Lasse Vigen Christensen
Rank: 11 | Age: 21 | Starts: 17 | Appearances: 27 | Minutes: 1524 | Goals: 1 | Assists: 4
Back when Fulham were in the middle of another Premier League campaign in January 2012, a lesser known 17-year old was being signed to their youth academy from FC Mydjtylland. While he may have not made a name for himself yet in the footballing world, scouts considered Lasse Vigen Christensen as one of the brightest prospects coming out of Denmark. He certainly did not disappoint in that reputation as the man known as “LVC” became a regular for Fulham's Under-21 teams from the beginning of his tenure up until the 2013-14 campaign. In Fulham’s first year back in the Championship, the club desperately needed young players to replace the more veteran players of Premier Leagues past that were part of the mass exodus.
By December 2014, not only was Vigen Christensen considered a solution, but also a star in the making. With 5 goals and 5 assists under his belt and famous for his dribbling runs from one end to the other at the center of midfield, it seemed like he was a future Premier League star that just so happened to play in the Championship. At 20 years old, the possibilities were endless. Higher calibre teams like Aston Villa were rushing towards Craven Cottage that season, wanting to do whatever it took to sign such a special talent. And then the hamstring injuries began. After the new year, “LVC” would only play seven Championship and three FA Cup games before being shut down for the season on February 28th.
However, Vigen Christensen was able to participate in last summer’s UEFA Under-21 Championships with Denmark. In the tournament, he played 212 minutes and started one of his countries four games, including the semifinal loss to rivals Sweden. After all the heartache of a brilliant start to senior football, it seemed like Vigen Christensen would come into the 2015/16 with hopes of continuing his bright future.
Sadly, this season was not meant to be for Vigen Christensen. He started the first four games of the season, but out of position as a wide midfielder in Kit Symons’ 4-4-2 formation. At first, it seemed like a novel idea considering his pace and the fact that newcomers Tom Cairney and Jamie O’Hara were more well-rounded to play in central midfield. Instead, it was an experiment that turned out horribly wrong.
Individually, Vigen Christensen looked lost; constantly getting trapped near the opposition corner flag and wondering how to make the perfect short pass or cross to teammates instead of cutting inside to score. Joining the hypothetical school of "How to be like Clint Dempsey” would have been perfect for him in the pre-season, but applying such new skills in a new position at a young age is very difficult to achieve, no matter what league one plays in.
When you add Emerson Hyndman, Sakari Mattila, Ryan Tunnicliffe and eventually Rohan Ince and Scott Parker into the equation, it seemed like Kit Symons obsessed way to much with acquiring as many “two-way” midfielders as possible in the summer transfer window and not enough attacking players that were not playing at forward. Seriously, can you name me any other natural wide players on this squad that were not named Alex Kakaniclic? Add in the fact that 3-5-2, 5-3-2 and even other variations of the 4-4-2 formation were used from time to time by any of Fulham's four managers this season and it was a disastrous season in terms of Vigen Christensen’s production and development. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that those hamstring injuries did not go away at all. He would eventually play the final few games of the season, but mostly coming off the bench.
2016/17 Best Case
2017 will be an important year for Vigen Christensen. He’ll be turning 22 in August and will be on the final year of his current contract with Fulham. No longer are you hearing the buzz of Premier League clubs lining up to sign him, but no longer are you hearing possible call-ups to the Danish National Team anytime soon either. With Slavisa Jokanovic now having a full preseason and transfer market to work with, it will be critical to know what tactics he will employ for a fresher squad. Personally, I still consider Vigen Christensen to be one of the club’s best players, but only if Jokanovic can play him in his proper position. No other Fulham player was harmed by that than him in the 2015/16. However, Vigen Christensen also has to prove to the footballing world that he can stay healthy for the entirety of a Championship season. At minimum, we have to come into 2017/18 knowing who Lasse Vigen Christensen is and have a clearer picture of what his future will be in professional football, let alone at the SW6.
Rank: 10 | Age: 21 | Starts: 1 | Appearances: 14 | Minutes: 292 | Goals: 4 | Assists: 1
We go from one former Fulham academy standout to another in Cauley Woodrow. The young forward was a member of the club’s famous Under-18 sides that were among the best in England. Along with Moussa Dembele and Patrick Roberts, Woodrow was a part of such squads that would win the Under-18 Premier Academy League in 2012 and the redeveloped Under-18 Premier League in 2013. The next year, Woodrow would go on to get a taste of the Premier League at senior level, including scoring his first goal for the club at home against Crystal Palace; Fulham’s last fixture as a Premier League club.
In 2014-15, Woodrow began to become a regular fixture on Fulham’s team sheet by appearing in 29 games and 1,080 minutes of Championship football. However, Woodrow was struggling mightily to score goals at a rate that would deserve him to be in the starting XI. At 20 years old, that's ok to have growing pains in the developing process as a professional footballer. With Hugo Rodallega, Bryan Ruiz, Matt Smith and Ross McCormack ahead of him in the depth chart, he had the chance to learn from veteran players. With a full season of first team football under his belt, surely 2015/16 would be Woodrow’s breakout year.
Along with “LVC”, it wasn’t to be for the England youth international. With 291 minutes of playing time, Woodrow was used as Fulham's fourth forward on the team and Dembele leapfrogged him in the depth chart. But if you look at Woodrow's Football Radar, there is some interesting data to consider. Is it the result of such a small sample size of a season? Absolutely, but you also can't ignore the fact that Woodrow might have been underutilized all year as well. After all, his only game in which he played a full 90 minutes was the 4-0 win over Rotherham at Craven Cottage. It would be the last game Fulham played before Jokanovic took over as manager and he witnessed Woodrow scoring two goals that game. Surely, that would be incentive for him to give the youngster more playing time. Instead, Jokanovic had him coming off the bench in two more games before Woodrow broke his fifth metatarsal in the loss to Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup. He would only go on to play two more matches and 20 total minutes the rest of the season.
Overall, Woodrow did show some unique skills for a player so young. He was good at holding on to the ball in tight spaces and had an underrated knack for finding teammates when keeping the ball away from opponents. Stylistically, he can be more skillful than that of a Emile Heskey or Brian Ching in their heydays based on his shot rates and completed passes percentage. To me, that’s of higher value and potential than what we see out of the proverbial Peter Crouch in training, Matt Smith.
2016/17 Best Case
Fortunately for Woodrow, he is under contract until 2018 and that gives him time to grow into a bigger role for club and country. With the eternal rumors swirling around Dembele’s, McCormack’s and maybe even Smith’s departure from Fulham, Woodrow provides the short and possible long term stability this club desperately needs. In short, it shouldn't be disappointing to see Woodrow become a starting forward under Jokanovic.
Despite the lack of playing time, that hasn’t stopped England from picking him on the Under-21 squad. With the team's victory in the Toulon Tournament this May, hopefully that will give positive vibes for Woodrow knowing what it is like to play in a winning and higher calibre standard of football and bring them to Craven Cottage.