With the silly season over again for another 6 months, we take a look back and cover all the moves, in and out, and how they have shaped Fulham going into the business end of the season.
With the outgoings list much larger than the incomings, it’s easy to see why many fans were worried before 22:30 PM on deadline day. A total of ten players left Fulham over January, albeit some on loan and until the whisperings of Christie started leaking onto twitter there was very little evidence to suggest anything was going to come in. The main point that stands out when observing the outgoings list is the number of players who were unused by Slavisa that were shipped on. Of the ten players that left, three joined in the summer and have had very little game time (Mollo, Soares, Graham), managing just twelve appearances combined up until the point they left, four of the players found on the list were players who are not yet ready for the first team squad and require experience and game-time (Adebayo, Williams, Kait and Humphrys), with the other three either not a part of the first team squad or already out on loan (Madl, Kwietniewski, Sigurdsson). Looking back now we can see why it was imperative that we terminated the loans of Soares and Graham, with a maximum of 5 loans allowed in a match-day squad we could not afford to have two players not pulling their weight in the push for promotion. With six loans in total now, Slavisa will have to find a way to keep them all happy and will have the unenviable task of leaving one out of the match-day squad. The case of Madl is an odd one, a player who upon arrival in a relegation battle helped Fulham turn the season around and avoid the drop has found himself completely frozen out of the squad as of late, a player liked by the Fulham fans and as a result, had a mutually respectful send-off. Another player who found himself frozen out of the team recently was Mollo. In his limited appearances he looked a skilful player but during open training sessions was reported to be almost half-hearted at times. Whether this was due to his difficulties settling in England, a disagreement with Slavisa or just his general attitude is hard to say, however, it’s a shame he couldn’t make an impact for us as the lad clearly has talent.
To find out more information on the youngsters that have been sent out on loan or sold on, I spoke to resident youth-team expert Pete Grinham and he remains hopeful that at least some of the players sent out on loan can return and make an impact for the first team. Williams, unfortunately, may have been sent out to show what he can do prior to being moved on in the summer, a hard-worker who is too good to be playing for under-23 teams and could be playing regular football, sadly Slavisa does not appear to be a fan and with Williams’ contract expiring this summer it is almost inevitable that he is not going to be a Fulham player come September. After Williams, the next exciting player is Humphrys, a technically gifted player who despite his size and strength is happy with the ball at his feet and isn’t afraid to shoot. One of, if not the top goal-scorer for both the under 18’s and the under 23’s last season. Humphrys has not had the best of seasons after being injured early on after just a few games and not playing since but hopefully, he can start to get some game experience under his belt and come back in the summer to prove he can cut it in the first team. More information on the youth teams is available through Pete’s articles, which can be found on the Fulham Focus website.
As said in the January window preview article on Fulham Focus the main areas Fulham needed to strengthen were defence and attack. Fulham managed that and performed better in the window than most fans would’ve expected. We have signed a striker who is a far cry from anything we’ve had over the last few seasons, a versatile striker who has proved he can score, bagging 14 goals in 33 appearances for Newcastle. However it isn’t just his goal-scoring ability that we need, as a team, we often hear that we’re too soft, Mitrovic is anything but soft. Standing at six feet, two inches tall, he won’t be bullied off the ball. Another benefit of this is that he will draw players towards him, defenders will double-up on him, creating space for other players around him. He could be the perfect fit into a Fulham team that has had fans asking for a clinical striker for the last two season. Prior to signing a striker though, Fulham sought reinforcements for a defensive line that needed depth desperately and they were acquired in the form of Cyrus Christie and Matt Targett. Targett made his first appearance in the second half of the Barnsley away game and showed why he is highly rated by the Southampton fans. Attacking with freedom down the left, reminiscent of Malone from last season but with the added ability to be a solid defender when Barnsley broke. Targett made all the right first impressions and will undoubtedly be a good player for us in the remainder of the season. Cyrus Christie might be a name some Fulham fans recognise. An attacking fullback who scored against Fulham at Craven Cottage earlier on in the season. At 25 years old and standing at just under six Feet two Inches, Christie, along with Targett and Mitrovic could prove to be the aerial threats we have been missing from set pieces. It’s no secret the team has struggled from set-pieces however it is difficult to blame the players as we have, on average, one of the smaller teams in the division, but with these acquisitions, it could be a very different story in the remainder of the season.
As a summary, we can be pleased with the January transfer window Fulham have had. There are some key differences between the acquisitions this window and other windows (When Kline was employed by the club). We took no 50/50 risks on players who may not adapt. We have signed players who are going to be an asset to the team from the moment they signed, players who are ready to play in the championship and have proved themselves to be able to play in England. This hopefully signals the end of obscure signings who prove to be flops and the start of an era in which Slavisa can work with the board to progress Fulham to the promised land.