Fulham have signed two players (and only one if you don’t count Michael Madl). They may be looking to bring in as many as 10 total. However, even with that many additions, the players already here are going to have to contribute if Fulham have any chance of success this season.
Fulham’s goalkeeping situation really depends on how you feel about Marcus Bettinelli. If you think he’s capable of being the first team goalkeeper on a top six side, you don’t need an upgrade. You give him the job. Jesse Joronen is probably more than capable of being the backup. However, it might make sense to loan him out. In that case, another keeper would be necessary.
I really don’t like talking about the defense. Given their performance, why would I? Fulham have eight defenders under contract, but we only expect six of them back. How do you construct a defense with Jazz Richards, Richard Stearman, Ryan Fredericks, Tim Ream, Michael Madl, and Jack Grimmer? There’s only one left back, and he’s not really a left back. Your best centerback pairing is probably Ream and Madl, but then who’s on the left? Is Jack Grimmer a fullback or a centerback and is he ready to play at this level? Is Ryan Sessegnon ready to be a pro? If you were curious as to why Fulham might want eight more players, you are starting to see the answer.
If Fulham have strength anywhere, it’s probably here. Of course, that can change a lot depending the formation Fulham play. In the center you have Scott Parker, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Lasse Vigen Christensen, and Sakari Mattila. While that’s not great, I don’t think you can call it awful either. If you’re playing with two central midfielders, you can make quite a few good pairings from that group. The big issue is width. Tom Cairney can play wide, but he’s best used in the middle. George Williams can be a winger, but he’s really a forward. Sean Kavanagh is more of a wingback than a midfielder, and is about your only option on the left. After that it gets dicey. Larnell Cole is still around (remember him) So while the midfield may have less holes to fill than the defense, the holes are still there.
At least we have Ross McCormack, for now. After that, I’m not sure. Cauley Woodrow is there, and has played well enough when given a chance. The new signing Floyd Ayite can play as wide attacker or a withdrawn forward. George Williams is more of a forward than a midfielder, and Matt Smith is still on the roster.
As currently constructed, I really only see two ways this team can play. The team is either going to set up in a 3-5-2, or they’re going to play some variation of a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3. There are pluses and minuses to each. Let’s take a moment to look at each of them.
This lineup isn’t bad, but I don’t expect it to challenge for promotion. I’m fine with Madl and Ream playing on each side of the back three, but Stearman in the middle makes my stomach churn. Sean Kavanagh as the left wing back is already a weak link, but who else can do it and is there a backup? The central midfield is ok. Parker isn’t a 90 minute player, so there will be a lot of rotation with Christensen and Tunnicliffe pairing there quite often. As it stands now, Mattila will also have to factor in unless there are more signings. The attacking mid position is probably the only strength in the squad. Cairney is nominally the starter, but Williams and Ayite can step right in. Even McCormack can play that position in more attacking lineups. At forward, there are a lot of options, but I’d expect Woodrow and McCormack to be the main pairing.
Is this lineup better? I’m not sure. The back four would be a lot stronger if Ream could play in the center and there was a real left back, I’d feel a lot better. The central midfield pair has all the strengths and weaknesses from the 3-5-2. Ayite and Williams as wide attackers aren’t bad, but there’s literally no depth behind them. The attacking band of three basically starts all three of the guys who can fill those spots. I’m also not sure that Ross McCormack is the best option to play up top alone.
We set out to look at the current squad, and it should be obvious to everyone there are holes all over. In the next part of our plan, we’ll be looking at how many signings we need, where we need depth, and where we need starters.