As the summer draws to a close, Fulham can finally focus on matters on the pitch, rather than the rumour mill that forever spins during the summer months.
Upon reflection, it’s been a successful summer for the club and despite the Twitter rumours climaxing this year, I think the business by the board has been top class.
Following the successes of last season, it was paramount to keep the foundation in place, and to build upon it this year. Therefore, signing Ryan Sessegnon, Tom Cairney and Marcus Bettinelli to new deals and bringing Tomas Kalas and Lucas Piazon back to the club, the spine of the side remained intact. Pricing the likes of Brighton and Nottingham Forest out of the market for Kevin McDonald also lowered any threat of losing the key trio in the centre of the park – the engine to our success last season.
By doing this, the club have managed to keep the star players together ahead of the upcoming campaign, despite losing Scott Malone & Sone Aluko in this window. Even though, Malone and Aluko departed this summer, the club have achieved a tremendous amount of money for the players – especially the £7.5m for Aluko. Although I was a big fan of Sone, £7.5m is crazy money for his services, and while he may be a gent off the pitch, and a fairly decent Championship player, he wasn’t clinical enough in the final third for that sort of money. Not to mention, that both players were signed on a free transfer last year, so over £10m in sales from them two alone, nearly funded our entire summer spend. Not bad at all!
In fact, if you take the fees for Lasse, Burgess, Jozabed, Adeniran and Stearman too, Fulham probably broke even or marginally made a profit on this summer’s dealings, which is outstanding considering our squad looks stronger in depth this year. Being able to demand the fees that we did for the departures, has been a relief as a Fulham fan, as time after time again I’ve felt we’ve rarely let a player go for an acceptable fee in the past, so seeing the board standing firm other valuations is a relief, and steers us away from another FFP embargo.
Even though, our best signings this summer were contracts for TC and Sess, it must also be noted that the board cancelled a deal to allow Denis Odoi leave the club in the early days of the window, and that’s proved to be a master-stroke. Despite, a return to Belgium on the cards for Odoi, Fulham quickly pulled out of a deal with Genk, and Odoi has since gone from strength to strength, and now providing Jokanovic with another option in the heart of defence. While, some fans may have wanted another centre back to sign this summer, the emergence of Odoi as cover for right-back and centre back, fills any void we may be missing, and with Ream and Kalas forming a strong partnership, I’m not as worried as some others about our options. Lastly, Marcelo Djalo was arguably Man of the Match for his appearance in the cup game against Wycombe, so once he settles I’m sure he will be able to step up when called upon.
There were calls for the board to make a ‘marquee signing’ in the last few days of the window, but I don’t necessarily think we needed much more in the final few days of the window. While there was talk of £15m move for Dwight Gayle, I couldn’t have faith in that rumour especially as he is approaching 28 years of age. Although, Sky Sports ran the story, many other outlets reported that the club had denied any bid or interest – and with Matt Smith denying the rumours on the radio about a TC and Gayle swap deal, I doubt there was much to it anyway.
Although Gayle would have provided us with another option upfront, I don’t think we needed him in all honesty. Fifteen million would have been a risk as he would have to have another twenty goal season for the club to get any profit the following summer should he be sold if we got promoted and I can’t see anyone offering close to £20m for him, now or in 18 months time. Plus, we had already spent £15m on two strikers this summer in Rui Fonte, and Aboubakar Kamara. While, Fonte and Kamara provide two different options up front, signing Yohan Mollo and Jordan Graham gives us further options out wide, allowing Ayite and Kebano to play more centrally when required without weakening our wide options, so maybe a striker wasn’t needed after all.
There were Twitter rumours of a move for Fernando Forestieri and Jota, but both of those were quickly crushed and proved to be non-starters – and would we have really needed them for rumoured fees? It would have been close to 20m to sign both, and considering our squad depth this season, I think it’s best to save any left-over funds for January to reinvest should we need to spend mid-season to cover any injuries we may pick up.
As for Deadline Day signings, Graham and Mollo, I’m quietly excited about their arrivals if I’m honest. Graham is incredibly highly rated by Wolves fans, and stats-wise, is an impressive performer at Championship level. While, Mollo is a bizarre character to say the least. Arguably tipped for big things during his time at Nancy and early days at Saint-Etienne, but has struggled to settle at any club since. Only 28, and on a deal which could see him here for the next two years, his versatility to play on either side of midfield, will provide Jokanovic with more options for the upcoming season. A player with a lot to prove and a chance to rejuvenate his career, and I hope he makes the most of his time at the club.
Finally, Fulham picked up a massive three points against Ipswich who had started the season strongly last weekend, and with Tom Cairney returning back to full fitness, I don’t see why Fulham can’t push for maximum points from their next five games. Yes, that’s optimistic and very ambitious considering our slow start, but when we’re at full strength, we are arguably the best team in this division; we proved that last season by beating Huddersfield 9-1 over the course of two games, and beating Newcastle home and away.
Also, in the next 5-6 weeks, we should see Rafa Soares make his debut for the club, which will allow Ryan Sessegnon to play further forward, like he did last season with Malone. This will prove to be vital for Jokanovic and the club this season, as it will provide Sessegnon with the platform to play in his preferred position, and should he notch up a few goals this term, don’t be surprised if a few Premier League clubs look to spend £40m or more on his talent in January or next summer. By signing Rafa Soares to play left-back, and potentially allowing Sess more time further forward to shine, Sess’ development could bankroll our transfer window next summer, and that’s incredibly important – regardless of where we finish next season.
To conclude, I’m really pleased with the business this summer and it’s another successful summer under this stat-dependent system, and while it’s had its critics, the standard of player that has been signed under its implementation has been much higher than any one signed by Felix Magath or Kit Symons since we’ve been in this division – so onwards and upwards!
Let’s get behind the club, and give it everything this season – COME ON YOU WHITES!
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