It's not often that a Fulham manager can come out of transfer deadline day with an authentic smile upon his face, but this 2011 window has been quite a blessed one. Fending off attention from Arsenal for stalwart Clint Dempsey was a feat in itself, but the captures of Bryan Ruiz and Zdenek Grygera are success stories in their own right. Add the palpably potential-filled Pajtim Kasami, the cool head of John Arne Riise and the steel of Marcel Gecov and you have yourself an abundant list of talent.
All of this is ineffectual, though, if their abilities cannot be translated onto the football pitch. As of yet, Martin Jol's Fulham side have looked nothing short of weary - inadequate in attack and somewhat flimsy when up against the flow of the game. For all the money flushed into the squad and for all the deadwood that has been flung in the opposing direction, the Cottagers have not looked like a side transformed and have not looked nearly as sharp as was widely expected - what with our early start and all.
The European start in June promised much. Most were aware that fanciful wins over some of Europe's less illustrious teams - NSI Runavik, Crusaders - meant little, if anything at all. To qualify was a respectable accomplishment in itself, but the challenges in offer were about as testing as those in the Celebrity Big Brother house. Jol's men were rarely stretched and Schwarzer was never threatened throughout pre season. The 3-0 dressing down of Juande Ramos' Dnipro side was the only highlight to take from an otherwise meagre pre season campaign. For all its competitive edge, the early season fixture list did us no favours.
Such lackluster preparations came to the fore in the opening league game, where, despite spells of dominance, Zamora and Johnson could not get anything past an excitable Shay Given. The result wasn't quite demoralising, but it's the kind of three points that could well prove essential when the season comes to a close, and without the fire-power on hand that day, Jol may well be wishing that he had capitalised on a deal for Bryan Ruiz at a far earlier stage.
That's not to say that Ruiz can be our saviour, however. That all the talk and all the hype has centred around him is somewhat anti-climactic, given the relative well-being of Dutch imports in the English game. Luis Suarez is perhaps the welcome exception, but being at twice the price, I'm sure Kenny Dalglish would hope as much. Supposed greats such as Afonso Alves at Middlesbrough, Ryan Babel at Liverpool and the lesser known Jan Vennegor of Hesslink have all come unstuck with the brutality of English football. At a rumoured £10.6 million, we can all but hope we have another Suarez on our hands.
With all the hype of Ruiz, Portugese international Orlando Sa almost arrived under the proverbial radar. Even without Ruiz, however, I doubt he would have shown up on and sonar. Despite the one cap he possesses, Sa is far from the ruthless striker that Jol has been so publicly after, and with a loan spell at Nacional last year, where the striker left with three goals to his name, he's hardly built for the continental game. Ruiz, being the player of great versatility that he is, would seemingly not be the answer to our goalscoring prayers either - given that he mainly operates on the wing.
I'm sure I'm not the only one that feels that has left a gap in the squad, but Jol's chase for Andre Pierre Gignac was, at the very least, ambitious. It's come to light that the Frenchman was actually eager to come and it was only a veto from the Marseille side of the deal that held the supposed loan signing back. Intentions to sign aren't going to save our season, however. Only results will.
So far, little has come our way. Fulham sit next to a solitary point on the League table, and although we are surrounded by heady sides such as Arsenal and Tottenham, being in 16th place, even at this initial stage, is far from desirable.
The season won't get any easier and, most certainly, the away fixtures won't either. Jol has, from day one, looked to address the issue of points on the road, and, arguably, St James' Park and Molyneux aren't bad places to get your foot in the door. Yet, Fulham looked dreadful in the Midlands and, late surge aside, were left lacking in the North East. Our home form would appear to be intact at the moment, but we will need to prove as much against Blackburn next week if this season is to truly flourish.