In part 1 of the plan we identified the players who would be leaving. In part 2 of the plan, we did our best to decide who might be staying. So far, there have been no surprises from the club. Everyone that's left has been expected. So let's pretend that we're just that good and look at the kind of players we have left.
There's very little question that David Stockdale is the keeper for next year. He played well during the year, he's manned the sticks for a Championship side that has secured promotion before, and he's proven to be loyal to the club. After him though, questions remain. If we assume Maarten Stekelenburg is really leaving, that leaves the club very thin in goal. You have David Stockdale, and then who knows. Nominally Marcus Bettinelli would be the backup, but he's young and hasn't really played outside of League Two. Even if you were comfortable with him as the backup, he'd be better served gaining time playing somewhere else rather than riding the bench for Fulham. That means that a backup keeper needs to be added to the shopping list.
Dan Burn is almost assuredly coming back. Fernando Amorebieta seems likely to be back as well. After that though, you're looking at Jack Grimmer. Could Burn and Grimmer combine as a pair? A big left footer and a smaller more agile right footer seem good on paper. However, a center back pairing with a combined age of just 42 seems like it could be a recipe for trouble. To complicate matters I'm not confident with two left footed players there. Ideally you'd want at least one more center back to come in to pair with Burn. It wouldn't even hurt to find two. A smaller more athletic player would be great, someone like the recently departed John Heitinga would be a good mold to follow. A second signing also wouldn't be bad if only for depth purposes.
Here's where we get to the problems. Fullback was a problem all year for Fulham, and most of the players who saw time are moving on. If the season started tomorrow, you'd have Eslad Zverotic starting on the right, with Grimmer being his backup. Ryan Tunnicliffe might provide some depth, but he'd be out of position. On the left, you'd probably have Amorebieta with Richardson being his main backup. As we discovered last year, Kieran Richardson is much better as a winger or midfielder than as a defender, so I'd rather him not be more than third choice there. To me that means you need to bring in at least one fullback for each side. If I was going to spend, this is where I'd put my money.
This spot has been a black hole for Fulham since Danny Murphy and Moussa Dembele have left. There's still a chance Steve Sidwell returns, but I wouldn't count on it. After that you're left with Scott Parker, Ryan Tunnicliffe, and Emmerson Hyndman. In an emergency, Zverotic could step in as a defensive midfielder. You'll notice there is no defensive midfielder remaining. They're all more box to box types. The squad is really going to need to add at least one ball winning player. Exacerbating the problem is the fact that you can't expect Parker to go 90 anymore, and never more than once a week. And when he get's injured, things get thin. I'd want to buy two players who can play here with at least one being more defensive.
The last two positions are ones of relative strength for the club. That is assuming of course that everyone stays. Wide attacking options would include: Kieran Richardson, Alex Kacaniklic, Ryan Williams, Patrick Roberts, Larnell Cole, and Mesca. That's six players for two spots. And that doesn't even include the possibility of playing Zverotic or Tunnicliffe wide in more defensive roles. Add to that players like George Williams and Chris David who could pop up out there, and not much is needed. The problem is youth. The only two players with any experience are Kacaniklic and Richardson. I wouldn't object to bringing in a player with a little experience for the right hand side, but I don't want him stunting the growth of any youngsters.
The second position of strength is forward. If you assume Felix Magath will continue to use either a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-1-1, you'll be playing one striker up high and one in a more withdrawn position. Options for up top include Moussa Dembele, Cauley Woodrow, and Hugo Rodallega. I believe Woodrow should get the lions share of minutes, with Dembele coming on as a late sub for the with drawn forward and spelling Woodrow when he needs it. Rodallega is too expensive to get rid of, so he'll be around, and at least he brings energy. In the withdrawn role, Chris David is probably going to be the main focus. The club isn't as deep there, but some of the wide players could step in or you could play Dembele and Woodrow together. Again, the issue is youth. There's no senior player there to lean on except for Rodallega, and I'm not sure he's the one you want tutoring the boys. Bringing in an older experienced striker might be good for their growth.
Final Shopping List
To break things down Fulham need to purchase at least one, but probably 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 quite a list of needs, but when a team is relegated, that's what you get. Next up, we'll be looking at options for all of these positions.
If you think there's a need that hasn't been addressed or think Fulham are solid in an area projected as a need, sound off. If you think there's a certain player that could fit a need, let us know.