With Fulham’s season kicking off next week, question marks still surround the squad with a potential departure for Ross McCormack still on the cards.
Interestingly, last night the club rejected a proposal from Norwich City for a fee of just £10m. Reports have surfaced suggesting that Fulham would only entertain offers that were closer to £13m upfront, leaving the two clubs wide apart in valuations at this date.
While it would be sad to see Ross McCormack leave the club, it does create new opportunities for the club. Should a fee closer to £15m be accepted, it would allow Slavisa Jovanovic to buy a striker that would fit the 4-3-3 system that he looks to implement this season.
Many fans do suggest that McCormack could easily play this role, but in the past it’s clear that McCormack relies on his strike partner to get beyond the last man. The reason being is that McCormack is closer to a number 10 rather than an out and out number 9. His value to the side is more than just goals, his creativity and assists are something that have carried Fulham through the Championship over the last two years. Due to his natural game being about dropping into the little pockets of space, if Ross was to lead the line on his own, he would have be at the end of the move rather than being the catalyst or the architect of such an attack - something he would have to adjust his game too.
Although, after thinking about it for the last few weeks no immediate replacements spring to mind. While the likes of Bristol City’s Kodjia has been linked, he has only had one season in English football and would still be classed as a risk. Despite links with Ipswich’s Daryl Murphy, putting the goal burden on a 33 year old could be something which would dishearten fans who would want to see McCormack’s replacement entering the peak of his career rather than the end. Despite my lack of suggestions of who could lead the role, there will be clear transfer plans should McCormack leave - even though some fans get impatient around the lack of media coverage Fulham gain on transfers, there would have been a list of targets drawn up should the talismanic forward depart this summer. (Well, one can hope!)
It is important that Fulham do reinvest the McCormack funds back into the squad should he leave, and this is not just on a replacement striker. An out and out left-back and potentially another central defender should be on the radar too. Although Denis Odoi’s arrival should be the number one option at Left-back, the Belgian has featured on the right side of defence during pre-season too. With doubts over the longevity of Ryan Fredericks due to injury, Odoi may have to play a majority of the season at right-back which would leave our left-back options as Tim Ream or Scott Malone - both which are arguably questionable options.
Some fans may suggest that Ryan Sessegnon could fill that void at left-back, but it must be remembered that he is only 16 years old and his progression must be nurtured to insure he develops in the right way.
I do fear that there won’t be a new striker arriving before the Newcastle United game, which does create an opportunity for young Cauley Woodrow to step up to the plate in this new system.
Despite, Cauley’s progression being halted by the emergence of Moussa Dembele, Cauley’s energy, pace and work ethic has seen the England U21 forward notch a fair few goals in pre-season.
With the likes of Cauley, Floyd Ayite and Sone Aluko on the counter, Fulham could still be a threat. Without a doubt the Newcastle game will be tough, and Fulham will try to implement their high-tempo, possession based tactic that Joka favours but it seems our best chances against the Toon army could be on the counter. With Newcastle looking to set the bar high from match day 1, Fulham’s new look defence will be tested from the first whistle and Fulham’s transition from defence to attack will be on display for everyone to see.
Should Fulham’s new back four stand up to the attacks of Newcastle, Fulham could hit them on the break with the pace of the new-look attack, and if Fulham make sure they take their chances, an early upset could be on the cards.
But, up next is Crystal Palace at Craven Cottage for the final pre-season friendly and it will be a chance for Jovanovic to experiment with a starting eleven that will be the same or similar to the one that starts the Newcastle fixture. With Crystal Palace looking to improve on last season’s disappointing league finish, this friendly will be a key indicator to the level of quality the current squad possess. I truly think that Jovanovic will field his ‘best’ eleven for this fixture, at least for the first half just to allow his chosen eleven to get some team chemistry before the league kickoff on the 5th August.
With the season kick-off approaching ever closer, Fulham will look to rectify the previous two seasons of disappointment. Should the opening day result not yield three points for the Whites, fans must remain optimistic and back the squad throughout the season as anything is possible in the Championship. If Fulham can avoid injury to key players and field a consistent eleven for the upcoming campaign, Fulham fans could have something to proud of once again.
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