If Fulham were to go down, they aren't in the precarious position that many teams are. We aren't looking at a QPR situation where there will be a crippling wage bill that will bankrupt the team if they don't immediately come back up. Also, due to the impressive youth setup; the team won't need to go outside the organization to pick up a bunch of new players. So what do I think a Championship squad could look like? Who goes? Who stays? I have no inside knowledge, but here is what I think is likely.
If Rene Meulensteen hadn't been sacked, I would have pegged him to try to bring the team back up. With Felix Magath, I'm not so sure. He did sign an 18 month contract, so he will be under contract. But if he and the team decide to part ways, I wouldn't be shocked. I think I'd like to see him stay, just because a fourth manager in a calendar year is just too much. Plus, hiring a Championship caliber manager might just require you to start over if you gain promotion.
Players I Feel Should Leave
I don't think there will be any reason to bring back John Arne Riise, Steve Sidwell, Damien Duff, Derek Boateng, Bryan Ruiz, Hugo Rodallega, and Darren Bent. I think there is someone in the youth squad who could do the job just as well if not better than all of them. Of those listed, I'll be saddest to see Ruiz and Sidwell go. I believe they both have something left to offer to a Premier League club, and Ruiz in particular has some sell on value.
Players I Like, But Will Probably Leave
Many players have it written into their contract that they can go if the club is relegated, we just don't know which ones. Some of them would be good players to have around, but might not be to old to contribute by the time club comes back up. If they have some value on the market and can be sold, even better. I'd guess that John Heitinga, Sascha Reither, Kieran Richardson, Lewis Holtby, Ashkan Dejagah all go. Of these players, I'll miss Holtby and Dejagah the most. Holtby will go back to Tottenham, or find another EPL or Bundesliga Club. Dejagah will probably have plenty of options as well. Dejagah, Reither, and Richardson are all under contract. Hopefully, the club can get something for them on their way out.
Players Likely to Go on Loan
I think this is a short list. I expect the club to do whatever is in their power to hold onto Maarten Stekelenburg and Konstantinos Mitroglou. I don't expect either to want to toil in the Championship. However, I feel that both would be likely to go on a season long loan, with buy options if Fulham don't come back up. For the right fee, I don't doubt Fulham would sell them; but I don't think they'd be willing to take a big loss either. I know that Stekelenburg doesn't have a relegation release clause in his contract. I'd guess Mitroglou doesn't either.
The new core of Fulham is going to be based on youth. Most people would agree (though that doesn't make them right) that you need a sprinkling of veteran leadership. There are a few players on the Fulham squad who fit that bill. I expect David Stockdale, Brede Hangeland, Eslad Zverotic, Fernando Amorebieta, William Kvist, Giorgious Karagounis, and Scott Parker to stay around. These players are unlikely to find better deals with other clubs. I also think they are talented enough to make a difference on a club in the Championship. If one was going to leave, I'd guess Karagounis retires. However, he seems to have enough left in the tank for one more run.
Fulham Has to Find a Way to Keep These Guys
Fulham have some young players with enough experience to be desirable to other clubs. These players may want to leave, but Fulham should do all they can to keep them; even if it means giving them more money. Alex Kacaniklic, Pajtim Kasami, Ryan Tunnicliffe, and Larnell Cole could form the basis of a very good midfield for years to come. I'm worried about all four leaving. Kacaniklic and Kasami will have offers from other leagues. Tunnicliffe and Cole may have only come for Meulensteen and may want out. I believe the club needs to keep them all if there is anyway to do it.
Here's where it gets exciting. A lot of youngsters have already made debuts for Fulham this year. Many of them are probably ready to contribute at the Championship level. Just look at this list: Dan Burn, Matthew Briggs, Buomesca Tue Na Bangna, Marcello Trotta, Jack Grimmer, Cauley Woodrow, Chris David, Muamer Tankovic, Patrick Roberts, and Moussa Dembele. That's a lot of young and exciting players. There may even be a few more that make the leap. I know that I, like many, tend to be over excited by youth; but that list should be impressive to anyone.
Goal Keepers: David Stockdale, Neil Ethridge
Defense: Dan Burn, Jack Grimmer, Mathew Briggs, Brede Hangeland, Eslad Zverotic, Fernando Amorebieta.
Central Midfield: Pajtim Kasami, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Chris David, Muamer Tankovic, Scott Parker, William Kvist, Giorgious Karagounis
Wingers: Buomesca Tue Na Bangna, Patrick Roberts, Larnell Cole, Alex Kacaniklic
Forwards: Cauley Woodrow, Marcello Trotta, Moussa Dembele
That's a pretty full squad without making a significant signing. It also cuts out a lot of dead salary weight.
On first glance I think the team might be weak at both fullback positions. On the right, you'd have Zverotic backed up by Grimmer and on the left Briggs backed up by Amorebieta. Since Briggs would also be the fourth center back, you probably need at least one, but probably two fullbacks. I'm not sure if anyone from the U21's is ready to step up to that.
That midfield is strong. If they stick to the 4-2-3-1 the team has the option of Tankovic, Kasami, or David as the CAM. Any of those make me happy. Tunnicliffe could also play their in a pinch. They'd be two deep at each wing position, without considering that Kasami, Karagounis, and Tunnicliffe could also play wide. If there's one spot that could use strengthening, it would be the holding midfield role. Parker and Kvist could be your starters. That's fine, but the backups are Tunnicliffe and Karagounis, which isn't ideal.
The three main forwards of Woodrow, Trotta, and Dembele are young and exciting. With David and Tankovic also able to play up top, there's not much strengthening needed. However, this is the one spot that has no veteran presence. I think I'd like to see someone of the Bobby Zamora type (though not Bobby Zamora) brought in to play with the youngsters and shore them up.
What do you think? Is this a squad that could compete in the Championship? Are there other players you'd keep? Do you think keeping someone is unrealistic? If so, speak up.