It’s just over a month until the season starts, and the transfer rumour mill keeps on spinning. Here we will be looking through five of the recent players to be linked with Fulham.
This time, Sam Cole focuses on Bernd Leno, Eric Bailly, Kevin Mbabu, Luca Pellegrini, Joao Palhinha and Andreas Pereira.
The first player on our list is German shot-stopper, Bernd Leno. Various sources have linked us to the keeper, with his agent fuelling the rumours claiming that Fulham are “attentive” but are being “professional” in their approach. We reportedly face a battle with PSV and Benfica to secure his signature as Leno tries to break into the Germany squad ahead of the Qatar World Cup.
Despite coming through the youth ranks at Stuttgart, it was at Bayer Leverkusen where Bernd Leno made his name. Initially joining on loan in 2011, Leno made over 300 appearances for ‘Die Werkself’, appearing regularly in the Champions League. His form in Germany earned him a move to Arsenal for around £22 million, becoming Unai Emery’s second signing. Despite playing over 100 games for the ‘Gunners’, last season he found himself as the understudy to Aaron Ramsdale, sparking his desire to leave. At international level, the 30-year-old has 9 caps for Germany, winning the Confederations Cup in 2017.
When looking at Leno’s strengths and weaknesses it is clear to see that he doesn’t really have any tangible weaknesses. In terms of shot-stopping he has always had a reputation for making some fantastic reflex saves dating back to his days playing in his homeland. During the 2020/21 season, the last time he played over 30 games, he had a Post-Shot Expected Goals minus Goals Allowed of +4.1. A positive value indicates an above average shot stopping ability with his value that season being almost double that of Manchester City’s Ederson.
It is not just the area shot stopping where Leno is strong. He is also very handy at stopping crosses with a success rate of 8.4% in the 20/21 season. One of the big reasons that Leno would be a good fit at Fulham is the similar way that Arsenal builds from the back. Mikel Arteta likes his ‘keepers to distribute the ball to his centre halves which can be seen by having the lowest percentage of long passes in the Premier League with just 22%.
If we can get this deal done it really would be beneficial for both sides. Leno would have a chance to compete for a place in Germany’s World Cup squad and we get a very good goalkeeper. It is key to note that Arsenal have already replaced Leno in this window meaning it is more than likely he will leave. As much as I would love to give Rodak a chance this season, Bernd Leno for around the £10 million mark would be too good to turn down.
Sam’s Verdict: 9/10
With Manchester United looking to clear out their squad, Eric Bailly is one of two players that have been linked to Fulham in recent times. On Friday evening, Sky Sports reported that we are looking to bring the centre-half in on loan with an option to buy. Several reports however have indicated that Bailly wants to stay and fight for his place.
Bailly was picked up by Espanyol at the age of 17 after taking part in a youth tournament in Burkina Faso. After graduating through their academy, he made several first team appearances before Villareal picked him up in January 2015. Just 1 ½ years later Man United bought him for £30 million but he has struggled to solidify a place in the team. An Ivory Coast international, he has 46 caps and helped his country win the 2015 African Cup of Nations.
When looking at what type of player Bailly is, there isn’t a lot of data to go off of due to his lack of game time in recent years. Having watched him several times over the years, I think his strengths and weaknesses are clear. Despite being prominently right footed, he has experience player both on the left and right of a centre back pairing. He is also very good on the ball with an eagerness to carry the ball forwards if he has the space. His volume of blocked shots is also a strength that I have noted.
Despite being 28, Bailly still has a fair few weaknesses to iron out. His concentration is probably the most concerning. He can often lose track of his man which you can not get away with as a newly promoted team. Eric can also be quite hot headed and lose his discipline, often picking up several yellow and red cards in the process. A lot of Fulham fans have also criticised his injury history but while it isn’t great, it is not as bad as people are making it out to be.
While Eric Bailly does have weaknesses, I think that he definitely has the quality to play for us. He is very positive on the ball and with the proposed deal being a loan, it is fairly low risk. His Premier League and European experience are another asset to us. I would be keen for him to not be our only centre back signing this window, however.
Sam’s Verdict: 7/10
Kevin Mbabu is a name known mostly by fans of Electronic Arts’ FIFA series, but could he soon be making a move to Fulham? Sky Sports are reporting that we have launched a €10 million bid for the right-back who is currently playing his football at Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga.
Mbabu came through the youth ranks at Servette in his native Switzerland, making one appearance before moving to Newcastle for an undisclosed fee. This move didn’t work out and after loan spells at Rangers and later Young Boys, he joined the latter club permanently. His form at Young Boys earned him a move to Wolfsburg where he has been playing football since 2019. The 27-year-old has over 100 appearances at the top-level with 22 international caps for Switzerland.
Any FIFA fan would be able to tell you that Mbabu is quick but there is a lot more to his game than that. Along with his exceptional athleticism, at 6 foot tall, the fullback is also very good in the air winning 2.72 aerial duels per 90 last season. His other defensive numbers hold up to making 2.67 tackles per 90 winning 46% as well as making 2.15 interceptions and 2.3 blocks.
Going forward Mbabu likes to make overlapping runs and carry the ball forward. He averages 2.62 completed dribbles per game and 5.45 progressive ball carries showing he is an above average ball carrier. My concern with Mbabu is his lack of goals and assists, getting 0 last season. This does raise questions over his end product however this could be down to his teammates underperforming. He also is a player that will pick up a lot of cards due to his ill-discipline.
Overall, I think this move would be a good one. As much as Neco Williams is my preferred option at right-back, his £20 million price tag makes a move unlikely. Mbabu is the type of player that Marco Silva could get the best out of with his athleticism and desire to get forward. His experience playing in Europe is also a big plus. Last year he was interviewed by the Athletic where he said: “Everything I do is to prove to Newcastle that they were wrong to let me go”. Where better place for him to do that but in the Premier League? I think Keven Mbabu would be a good signing and would provide excellent competition with Kenny Tete.
Sam’s Verdict: 8/10
Despite having two players already filling the left-back spot at Fulham it is an area I think we need to strengthen, and it appears that Marco Silva shares that sentiment. Sources in Italy have suggested that Fulham are very interested in Juventus fullback Luca Pellegrini with his price tag set at between €10 and €15 million. West Ham and Monza are also looking at the player.
Starting his career at Roma, Luca Pellegrini joined the ‘Old Lady’ in 2019 for around €22 million after showing promise on loan at Cagliari. Despite being listed as one of the most promising young players in the world upon joining, Pellegrini has yet to live up to his potential, being loaned back to Cagliari and then to Genoa. Last season was his first season playing for Juventus and despite making 21 appearances he didn’t set the world alight. At international level he has one cap for Italy, appearing off the bench in a friendly against Estonia.
Pellegrini does possess many areas that might attract Fulham. For one he is a very good crosser of the ball. Last season he averaged 0.13 expected assists and created 2.03 shot-creating actions per game. He also is a player with incredible pace and the desire to take players on. This can be shown through him completing 1.05 dribbles per 90 last season.
The main worry I have about Pellegrini is his defensive ability. Last season he was not a very active defender averaging 2.11 tackles, 1.22 interceptions and 1.86 blocks per game. He also struggles in the air winning just 0.81 aerial duels per 90. These are not the only areas for concern as he also lacks concentration and struggles with his discipline. He is only 23, so he could develop and that he is the type of player that Marco Silva likes. I just don’t think Pellegrini is the player we need. As a newly promoted club, we can not be signing players with defensive deficiencies even if they are good going forward. He needs to be developed a lot defensively and we are at a stage where we can’t do that, especially for his price tag. There is clearly a good player in there with some development but I think that Luca Pellegrini would be an average signing for Fulham.
Sam’s Verdict: 5/10
In the last transfer targets piece, I briefly mentioned that Joao Palhinha was Wolves-bound. How wrong was I? In the last few weeks, we have hijacked the deal with Fabrizio Romano reporting that a €22 million move from Sporting CP has been completed. Of course, when this article comes out, we might have already announced him but anyway here is everything you need to know about Palhinha.
Graduating through Sporting’s academy at a young age, Palhinha played most of his football out on loan. After one-year spells at Moreirense and Belenenses it was his form on a two-year loan to Braga which grabbed Sporting’s attention. Now a key cog in the Sporting midfield, in 2021 Joao helped his club win the Liga NOS and put in some impressive performances in the Champions League the following season. The 26-year-old has 14 caps for Portugal since making his debut last year, scoring twice.
At 6’2, he is a physical presence in the 6 role at the base of a midfield three. He uses his height to his advantage winning 1.69 aerial duels per 90 in the previous season. Palhinha is fantastic at spotting danger and sniffing it out. It sounds so simple but he is amazing at it. This is shown through his 3.04 tackles, 2.2 blocks and 32.42 pressures per game. His long passing is another strength however most examples of this, he is given way more space than he would be afforded in the Premier League.
For the role he plays, he has no glaring weaknesses apart from his lack of pace which he makes up for with his excellent reading of the game.
The signing of Joao Palhinha is a massive coup for Fulham. Yes the €22 million price tag is high for a newly promoted club but I wholeheartedly believe that this man should be playing in the Champions League. Having such a good holding midfielder really increases our survival hopes and could indicate that we will revert to a midfield three next season. I think this is a sensational signing for Fulham.
Sam’s Verdict: 10/10
With Fabio Carvalho gone, we lack creative players in our midfield and it looks like the man Marco Silva wants to fill the void with is Andreas Pereira. Fabrizio Romano reports that we have made a €10 million proposal which Manchester United are prepared to accept. The stumbling block is that the player has recently spoken out about having his heart set on a move back to Brazil despite us offering him a long-term deal.
Pereira is a Man United academy graduate who was first persuaded to come to the club by Sir Alex Ferguson in 2011. 75 appearances and 4 loan spells later and the ‘Red Devils’ have finally decided that he can leave the club. Despite showing promise, no coach has been able to extract the best out of him. The 26-year-old has got an international cap to his name, making his Brazil debut against El Salvador in 2018. He became the first player in over 100 years to play for Brazil having been born outside of the country, having been born in Belgium.
In terms of Pereira’s strengths, it really depends on who you ask. The majority of Manchester United fans have written him off and some have labelled him a ‘pre-season merchant’. However fans of Brazilian football think he is a fantastic creative midfielder, with his loan spell at Flamengo being a successful one. Unfortunately, I cannot claim to have watched much Brazilian football and there isn’t too much data surrounding it.
From what I have seen from him at Man United, he is a good crosser when he gets into wide positions and presses very well. The main area he needs to improve is his decision making. You can have all the ability in the world but if you don’t know when to shoot or pass it is all worthless. Too many times he takes a pot shot at goal when he has team mates in better positions around him.
The potential signing of Andreas Pereira is a complete unknown. On one hand his successful stint in Brazil might show he is finally reaching his potential. On the other hand, the Brazilian league is no where near the level of the Premier League, so his success out there is to be expected. If Marco Silva thinks he is the player to keep Fulham up then I trust him but would feel uncomfortable if he is the only creative midfielder bought this window.
Sam’s Verdict: 6/10
*Data is via FBREF