As the calendar turns into August, head coach Slavisa Jokanovic hopes to have the Fulham squad at his most ideal level of depth and talent. While veteran players are being scouted upon from across the globe by Fulham’s brain trust, the current crop that did not get as many minutes of play wonder if they even have a role for the football club anymore.
Enter Lass Vigen Christensen and Cauley Woodrow. It was more than a year ago that I profiled these two players and wondered if they were to have a future at the club. It seems like no matter what, these two will forever be joined at the hip when it comes to their footballing careers at Craven Cottage. Both made their professional debuts in Fulham’s final season as a Premier League club. Both were born in 1994 and both have come from the club’s improving reputation of an academy. To put the cherry on top, both played at this summer’s Under-21 European Championships. While Woodrow played just two minutes for England, “LVC” grew his stature as one of the most decorated Under-21 footballer’s in Denmark’s history. While his side did not make it out of the group stage, Christensen played 237 minutes of tournament play while captaining his country.
Along with that, the two had to be counted upon by Kit Symons maybe too early than the average young footballer in the 2014/15 season. That was when Fulham was a club in absolute crisis; seeing their best players from Premier League seasons past leave with only bare bones of the squad remaining and still in the middle of a transformation from one owner to another. In that campaign, LVC played 2,051 minutes of Championship football, mainly playing on the left side of Fulham’s 4-4-2 diamond midfield, while Woodrow would play 1,080 league minutes as a secondary striker to Ross McCormack whenever he was on the pitch.
After finishing that season third on the club behind McCormack and Hugo Rodallega in scoring contribution (5 goals, 7 assists) and third behind McCormack and Bryan Ruiz in chances created (41), Christensen clearly showed the highest of potential between the two. If it weren’t for persistent hamstring injuries that began that December, you have to wonder how many more thrills he could have brought to such a torturous season. Just look at the Dane’s radar for that season!
To put things in perspective. This is basically Stefan Johansen’s radar from this past campaign but less of a passer, yet more able to be a better defender and dribbler.
As for Woodrow, his added experience of professional football was a rough one. Despite putting up an impressive 3.25 shots per 90 minutes, he was only able to put 28.2% of those shots on target. Add his 5.1% goal conversion rate into the equation and you only get 0.17 non-penalty goals per 90 minutes. Woodrow was not a slouch at all. He just wasn’t efficient enough to be a proven striker at Championship level. Still, both players were not even 20 years old when that 2014/15 season started, but both looked like ones to count on for the future.
However, Fulham finished 19th in their first season back in England’s second tier. The fans demanded a better squad and a lack of excuses now that they know what to expect from a 46-game campaign. As a result, rather than continue to give Woodrow and LVC further development, their amount of opportunities to impress in club football came to a screeching halt.
For starts, Fulham’s transition from Kit Symons to Slavisa Jokanovic saw Christensen change so many positions, it will make your head spin. After playing the 4-4-2 diamond most of the 2014/15 season, Symons transitioned to a more traditional 4-4-2 formation despite little to no wide midfielders picked up in any transfer window (sorry Larnell Cole!). Then, Jokanovic overturned the entire squad to fit his go-for-broke attacking style of a 4-2-3-1 formation or 4-3-3 brand with a false nine up front.
None of those formations suited LVC at all unless he were to play more in a centralized number 10 role. Unfortunately, there’s some random person named Tom Cairney that just so happens to be starting there and it looks like he’s not giving up his spot anytime while he’s in West London. That forced Christensen to play out wide in the 2015/16 campaign where he just seemed constantly pinned out on the flank not knowing what to do with the ball once he was inches from between the penalty area and the corner flag. This previous season, he was either playing wide in the attacking midfield three or even playing a holding midfield role as he was doing for Fulham’s PL2 side and even with Denmark’s under-21 squad. That is why a loan move to Burton Albion was essential for Christensen in hopes that his career can be put back on track. Overall, the results have been far from suitable.
As for Woodrow, while his per 90 minutes data improved dramatically as he has gotten older, his playing time at Fulham has plummeted to non-existence. After those 1,080 Championship minutes in 2013/14, that number has dropped to 292 in 2014/15 to 198 this past campaign. While Chirstensen’s problem had to do with tactics and his long term fit with the club, playing striker is a much simpler matter. Just do the best you can with the ball at your feet and do the most you can to directly guide your club in attacking output. With the specs of playing time he has had, Woodrow actually has done that, but that is considering that McCormack, Rodallega, Moussa Dembele, Chris Martin, Neeskans Kebano and even Cyriac were ahead of him on the club’s depth chart. Like LVC, Woodrow also joined Burton Albion on loan and was able to provide value for the club.
His scoring contribution of five goals and two assists were only bettered by Lloyd Dyer and Jackson Irvine. Considering how Woodrow only played 872 minutes playing for “The Brewers”, that is a remarkable tally. While his shot rate has continued to be a high rate of 3.89 per 90 minutes, his conversion rate has now doubled to an almost league average rate of 11.4%. That lead to his goal scoring to increase to a much more respectable 0.44 non-penalty goals per 90 minutes.
Fast forward to right now and Lasse Vigen Christensen is now hoping to remake himself in his native Denmark with Brondby IF. Meanwhile, Woodrow is the by-default starting central forward for the club, but that is without the rumors that Diego Rolan and/or Cameron Jerome might sign before the season starts. Considering how Oliver Norwood and Ibrahima Cisse have come to the club as cover for Fulham’s midfield, you would think the theme for Jokanovic’s squad this season would be to build the squad with as much depth as possible. This is all for the sake of keeping the starting XI with the demands of high performances and delivering enough victories to secure promotion back to the Premier League.
Even if he is not starting every week, Woodrow proved last season that he has what it takes to become a regular member of Fulham’s squad rotation. Considering that injuries are bound to happen, envisioning the now 23-year old with 500-1,000 minutes in league play for a side looking for promotion is not the most far-fetched idea in the world. As one once-rising prospect leaves the club, it’s only a matter of time to see if another is set to take the same course of action or stay and prove that his future can become the present.