In part 1 of the plan we picked players to bid goodbye. In part 2 of the plan, we picked players we wanted to stay. So far, there have been no surprises from the club; Fulham has followed it pretty closely. Only Matthew Briggs seems to have gone unexpectedly. There's still a chance Steve Sidwell says and Marcelo Trotta goes, but they only affect things at the margins.
In part 3 of the plan, we made our shopping list. The list included two center backs, a left back, a right back, a defensive midfielder, a center midfielder, one striker, and possibly one more wide right player. That's probably eight players that need to come in. Who might be some good choices?
I have to admit, scouting targets for a club in the Championship is much harder than I thought. Coverage of Championship football in the United States is next to nil. Coverage of leagues where Fulham might go after players is also quite lacking. Keep in that in mind when looking at this list. Remember these options are just place holders for the kinds of players I'd like to see come in. I would hope the team has a much vaster scouting network and more time than I do to identify specific targets.
I've found three options to look at for Center Back. Ideally, I'd like John Heitinga back, but I don't think that is a realistic option. The three players I've identified are: David Edgar, Sean St Ledger, and Zak Whitbread. None are flashy, but signing any two of those three would be a cheap option and wouldn't necessarily get in the way of developing the Fulham youngsters. Also, neither will cost so much that they will become a burden if they need to be replaced after promotion. I haven't seen a ton of these guys playing, but they have all played in the Championship and Whitbread even has some Premier League experience. Are they good enough?
This is where I'd like to see the most money invested. Outside backs seem to be the area where the academy and youth squads are weakest. It's also a huge weakness for the senior squad. Unless you like a starting pair of Amorebieta and Zverotic, there's plenty of room for improvement. The first player on my radar is someone I'm very familiar with, DeAndre Yedlin. He's the current starting right back for the Seattle Sounders. He's also made the US squad going to Brazil. He also is yet to turn 21. MLS is about the same level of talent as the Championship, and it's a very fast and physical league. Because of this, I have no doubt he could play well in the league. He'd also be fairly cheap, £1M-£2M would get him easily. His ceiling is also high enough so that he could be a fixture with the club when they come back up.
The second right back option is Gonzalo Jara. You may remember seeing him play for West Brom in 2009-2010. Since then he's played for Brighton and Hove Albion and Nottingham Forrest. He's proven he can play in the Championship, and again would be a cheap option. If you can't afford or can't find a player that has a long term future, a player like Jara would be a good stop gap.
At left back, I have two familiar options. Urby Emanuelson and Liam Ridgewell. Urby did well here in his previous time, and settled in as a left back at AC Milan. He's talked about wanting to return to England, and perhaps he could be brought back for the right price. He's out of contract, so the salary demands are all you'd need to meet. He would also add depth in the midfield, especially if Kieran Richardson were to leave. Ridgewell has been linked to Fulham before. He adds depth and a similar style of player to Amorebieta at left back. He also could slide into the center to add depth there. He was released by West Brom, so his time in the Premier League might be over. He wouldn't be a long term solution at the Cottage, but he would probably be good enough to help the club come back up.
The second biggest weakness Fulham have is right in the center of the pitch. There's no true defensive midfielder there and the closest thing to one on the squad is no longer a 90 minute player. The first two players on the list are true defensive midfielders. One will be familiar to you all, the other will probably be new. Emmanuel Frimpong was on loan here from Arsenal in 2013. He played ok in his time. He spent the 2013/14 season on loan with Championship club Barnsley. His season wasn't great, but he's still young. And on a free transfer, bringing him back to London wouldn't be the worst thing. If he works out, you've acquired a good asset cheaply. If he doesn't work out, you don't lose much. The second suggestion is another MLS player. Will Trapp currently plays for the Columbus Crew. He just turned 21 and is already one of the top defensive midfielders in the league. He hasn't yet played with the senior national team, but has played with the youth team at all levels. It might be hard to get him a work permit, but if it's possible; he'd be available on a very cheap transfer.
The team needs more than a defensive midfielder though. And that's where the next player comes in. Mix Diskerud currently plays for Rosenborg in Norway and is a member of the US National Team going to Brazil. He's only 23 and is exactly the kind of creative, one touch, box to box player Fulham have lacked. His contract is up in December, and his club might be willing to sell him rather than lose him to MLS on a free transfer. Mix also adds the flexibility to play as the CAM in a 4-2-3-1 or even as a holding midfielder in a more offensive set. I'm not sure he'd settle for the Championship, but I'd love to see Fulham make a play for him.
As we said in part 3, wide midfield is not a pressing concern. The club has depth there. I think it's very important that any one brought in to play wide midfield also be flexible enough to play elsewhere on the pitch. The first player is again someone Fulham have been linked to in the past, Bakary Sako. He's mainly a right winger, which is what Fulham need depth at. But he can also play on the left and would work as the second striker as well. There's only one year left on his deal, and he has to be itching to move on from League One. The second player is Andy Najar, currently playing for Anderlecht in Belgium. I know him from his time in MLS where he played right back for DC United. He's going to Brazil with Honduras and would give the club another option at both right midfield and right back. I also can't imagine he'd be expensive.
I'm pretty confident with the forward depth on the squad. Even if Marcello Trotta leaves, I think the young players Fulham have can do a good job. If someone is to be brought in, I think they should be older and their more for depth and guidance. Two players who are out of contract who might be good additions are Marouane Chamakh and Shola Ameobi. Both can still play for a Premier League side, but are unlikely to find many suitors. Bringing them in to Fulham might just inject enough veteran presence to be useful to a young squad.
I struggled with this. How do you scout backup keepers for the Championship? I came to the conclusion that I'd never guess what the club is going to do. With that being said, I'll just go with nostalgia and suggest Mark Schwarzer. He's out of contract, and I can't imagine he'll find much interest in England. He could go back to Australia, but he might like one more go at his old club. I'm pretty sure there won't be many fans who would object to his signing.
So that's the list of player options. Do you think that's enough to get the side back up? Think I'm crazy? Can you do better. If so, feel free to say so.