Rene Meulensteen said it himself:
Everyone needs to realize we must invest.
So we know he's aware of the situation. Fulham have some holes that need to be filled. January isn't the best time to be buying. But it's better to spend than to be relegated. It's time to take a look at the holes and give some ideas of how we could possibly fill them.
It's over a year since Moussa Dembele left, and the club has struggled to replace him. The team needs a true box to box midfielder that can defend, but can also transition the ball into attack. The club is over run with players who can play a number 10 role, but no one to get the ball to them. I'd still like Pajtim Kasami to get a run out there. However, even if he is the answer; the club needs more depth. Sidwell really shouldn't be the answer to any question. Boateng is a fine holding player (and probably depth at CB), but nothing more. Parker is a work horse, but at his age you can only expect so much; and even so he'd be much better holding and letting someone else do the creating. I believe the club needs to bring in at least one player to play here.
Mikkel (Mix) Diskerud currently plays for the Norwegian side Rosenborg but has been capped with the United States. He's a box to box guy who can also play behind the striker as a 10 or as more of a holding midfielder in a double pivot. He's young (only 23) and wouldn't be very expensive (valued at about £1.5M). He'd welcome a chance to step up to a bigger league.
Another American who's also started to become a mainstay under Jurgen Klinsman. He's currently been playing with Anderlecht in Belgium and has made appearances in the Champions League. He's similar to Mix in that he's been used in similar positions, but he's perhaps a bit more defensive. He's also a little older (28) and a little more expensive (£3M), but would be a worthy addition to the club.
Another American, this one is a bit more of a pipe dream. He's a much more accomplished player than either of the other two. He's currently with Roma, and although it's a big club he might be willing to move for the right price and the assurances of first team football. With the addition of Kevin Strootman, he's seen less playing time. It was reported that Sunderland expressed interest, so it wouldn't be unheard of for him to move to a club like Fulham. I'm guessing it would take at least £8M to do so though.
Just look up this Feyenoord midfielder on who scored and you'll see why I like him. His strengths are basically everything, and his weaknesses are none. He's also young, and the kind of player you could build around for years to come. He's currently valued at £5.7M, but I'm guessing that it takes closer to £8M to pry him away in January. Still, this is the kind of big investment the club could use.
Staying in the Eredivise, Ajax midfielder Lerin Durate would also be an option. I've only seen him a bit, but I think he could be a strong value proposition if the Ajax is willing to sell.
I know loans aren't the sexiest things, but if you're shopping in January and none of the targets you have are available, you could do worse than to send out feelers to Manchester United about a loan for this player. The complication is, I'm not sure how many domestic loans Fulham have left to use.
A good defense can hide a lot of issues with a club. Unfortunately, Fulham's defense has been poor all year. Philippe Senderos is often a disaster. Aaron Hughes knows what he's doing, but his lack of athleticism often lets him down. Brede Hangeland has been MIA most of the year. The first thing the club should do is decide whether Hangeland is going to be able to come back strong from this injury. If this becomes chronic, he can't be counted on, and Amorebieta will need a partner sooner rather than later. If he's going to be fine going forward, I'd invest in someone younger who can learn from Hangeland and transition into a more full time role in the next two years. If you're unsure of Hangeland's future, you need someone who can step in right away.
Grant Hanley is a young Scottish center back currently playing for Blackburn. With Blackburn unlikely to move up this year, they probably could be persuaded to part with him for the right price, though they have over valued players int he past. He could probably step in and be an improvement over Senderos and Hughes right now, but I'd still like to see him get some seasoning before you hand him a position. I also wonder if he's a better player now than Dan Burn is, who Fulham have already loaned out.
Stefan de Vrij
Stefan de Vrij is a highly rated center back for Feyenoord who has been eyed by Liverpool. He'd be expensive, but he could also be a rock at the center of defense for the next decade.
Omar Gonzalez is the best center back currently playing in MLS. He's also the best defender on the US National team. He recently signed a DP contract with the LA Galaxy, but the lure of first team football in the Premier League would be quite a carrot to draw him in. MLS would hate to let him go, but a £4M bid would be one of the highest MLS has ever received for a player, and I have to think they'd accept it.
I'm not 100% sure a new left back is needed, but you should never pass up the chance to strengthen a squad. Kieran Richardson has done alright there, but don't forget he's already 29. Matthew Briggs may be the future, but he may also not be. If you're not sold on those two, going out and upgrading would be a good idea.
I'm counting on Meulensteen's United ties to get this one done. If a loan is possible, it's something I would explore. But with Moyes coveting Leighton Baines, Alexander Büttner could very well be the odd man out. If United is willing to sell, I'd be upset if Fulham didn't at least make a reasonable offer.
Darren Bent hasn't been doing it. Rodallega is hurt and is nothing more than a change of pace player at best. I'm not ready to count on Berbatov anymore, and he's gone after the season. Marcello Trotta, Cauley Woodrow, Moussa Dembele, and Muamer Tankovic all might turn into something. But at best you're hoping for one or two of them to be on the squad next season. Meaning you need at least one more striker.
I watched Fredy Montero play for four years in Seattle. He's one of the most talented players I've ever seen in person. He has all the skill on the ball of someone like Bryan Ruiz, but the years of playing in MLS have toughened him up so that he can't be so easily pushed around. He's currently showing how much his time in MLS helped him by tearing up the Portuguese Liga where he is the top scorer. He wouldn't be cheap, but at 26, he could be a great presence for Fulham for some time.
Aron Jóhannsson is currently playing for AZ in the Eredevise. He's another young talented player that I believe could do well for the club. He was great in Denmark and he's been even better for AZ. It might be hard to pry him away unless you could sweeten the pot. Which brings me to the next section.
The two obvious cuts are John Arne Riise and Philippe Senderos. Assuming you bring in a new center back, Senderos has no place at the club. Riise has no place even with no additions. The second two cuts are a little harder to make, but might be necessary.
I'm a big Bryan Ruiz fan. I think he's a marvelously talented player who's strengths are often ignored while his weaknesses are often exaggerated. That being said, if he's going to be on your team, you almost need to build the team around him. But is it worth building the team around him? At his age and with the way many of the fans have turned on him, I'd say no. I'll be sad to see him go, but I think the writing is on the wall. The fact that he was the only player to talk about Jol's departure may be telling. The upside is that it could very well be possible to use him to strengthen yourself in other areas. Perhaps a team in the Eredevise would be willing to take him in exchange for one of the targeted players? You may need to add some funds to cover the difference in salary, but it is a distinct possibility.
I think Berbatov's time has gone. He could still be a useful player to many clubs in Europe or even to a club in MLS. You could probably still get a small fee for him. With him out of contract at the end of the year, it's unlikely you are signing him again. If you're going to bring in another striker who's the future; it might be good to part ways now.
I'm fairly confident in the coaching skills of Meulensteen. What I'm not confident about is his top to bottom management skills. Of course I'd argue that asking any one man to do all of that in today's game is silly. I would be very excited if Meulensteen kept the head coaching position and there was an appointment of a technical director. I'd like something set up similar to what Tottenham has done with Franco Baldini and AVB. With that kind of setup, I feel that the club's future could be quite bright.
What do you want for Christmas? Are there targets at positions I've highlighted that you prefer? Do you think Fulham should spend in other places? Give your thoughts and suggestions.