It has been announced today that record signing, Ross McCormack has completed his move to Aston Villa for a fee of £12m.
Although, some fans will be stunned to see the talismanic forward leave the club, there are still many reasons to be optimistic about the upcoming season.
There is no doubting the ability that Ross McCormack possesses, but having Ross in the starting eleven limits your options in terms of formations/systems. Despite Ross being a lethal weapon upfront in this division, Ross strives off having a strike partner.
Ross's natural game is to play more as a number 10 than an out and out number nine. So he's always looked to drop a bit deeper and play in between the lines, and its this type of football that allows him to rack up the assists all year round. But, as it has been proven by many different managers, asking Ross to play in the lone forward role simply does not work. With Ross looking to drop deep to pick the ball up, having him as your one selected forward, in fact reduces your output. When this was tried by any of the managers over the last 2 seasons, Ross would get the ball far too deep and then wouldn't have anything in front him to create, just a brick wall of opponents staring him down either forcing the ball to go back again or take a speculative shot from distance.
What will be interesting about McCormack's departure is his level of fitness at his new club. Considering the player has been 'injured' or 'ill' throughout pre-season, his start to the season will be worth keeping an eye on. In reality, I'd expect him to take a few weeks to do a full 90 minutes and hit the ground running, but if he starts Villa's first game of the season, it'll be clear to see how 'unfit' he really is. I do wish Ross all the best with his move, as his goals and assists were a big part of our two seasons in the Championship - but it's time for Fulham & McCormack to move on, and I believe we got the better deal.
With the departure of McCormack, the goal burden is now shared across the team rather than on one or two players which has been the case in previous years. With Slavisa Jokanovic looking to implement a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 system this season, the team finally possesses much needed pace and width to stretch teams. Over the past two seasons, our football has been far too patient and has lacked any tempo to break away and press teams onto the back foot. With the arrivals of Floyd Ayite & Sone Aluko, Fulham can finally boast an attack which is full of energy and speed. Although there are rumours Fulham will sign a new striker to lead the line, it could be a big season for Cauley Woodrow. With the England U21 striker full of passion and desire to succeed, the hard-working forward could prove to be the new leading starlet at the club following the exit of Moussa Dembele to Celtic.
But, just because we have lost the striking partnership of last year, it does not mean we have to directly replace them both. With Fulham signing Tomas Kalas, Michael Madl & Denis Odoi this summer, the need to score 3 or 4 goals in order to secure three points should be greatly reduced. If Jokanovic's new signings and system adds more clean sheets this season, Fulham would only have to score just the once to win - something I think many Fulham fans would love to see. Hopefully, the days of having to win 4-3 for the points are over.
To conclude, tomorrow's game against Newcastle will be the toughest fixture we will have this season. With Newcastle boasting the best squad and most qualified manager in the division, its no surprise they are favourites to win the title next May. If I was offered a draw before the game, I would take it - but even if we don't take any points from the game tomorrow, we still have time in the window to bring in a few new faces to have a strong season.
There's no doubting that the McCormack money will be reinvested into the squad with deals reportedly close for Rayo midfielder, Jozabed and Murcia's Eddy Silvestre. There is also talk that Fulham have offered €5m for Steve Mounie of Montpeiller, but with the striker valued closer to €7.5m a deal doesn't seem to be agreed anytime soon.
My column will be in the Newcastle match-day programme tomorrow night, so keep an eye out for it!
The next one will be for the Birmingham home game in September.
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