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The Curious Case of Alexander Kačaniklić

A piece looking at how Fulham should use Alexander Kačaniklić this season.

Alexander Kačaniklić celebrating his goal against Wycombe Wanderers
Alexander Kačaniklić celebrating his goal against Wycombe Wanderers
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

A lot of fans complain that Fulham play too narrow, and that the team don’t take advantage of the space available on the wings. Especially when you consider Fulham’s strongest side would have Matt Smith upfront, a 6ft 6 striker whose strong in the air and would benefit from crosses being whipped into the box. Fulham have a lot of players more suited to the narrow game, which is why Kit Symons probably takes the option to play a more narrow style. When you look at the team, the only guy who is dubbed an out and out winger is  Swede Alexander Kačaniklić. After watching his performance against Wycombe, where he scored the only goal of the game, it dawned on me is the guy really best suited going down the flanks?

Granted his stellar performance did come against League Two, Wycombe Wanders. The game was also a League Cup tie which isn’t Fulham’s main focus this season, you would think. However, watching him weave in and out of opponents only to not put in a good cross was frustrating. This isn’t the only time that I’ve had this feeling whilst watching him.

It’s weird to think Kačaniklić is now our longest serving player, having arrived at the club in 2010. Yet it still feels like we haven’t seen him fulfil all that potential. He has been loaned out three times, and all those times he’s been recalled due to consistently playing well on loan. Then the cycle repeats, he doesn’t make an impact, loses his place in the team, goes out on loan and returns.

There’s no doubting that he is a capable player. He has shown glimpses throughout his 52 appearances for Fulham, although has yet to establish himself, or make a role in the team his own. At only 23, time is on his side but it feels like his efforts are being wasted trying to progress him as a winger at this stage.

When it comes down to it, his crosses are not consistent enough or good enough to have him in the team on the wing. That said, his ability to beat players and utilise his pace cannot be ignored. Despite only scoring eight goals for the club, he seems calm in front of goal. Just look at how composed he looked when he took his chance against Wycombe. This is why he’d be better off playing centrally behind Matt Smith, at this stage in his career. He would have Ross McCormack as competition for the role, who is arguably already established in this position. Though Ross can always drop back at times to allow Kačaniklić the opportunity, which he’d no doubt take.

The Swedish international has been known to play centrally for both club and country at times. This should be his main position and that the club should try to help him embrace this position and make it his own. This is where he would currently be most beneficial to the team as a whole. It could lead to him being able to contribute more assists and scoring more goals, without too much time waiting for him to improve into an out and out winger.

The development is able to happen now with the club being in the Championship. There are more games, which means rotation is vital to keep everybody fit, as the club found out last season. It’s not a good option to loan him out, because it hasn’t helped him establish a place in the side by going away and seeing other youngsters come through who overtake him in the pecking order.

Kačaniklić has time on his side being only 23, but it is about time that more of his potential was fulfilled. If Fulham are to get the best out of him, playing him centrally is the key.