With the transfer window closing one day before Mauricio Pochettino's Southampton side travel to West London to take on Fulham, this match preview hangs somewhere in the liminal zone between optimism and disheartened resignation.
As of this writing, William Kvist, the Danish international defensive midfielder, has signed a loan deal from German side VFB Stuttgart and it looks for all the world (and a hefty chunk of Shahid Khan's cash) like Konstantinos Mitroglou, the currently rampant Greek international striker, will be arriving on a permanent deal from Greek side Olympiakos. A loan/exchange deal with Tottenham Hotspur involving Dimitar Berbatov and Lewis Holtby is also rumored to be in the works, but rumors make cruel sirens and Fulham supporters have grown used to much smoke and little fire in recent transfer windows.
I am leaning toward a disposition of very cautious optimism. Fulham have looked brightest this campaign when deploying three central midfield players, and the addition of Kvist, if he's able to immediately live up to his billing, bodes well for the club. How many times have Fulham supporters pined for a younger version of Giorgos Karagounis this season? The Greek veteran has often been the critical cog in the Fulham machine, but his age and the congested fixture list have conspired to limit his appearances. The relatively youthful Kvist could remedy this issue.
If Rene Meulensteen can find a way to bring in Lewis Holtby, recently the scourge of Craven Cottage, the long unfilled creative berth in the Fulham midfield could finally find an occupant. I hesitate to even write that, as if doing so will compromise my fragile hopes.
Which brings me to Mitroglou. A lone striker's lone striker, Mitroglou represents what could be a decidedly sharper point to the of late decidedly dull Fulham spear, but again, the Premier League has seen more ballyhooed strikers transfer from other leagues to stronger sides than Fulham and do exactly nothing or take a season or two to come good. Fulham have just less than half a season to avoid the drop and Mitroglou, if the deal gets done, must begin scoring immediately.
With one day left to raise an army, Fulham still have the pesky matter of securing a left back. Kieran Richardson performed admirably in the midweek loss to Swansea City, but he's only one dodgy hamstring away from an extended stay in the training room and John Arne Riise is not a player who gets Fulham fans' heart pounding in a good way.
Essentially, there's hope on the horizon, but hope is often a cruel mirage.
Regardless of whether or not all, some, or none of these hopeful mirages become solid realities, Saturday's match against Southampton will likely come too soon for Fulham to field all of their new toys. The Saints are coming off an impressive 2-2 draw against Arsenal and the biggest on field news coming out of the south coast in recent weeks is the Scottish kiss underperforming and petulant striker Dani Osvaldo laid on Jose Fonte.
Osvaldo never looked a good fit for Southampton despite his hefty price tag, and now Mauricio Pochettino is looking to ship him out. The bad news for Fulham is that he will likely not be missed. The Saints have enjoyed a charmed season by deploying a high pressing, swift passing 4-3-3 formation predicated on youth and hard work. As long as Friday comes and goes without another club luring away the likes of Luke Shaw and Jack Cork, there's no reason to expect anything different from a Southampton side that shredded Fulham 2-0 in the reverse fixture.
The club has however been hit with injuries of late with Gaston Ramirez and Rickie Lambert missing the midweek action against Arsenal, so Friday's team news will be secondary in importance only to the latch being locked on the transfer window.
For some time now, Fulham have had to approach every match as a match in which they absolutely must win points, and Saturday's match is no different. Reinforcements or no.