If you're like me, yesterday you awoke with hope in your heart and then gradually felt it transform into something more akin to despair before possibly a brief spike of rage and then a begrudging acceptance chased with a little chuckle at the revelation that David Moyes and Manchester United were apparently catfished by a wily group of transfer window imposters.
It was an odd day that saw Montenegrin defender Elsad Zverotic unveiled as Fulham's marquee-signing-by-default and undoubtedly led an unprecedented amount of traffic to the 26-year-old's Wikipedia page. As soon as Fulham announce his squad number, I'm ordering a Zverotic shirt because, I mean, Zverotic.
Fulham's needs in this transfer window have been well documented and supporters were hopeful that a functional left back and a creative midfield orchestrator would be brought in to bolster a Martin Jol side that has appeared desperately deficient in these key areas. Instead, well, Zverotic.
So what happened?
I don't think Fulham were incapable of making any deadline day signings. I don't think Martin Jol, et al are tragically obtuse and therefore unaware of weak spots in the squad as it has recently been deployed. I don't think Shahid Khan intends to run the club as a miserly outfit content with 17th place in the table and a collection of bargain bin journeymen and past-their-prime stars. I do think there's a more complicated endgame in the offing and that Khan's background and leadership style provide clues as to what that might be.
With American football's Jacksonville Jaguars, Khan has quickly established himself as a progressive and involved owner anxious and willing to take chances and embrace innovative approaches that are sometimes in opposition to the way things have traditionally been done. At the heart of his philosophy is a belief in analytics, value for money, and a disdain for reactionary meddling.
Bear with me as I give an example from the Jaguars franchise. In American football there is no relegation or promotion and the worst teams at the end of each season get to select the best incoming university players in the next season's draft. This is a good thing for the Jaguars as, before Khan bought the team, they were consistently mediocre at best. Blain Gabbert, the Jaguars' quarterback, essentially the midfield genius and star striker of an American football team, was drafted by the Jaguars in 2011 to be the franchise's marquee player. His performances thus far have been a mixed bag and there has been strong sentiment that he's simply not the guy to run the Jaguars' offense. Replacing him would mean wasting a hugely expensive investment, scrapping years of work, and accepting more losing seasons in the hopes that a new, equally expensive quarterback could perform better.
Tony Khan, Jacksonville's Senior Vice President of Football Technology and Analytics and Shahid Khan's son, however, is credited with running data that revealed Gabbert was actually a pretty good quarterback when given sufficient time to throw the ball, in American football only a matter of seconds, and was instrumental in convincing Jaguars' Head Coach Gus Bradley to select offensive tackle Luke Joeckel as the Jaguars' first pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. This isn't a sexy signing, and certainly doesn't get the supporters' blood pumping (think Claude Makelele or a defensive midfielder of his ilk), but it's the kind of studied, value-for-money signing that allows a team's stars to shine and keeps a franchise viable and healthy in the long term.
So how does this relate to Fulham?
Khan's style is predicated on making healthy, long term decisions based on quality, accurate information. Martin Jol isn't Shahid Khan's guy and even before he purchased Fulham Football Club from Mohamed Al-Fayed there were questions surrounding the Dutchman, his tactics, his player purchases, and whether he was getting the best from a squad not bereft of talent. Recall Fulham's underwhelming run in at the end of last season, the regression of players like Bryan Ruiz, and the stagnation of young talents like Kerim Frei. To make an objective evaluation of one cog in a machine, there cannot be myriad changes to all other parts of that same machine.
Let's not forget that Martin Jol has brought in Maarten Stekelenburg, Fernando Amorebieta, Darren Bent, Adel Taarabt, and Scott Parker this summer and, although we all would love to have seen a big name midfield orchestrator or a talented, young left back arrive on deadline day, Fulham will likely never be the sort of club that spends silly money on the Mesut Ozils and Fabio Coentraos of the world.
My sense is that Khan, believing in value-for-money and accurate evaluations, feels Jol has the players to perform measurably better than the club has been performing and is refraining from sinking money into playing personnel when he's not entirely sold on the man at the helm. This is your squad, Martin Jol. Either earn the faith of the Chairman and be rewarded with funds in January or don't.
Still, Elsad Zverotic?