So I thought it would be a really fun idea to get a bunch of people together to preview this offseason, since even Martin Jol said himself, it’s hard to find motivation to finish out the rest of the season strong when there’s not much on the line. So I figured I’d jump right in to the offseason! I sent a bunch of questions to a few people who’s opinion I value (and you should too). Here’s our guest roundtable:
Nick MacNee (@themetaknight) – Loyal Twitter follower and blogger at Power to the Fulham.
Chris Cohen (@Chris_Cohen) – TV presenter and comedian, and most notably to me, guest analyst on Sports Tonight Live where I frequent. The only impartial view on the panel, not being a Fulham fan (he’s actually a Chelsea fan, but we’ll give him a pass for taking the time to be on the panel. Even a blind squirrel sometimes gets a nut, right?).
Russ Goldman (@Russ_Goldman) – American Fulham overlord and host of Cottage Talk. He interviewed Aaron Hughes a week ago, that’s kind of a big deal.
Austin Beacham (@beachama) – my new sidekick here at Fulham’s Finest.
So, without further ado, let’s get right into this coming offseason:
Question 1: The big question surrounding Fulham, what will happen with Clint Dempsey?
Kyle - I get to go first, because I get those powers when I own the site. Comes with the territory. As for Dempsey, I was originally convinced that he would stay, because I’ve heard he loves London and doesn’t have to move his family, especially overseas, and most of the Champions League sides in England he might not break the first team anyways. However, there are many things happening with Fulham that are convincing me otherwise. There are certain….disadvantages to playing with a mid-table side. The refereeing is skewed towards the bigger clubs. The season awards are skewed towards the bigger clubs (let’s face it, if Clint scored 16 goals from the midfield for any top-4 club, he’d no question be on that PFA Player of the Year list). And to me, that’s got to be a factor. He deserves to get recognized for his efforts, and he’s not been. And the only option that has everything he wants is Arsenal. I see him moving there, and I’m ok with it. He’s given so much to this club, Fulham fans should be happy for him if he moves on. However, look at the most recent successful Cottagers to move on for contract reasons recently: Woy, Zamora, Smalling, Mark Hughes (well, he wanted to go to a bigger club LOL), Van Der Sar. Very mixed results. Even consider Jimmy Bullard. Sure some of them went on to be very successful, but its not a guarantee, and Dempsey may want the safer bet.
Nick – Dempsey has a strange situation at the moment. He has listed his desire to go and play for a club in the champions league, which almost everyone knows by now. But if he were to go to a top club (say, Arsenal as the reports have it), he can not be sure of a 1st team place there, like he is at Fulham. There could also be pressure from the fans and staff at the club to score at least 10-15 goals a season, which will not be at Fulham. I believe that if Dempsey wants 1st team football AND champions league football, his best option is to move to another country like Germany or Italy. And even then, Dempsey has stated that he is settled in England and does not wish to move to another club. I believe that Dempsey will stay at Fulham, where the situation and club are perfect for him. But it all depends at what happens at the end of season with the situation with his contract.
Chris – Clint, in my opinion should think long and hard about this decision. Without doubt he’s had his best season at Fulham but it’s sometimes all too easy to crave for a move to a bigger club, one that plays Champions League and for things to not work out. It’s not always down to lack of talent either. It can be a different style of management, a rotation system that seems him not playing so regularly or a different style of football that can cause what seemed like a dream move to end in tears. The players around him at Fulham and the manager and his style of play will all be a big part of why he’s had such a tremendous season and if I were Clint, I’d maybe stay one more year at Fulham and progress with the team under Jol before making this call.
Russ – The question is not an easy one to answer as it could go either way. I could make an argument on both sides. I could see him staying because I think Martin Jol and Fulham will do whatever they can to hold on to him. I think it would have to be a significant amount of money to force their hand in selling him.
I can see why Dempsey would have a desire to play in the Champions League. However, he has to weigh the desire to play at that level, with the chance that he could be a squad player. He knows if he stays at Fulham he will play regularly. I think the risk of playing time with some clubs could be real. It would have to be the right team, and in my opinion I think if he needs to go, he might be better off in Italy or Germany.
In the end, I say he stays at Fulham as I feel the club will not make it easy for him to go, and will make the price tag possibly too high for a move.
Austin – Like I said in my longer article, I think it depends on who comes in for him, and their position in their respective league. If a big club like Arsenal comes in for him, then he’ll go, or perhaps someone like Schalke or Lille abroad. It’s a unique situation because he is such a relatively “late-bloomer” – his age may throw some clubs off, and it will probably make it more difficult for Fulham to get the price they want for him. It will be interesting to see what happens this summer, but if I had to make a prediction, I’d say – despite his love of London and his (deserved) loyalty to Fulham, he’ll go. It’s been a great journey for him, and I think he’s earned his chance in the Champions League. This summer may be his last opportunity, so if he gets a real chance that’s good for him and Fulham, he’ll leave.
Question #2: Who else will leave the Cottage this summer?
Kyle – Andy Johnson’s a goner, as he doesn’t fit the bill for Martin Jol’s plans for the club. Jol is adamant about getting younger (I love it) and almost didn’t even make an exception for Danny Murphy. No chance he keeps AJ around, as he’ll probably look for striker depth in the youth ranks. Fulham have a few in-house, and I expect him to make a play for a few from overseas as well. I think Dembele stays, because for one I don’t think Jol can afford to let him and Dempsey leave, but also Jol seemed to have a mancrush on him when he first took the managerial job. I love his buildup play.
Nick – I will not be surprised and unhappy if Andy Johnson leaves as he is inconsistent, old and good to get off the wage bill. I wouldn’t also mind if we sell Moussa Dembele for some good cash. Despite his superb dribbling and passing skills, Dembele still lacks a killer finishing instinct and constantly loses the ball in dangerous situations. He could be that ‘ultimate player’ but it is still far away. I also expect Chris Baird to leave, which is unfortunate, as he seems to be a fantastic utility player and great at tackling. Likewise with Simon Davies, who is becoming old, and our fringe players such as Rafik Halliche and Bjorn Helge Riise. Dickson Etuhu should be another who i expect to leave.
Chris – It’s an interesting one this, I wouldn’t expect a mass exodus from the Cottage this season but there’s no question that some teams will be in for the likes of Dembele and maybe even the Pog.. but I think these players may have just seen enough of Jol’s new approach and style of play to perhaps want to stick it out for another season. Whether the club react differently when a large sum of money is thrust under their nose I don’t know, but I think it’s important, if Fulham want to progress, that they keep hold of these key players.
Russ – I think Andy Johnson will leave Craven Cottage as he has value to the club, but he might be better off with another club that can give him more playing time.
I think Fulham will hold on to Mousa Dembele as Jol knows how valuable he is to the club and probably would like to build around him.
Austin – Personally, I hope Andy Johnson leaves. He has never impressed me at Fulham – three league goals this season, and all in one game, just isn’t good enough. I hope he moves on, and if the alleged interest from West Brom is there, Fulham would be foolish to not cash in.
Since I said that Clint would move on, I’m going to say that Dembele won’t. He’s the other player that could probably fetch a pretty high price on Fulham, but the owner nor the manager would want to see both leave in one summer. I’ve heard commentators say that Dembele wouldn’t look out of place in a top four side, and while that has become more true since his move to center mid, I still don’t think there’s enough end product in his game to warrant big big money being spent on him. He’ll stay.
Dickson Etuhu is another I could see leaving. He’s basically be our go to “let’s see the game out” sub, and while he’s been effective at that role, he doesn’t seem happy with his lack of starts. His tweets and general demeanor hint at unhappiness, and he may be happy to move on , even if it’s to a Championship-level side. With reported interested (again) in Derek Boateng, I could see Jol moving Etuhu on.
Chris Baird is another who hasn’t been getting many chances, which is something that he wasn’t used to under other managers. He is versatile, though, so Jol may want to keep him for that. However, if another fullback is purchased (as I see as likely), Baird may get even less chances and so may want to seek other pastures.
As for players outside the first team, Bjorn Helge Riise seems likely to leave, due to his age and total lack of first team action. Rafik Halliche also doesn’t seem to be anywhere near the first team, so he may leave too if the opportunity arises.
I’m sure I’ve missed some players, but those seem the biggest to me.
Question #3: Rank order the biggest needs for Fulham in this summer’s transfer market.
Kyle -1) Striker depth. Pog’s a beast, but you need a few guys behind him. With AJ probably out, the Russian and Orlando Sa are it at the moment, unless Jol dives into the youth ranks and calls up someone like Lauri Dalla-Valle.
2) Right back. Chris Baird may leave as well, and he’s really the only true right back this club has besides Stephen Kelly, who to me isn’t good enough to be a regular starter. Fulham have a bunch of defenders, but most of them are center-backs, (Hughes, Hangeland, Senderos) and Aaron Hughes shouldn’t be moved to RB, as we’re all well aware. Grygera actually technically is a RB I guess, but he also seems more suited for the middle to me, and even if he settles at RB, he needs depth as he’s not young and obviously can have injury issues.
3) Replacement for Clint Dempsey. This is the hardest of any hole to fill by far, but if he leaves, we’ll need someone to support Pog behind him. He clearly works best in a tandem, and Dembele to me doesn’t have the goal-scoring ability to fit this role.
I don’t see midfield as a big issue. While it’s a bit thin, Dembele will stay, so is Murphy, and you also have Sidwell and Diarra plus youngsters Kacknaclic and Gecov who are talented there as well.
Nick - 1) A striker.
2) A Right Back.
3) A Central Midfielder
Chris – As a neutral I probably have different views to Fulham fans, but I think the first biggest need is, as I said above, to keep the players you have. Secondly, without doubt, is a striker. I’d also like to see a player who can act as another link from midfield to attack.
Russ – The number three biggest need is central midfielder. I think Fulham need to find the player that will someday take the place of Danny Murphy.
The number two need is right back. Zdenek Grygera did a nice job, but got injured early in his Fulham career. Stephen Kelly is really better as a substitute. They really need a young solid right back that can push up front with pace.
The number one need is striker and hopefully Pavel Pogrebnyak will re-sign. Regardless if he does sign, they need to get more goals from this position, and probably need one or two strikers.
Austin - 1) Right Fullback – Jol has elected to play Stephen Kelly in this position, and he’s looked consistently out of his depth there throughout the season. He occasionally has a good game, but isn’t strong enough one on one against tricky players, and offers little going forward besides an occasional passing outlet. I’d like to see a strong, quick fullback brought in to offer both width and defensive solidarity.
2) Backup for the Pog – With Dempsey possible leaving and Andy Johnson simply needing to be replaced, we’re once again looking short up front. There has been speculation in the striker market, which hopefully means the Club has seen a need there as well. We’re looking thin in the goal department again, so hopefully this spot will be addressed.
3) Midfield – this seems a funny and I can’t exactly pinpoint where in midfield works needs to be done, but I think something needs to change. Ideally, I’d see Ruiz move to a sort of center forward position right behind Pog, with Murphy and Dembele as the two central mids behind him. This means that we’d have room for some actual wingers out wide, and would give more opportunities to guys like Kacaniklic and Frei. Duff’s not getting any older, so a new wide midfielder that can stay wide and provide supply would be a nice purchase in my opinion.
Question #4: For the spot you tabbed as the biggest need, who are some guys who you think are likely candidates for Martin Jol to snag this window to fill that need?
Kyle – Just kidding! I’m going last on this one. Mwahaha.
Nick - For strikers, i believe that the German Bundesliga is the closest match to the Premier League in terms of style of play. The bundesliga has a whole group of talent in strikers from almlost all the teams there. It is 3rd in the UEFA rankings and decidedly so.
1: Mohammed Abdellaoue: The 26 year old Norwegian (yeah, i bet you couldnt have guessed that from his name) has had an impressive season with Hannover 96, scoring 11 goals until a medial collateral injury put him out for 3 weeks. Now 11 goals may not be as good as Dempsey but this kid has all the characteristics of a hungry, greedy goal poacher, which is exactly what Fulham could do with at the moment. Hannover bought Abdellaoue for around 1.6 million from Valarenga so expect a fee of maybe around 6 million or more to get him in this goalscoring form. However,i fear that if Hannover were to get into the Europa League again, then Abdellaoue may not be interested in a club that is not will not be in Europe next season. Abdellaoue is rated at 6.6 million euros by Transfermarkt.com
2: John Guidetti: Guidetti, 19 years of age, has ripped up the Evedivise scoring charts for feyenoord, on loan from Machester City, with an incredible 20 goals for a kid of his age. Guidetti has stated that if he is not given a place in the Starting XI for Manchester City, then he will leave the club. Could this be on loan or on a permanent transfer? Either way, its unlikely that he will with the talent that they have up there, as well as the money. Fulham could go in for him but i have no doubt that there would be a big struggle to get him. Guidetti is rated at 3.5 Million pounds by Transfermarkt.com
3: Mario Mandzukic: The big 25 year old Croat, currently playing at VfL Wolfsburg, has bagged up 12 goals this season for the Wolves, along with 8 assists to go to his name. This means that he has had a role in just under 50% of the goals that Wolfsburg have scored. Mandzukic, signed from Dinamo Zagreb for 8 million euros, could be quite a costly buy, as he is rated by transfermarkt.com at 8.8 mil, and with his goalscoring form, this could be much further. Mandzukic would be good and exciting buy but also a very costly one.
Chris – I like Josh McEachran (being a Chelsea fan) and he has lacked opportunity at Chelsea and at Swansea, finding it hard to make his way into an already established midfield. But there is no doubting the kid’s quality and he plays exactly the style of football Jol promotes. As for up front, I’d say there are plenty of options to choose from if the money is there. There is talk already of Berbatov making his way, and what a snag that would be! He’s shown he can perform at the highest level but perhaps prefers being a bigger fish in a somewhat smaller pond (no offence Fulham fans) so we’d certainly see the best of him if this move came to fruition. Dirk Kuyt may be on his way out of Liverpool and I think, given a proper arm round his shoulder and a bit of Dutch encouragement from countryman Jol, he could turn into the quality goal scorer he once was.
Russ – The three guys I would like Jol to snag are Andre-Pierre Gignac, Hugo Rodallega, and Burak Yilmaz. There have been many rumors surrounding Yilmaz as he is a prolific scorer this season scoring 34 goals in all competitions for Trabzonspor. He is the player I really want them to sign.
Austin – Abdoulaye Bamba – there was reported interest from Fulham earlier in the season, and while I haven’t seen any of the young full-back in action, it would fit Jol’s policy of lowering the squad’s age to bring in someone like Bamba.
That’s about all I could find in terms of actual interest. It’s hard to just think of right-backs for the club to go after, so that’s about all I have in that department.
Kyle – I’m bummed that Russ took the air out of my sails, because I was going to bring up Gignac. I was really excited about him last time he was rumored to be coming to the club on loan, until it was scrapped at the last minute. I hope Fulham make another play for him, because with his size, strength, and scoring ability, having him and Pog up front will be simply too much for most central defenders to handle.
Another interesting rumor I just saw recently is Romulu Lukaku. Apparently he’s PO’d with Chelsea and wants out, but wants to stay in London, so he could come on loan. I love that Chris brought up Berbatov. His value couldn’t possibly be lower than it is right now, and he would do wonders for that front. He can both score and support Pog effectively. You might hear a squeal or two of joy if Jol lands him. Not sure how realistic it is, but I don’t really see any major hurdles.
Question #5: Are there any other players outside that area of need specified in #4 who you think are good bets to be brought in by Martin Jol?
Nick – One last player I would like to quickly throw out there that we have been linked to is Sercan Sararer of Greuter Furth in the 2nd Bundesliga, who are currently top and look set to be promoted to the normal Bundesliga. Although the 2.Bundelisga may not be an impressive division, the 22 year old German has got 8 goals and 12 assists to his name, along with his rating of 1.5 million.
Chris – (Chris sat this one out, he was busy celebrating being in the Champions League final despite their captain pulling a Metta World Peace. Can’t say I blame him)
Russ – I still think Jol will bring in Nacer Chadli who is a 22 year old winger for FC Twente that Fulham were rumored to have interest in the past. He could be the type of player that Jol targets again this summer.
Austin – I hope the interest in Burak Yilmaz is legitimate. From the highlight videos I’ve seen online, he seems like he could form a strong partnership with Pogrebnyak, a make a physical, clinical front two to complete the chances created by the technical midfield behind them.
Isaac Vorsah is another I’d be happy to see. He can play defensive mid and center back, and would either provide cover or take the place of the aging Aaron Hughes and the unimpressive (for the most part, he’s not that bad) Philippe Senderos.
Kyle – Like Austin said earlier, right back is a thin position, and to be honest I’m not so sure why Chris Baird has been pushed into obscurity. Always thought he got the job done well. Jol is apparently interested in Jack Hunt from Huddersfield Town. He’d be a relatively cheap option.
Question #6: Anything else you’d like to add about this summer?
Austin – Generally, I’d like to see Jol continue to lower the age of the squad while keeping us competitive and moving in an upwards direction. I’m pretty pleased with the speculation so far, and I think this summer will be an exciting one for Fulham Football Club.
Kyle – I actually expect Jol to use the beginning of next season to begin his poaching of our youth system. Expect to see Frei, Kasami, Kacknaclic, Trotta, Dalla-Valle, and maybe even Donegan, Burn, Della-Verde, and more all get somewhat significant time. I’m incredibly excited about that prospect too, because there are so many talented players in our system.
MASSIVE thank you to all those who participated in the roundup! Feel free to leave a comment to leave your two cents as well! (Or more money’s worth if you’re in a giving mood).