Martin Jol will be looking for reinforcements in January – or so we hope.
“If we can do something in the market, we will try to that. But it’s not easy. You know as well as I do that clubs will wait and wait until you have to pay the maximum price and we will not do that.”
Martin Jol, always trying to play up the current squad and downplay the transfer window. But if he truly thinks this, we’re screwed.
Current situation: The club sits in 14th place with 20 points, 3 points clear of the drop and 5 points below 10th. The club is old. 40 year old Mark Schwarzer has shown his age, and the middle of the defense is starting to as well. A youthful injection at home against Swansea showed much promise, and it will be interesting to see how much Martin Jol decides to ride that energy. Still, like any club with a high average age, they struggle with injuries. Bryan Ruiz just returned after a 6-match layoff, Mahamadou Diarra needs another week or so, Damien Duff is out injured, and Mladen Petric is working to return to fitness. Martin Jol made a point all the way back when he was hired to say he wanted to get the team younger, and he hasn’t. So we’ll see if he makes an attempt at it in this window. But remember, it’s also the middle of the season, and quick fixes to save the season are going to be more valuable at this juncture than planning for the long-term future. So if he buys a few older players, that’s most likely the thinking.
Normally before pointing out individual players who could possibly be targeted, we’d go through what positions need strengthening. However, the defense is porous, the midfield is way too thin, and the goal-production has dried up. So therefore, simple logic tells you the following: we need everything. So let’s go through position by position and see what’s out there.
The central defense has been a mess. The 3 central defenders in the squad are 33, 31, and 27. Brede Hangeland is on the decline but it was obvious during the 3 games he was suspended that he’s our best central defender at the moment. Aaron Hughes, while still a fan favorite, is beginning to lose his pitch awareness as well, and while he still can defend well one-on-one, he is often caught horribly out of position (see: Swansea’s first goal). Philippe Senderos, as I said, has been downright dreadful. This is a position that not only needs fixing now, but will need fixing for the long-term as well.
Alexander Madlung – It’s been heavily reported that Fulham are close to reaching a deal with Wolfsburg for the 30 year old on a free transfer. Madlung wouldn’t cost anything since he’s out of contract at the end of the season and Wolfsburg are desperately looking to reduce their wage bill as soon as possible. You may remember Madlung scored at Craven Cottage in the first leg of their matchup in the Europa League a few years ago. While this could be a decent option, he’s also out of favor with Wolfsburg for a reason, and that may be a bit foreboding.
Jolean Lescott – Another 30 year old, Lescott has been put out in the transfer market by Manchester City brass after struggling with a back injury and Roberto Mancini preferring Matija Natastic. The biggest roadblock here could be Lescott’s wages, which sit at £90,000 a week, something Fulham almost certainly wouldn’t be willing to match, and he’s been priced at £8 million for a full sale. It could prove difficult with those prices in mind.
Vegard Forren – The 24 year old Norwegian with Molde has a few suitors in the Premier League, including Everton and maybe even Manchester United. But Fulham have an ace up their sleeve in this battle: Brede Hangeland. A fellow Norwegian, Hangeland could help Jol make a play for Forren, but that also may hinge on Hangeland himself signing a new contract at Craven Cottage and ensure he’ll be around to be a companion for the youngster should he come to Fulham.
Douglas – Fulham made a major play for the Twente defender in the summer, almost securing his services before his home club pulled the plug at the very end. The chances now of signing him are a lot smaller after all that happened in the summer, but I suppose there’s still a chance simply because there was prior interest. I don’t think anyone knows what the status of the situation is, as evident by this article, which tells us absolutely nothing.
I’ve heard fans calling for Leighton Baines. Y0u can forget about that one. He’ll be either at Everton or move up, which Fulham unfortunately is not.
The midfield at Craven Cottage is frighteningly thin, and going forward is in dire need of reinforcements. Steve Sidwell has been very solid reinventing himself as a defensive midfielder, but picks up yellow cards often and can probably be a lock to miss a few more matches, even if he stays healthy. Chris Baird is always in and out of the lineup for whatever reason. Mahamadou Diarra has also played very well but is going to be either injured or in Africa for much of the 2nd half of the season. Giorgos Karagounis, who had a very good match last time out against Swansea, is 35 and can only go a full 90 every so often. Yikes.
Jordan Henderson – This is an interesting proposition. It’d be a fantastic catch if completed, but the chances are slim. Henderson has fallen down in the order at Liverpool, but Brendan Rogers has said he’s accepted his role, at least for now, and Fulham was even offered Henderson in the summer (part of the Dempsey offer) and it didn’t come to pass. Reports say it’s still in the cards, but I don’t see it happening.
McDonald Mariga – Mariga was widely reported to be involved with Fulham for the January window but Martin Jol recently ruled out this option, so we’ll have to look elsewhere.
Derek Boateng – Shocker, this name is back on the list. Boateng’s been on Fulham’s shortlist for a while. Dnipro rejected a few advances over the summer, but this could be the time the deal gets done. There have been reports of Boateng suffering from racial abuse in Ukraine, so that could push a deal. He could be exactly what Fulham need, rated at about £2 million.
Will Hughes – Martin Jol has mentioned this 17 year old as a potential transfer target. It’s not often you see a 17 year old kid in the January rumors, but Martin Jol admitted he’ll have a ton of competition for the Derby youngster, saying, “there is probably 10 clubs in the Barclays Premier League having a look at him.” In fact, in a BBC feature on Hughes, it begins saying Barcelona even compiled a dossier on the kid. Could be a longshot, but the fact Jol is praising him means it’s at least on his mind.
Momo Diame – The 25 year old with West Ham has an escape clause in his contract, which would allow him to leave here in January for a knockdown fee, and with his good form the first half of this season, depending on who comes calling, he could be convinced to activate that. When asked about Diame possibly leaving, Sam Allardyce refused to say he wouldn’t go, so it’s certainly a possibility.
Also someone to keep an eye on: Lewis McGugan. Reports are saying Jol is going to try and sign him to a pre-contract agreement.
Could Jol pull off the shock and get Mario Balotelli in White? Probably not, but he’s interested in trying.
Fulham were among the league leaders in goalscoring in the beginning of the year, but that has all dried up of late. Much of it coincided with Bryan Ruiz’s injury, as he was left as the only creative option with Dempsey and Dembele leaving at the last minute of the summer window. Mackintosh and Jol would do the club well to find another Bryan Ruiz, as Hugo Rodallega and Mladen Petric have both done a pretty good job finishing when they have chances. But the chances for those 2 have been thin, as they have been for target man Dimitar Berbatov, so the creativity is what Martin Jol will be primarily looking for this winter.
Darren Bent – The most consistent name in Fulham January rumors, the Paul Lambert castoff would do himself well to leave Villa, who are set for even more of a relegation battle than we could see at Craven Cottage. Other clubs such as QPR, Cardiff, or even Newcastle (if Ba moves up) could be in play for Bent, but Fulham seems to be the most likely destination, seeing as he played under Martin Jol before at Spurs. This seems like a very possible option.
Mario Balotelli – Ok, let me start by saying this is kind of silly, but then again, name me something Balotelli is involved in that isn’t silly? Martin Jol recently said he’d provide Balotelli a way out of Manchester City if the price was right (which it probably isn’t). Even Jol remarked he’d “probably cost more than the Mona Lisa” which is probably true. But who knows, if Balotelli wants out badly enough, could it be a match?
Chris David – The 19 year old was basically with Fulham in the summer, and only a paperwork error kept him from joining the club. It’s been rumored since basically the beginning of the season that the move would be finished in January, but obviously a lot can happen in 6 months. We’ll see if the deal now goes through, or if things have changed since then.
Leo Baptistao – The 20 year old Brazilian was charged the first half of the season with the task of replacing Michu at Rayo Vallecano, and he’s done a fantastic job. 6 goals so far along with 4 assists to his name, he’s caught the eye of other La Liga teams as well as eyes in the Premier League. Apparently Real Madrid is in the race as well, but Fulham and Sunderland have been the most consistent clubs named in rumors.
Feel free to comment on anyone else you see Fulham jumping in on and possibly picking up!