, Dortmund paid over £20m for the forward, and despite only being 27 years old, he has won the World Cup & Premier League already in his career – he also scored a hat-trick against us too, but you’ve probably erased that from your mind and I don’t blame you!

Despite Schurrle not having the best two years at Dortmund, I’m still very impressed by this transfer. Not only does the loan deal not dent our transfer budget as much as a permanent move, but Schurrle can play in a variety of positions in attack. While I expect him to feature on the right side of attack next season, the German forward has an impressive record down the middle or playing as a left-sided winger. This gives Jokanovic some much needed options, and should Mitrovic be unavailable next season for whatever reason, it means we have a quality back-up in the side, and don’t have to rely too heavily on the likes of Cauley Woodrow or Rui Fonte – two players that may struggle at Premier League level.

There’s also the chance that Schurrle will play in his more favoured role on the left side of attack, with Sessegnon playing as an inverted winger on the right with the expectations that he’d cut inside to get the ball on to his left-foot. While this may happen I do expect Sessegnon to stay on the left and Schurrle to play on the right, with much of our team’s system built upon creating chances for Mitrovic, and putting the ball in the box.

All To Play For

It’s amazing to think that we’ve still got another 2 weeks of transfer excitement to go, and while it’s exciting, Fulham still need another four or five faces through the door this summer with the squad looking thin. You’re looking at around 19 senior players at the moment in the squad, and that’s including Djalo, Cisse and Woodrow, all of which struggled to make an impression at Championship level, let alone playing at Premier League level.

Therefore, even with the potential arrivals of Mitrovic and Mawson, we’d still need a recognised left-back, another backup forward and potentially another central midfielder to rotate within the side. Personally, I’d really like to see us complete the signings of Mawson and Mitrovic, but I would also like to see Tomas Kalas return to Fulham this summer.

Although, there were talks at the start of the window, Chelsea were demanding close to £8m for the Czech defender, but it’d a good bit of business if we could secure him on loan once again to help cover right-back and centre-half.

I won’t talk about Mitrovic too much as we all know what he brings to the side and his importance in our team too. With a cost of around £20m, it can be perceived as ‘pricey’ but given the fact he’s only 23 years old, played in the Premier League already and played in our team and in the Champions League before, it’s a good bit of business. £20m looks cheap, especially if you read about Middlesbrough potentially paying £10m for our former loanee, Sheyi Ojo!

But, I have to mention Alfie Mawson, if we manage to sign the Swansea defender, I believe he’ll be the most important signing for us this summer – eclipsing the likes of Mitrovic and Seri. For me, Mawson is the perfect replacement for Maguire at Leicester should he move to Manchester United, so if we strike early and bring him to the Cottage, it will be seen as a coup. Yes, it’ll be around £20m again to bring him to the club, but at 24 years old, an England-call up and 71 appearances in the Premier League already, this is a bargain.

Mawson will be our tallest defender too at 6’2, but will effortlessly suit Jokanovic’s system. The former England U21 defender, has such an impressive range of passing with both feet and is more than comfortable with taking the ball out of defence and bringing the team forward – something that is a rare quality, think back to Kalas’ amazing run and assist against Millwall!

Finally, I’m pretty confident that we will get plenty of new faces in before the season, and while we may take a little while to get going in the league and have the new players settled into their roles, I really think this is the start of something special at our club. We’ve got a tremendous owner, who has a long-term vision for the club, the investment is there and we’ve got a new stand in the making and a set of players to be proud of – the only way is up now!

Enjoy this, we’ve deserved it, it’s been a tough five years and an emotional rollercoaster, but everything happens for a reason, and it’s time to enjoy Fulham in the top-flight of English Football once more.

Apologies for the delay in producing this article, it’s been a crazy summer, but I can’t thank you all enough for your support over the past 7 years of the Craven Corner.

If you have any thoughts or feedback or just fancy a chat, tweet me at @ABronsSmith

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