Plenty of local Fulham supporters would have understandably woken up Thursday feeling dissapointed now that England’s historic World Cup run came to an end. However, they were delivered great news with the club’s first signings of the summer. Jean-Michael Seri and Maxime Le Marchand have arrived from Ligue 1 side Nice OGC on a £30 million combined transfer fee and are hoping to further build their footballing reputations in the Premier League.
But before we discuss these two players, it’s best to talk about the club they came from to better understand why manager Slavisa Jokanovic wants to have these two players come to Fulham. While with “Les Algions” over the past three seasons, both Seri and Le Marchand were a part of the club’s meteoric rise towards the top end of French club football. During that time, Nice finished fourth, third and eighth in the Ligue 1 table, respectively, while guiding them to their first ever Champions League appearance in 2017. This past season, Nice were one round away from the group stages of that competition, but were beaten handly 4-0 on aggregate by Napoli.
But during their three year trek under managers Claude Puel (now at Leicester City) and Lucien Favre (now at Borussia Dortmund), Nice never had a season in which they were below 56% possession. So their style of play is not to dissimilar to what Fulham will hope to bring to the Premier League and both players should be able to not change much of their game as a result.
With that out of the way, let’s go ahead and analyze each player so that we can envision how they will do at Craven Cottage:
This was the one signing that will be talked about for sometime. As a £27 million player according to transfermarket, Seri was getting calls from plenty of the leading clubs in England, with Chelsea, Arsenal, Barcelona and Dortmund being the biggest contenders. But once it was announced that Fulham were leading the way for his signature, it really took everyone following this transfer saga a back. It is a tad uncertain as to what his individual transfer fee is, but one definitive fact is that Seri’s new contract will last him until 2022 with a one-year club option.
As for who Seri is as a player, he is a 18-cap Ivory Coast international who has spent his last six professional seasons in Portugal’s Primera Liga and France’s Ligue 1. During that time, he played for FC Porto’s reserve team, followed by Pacos Ferreira before joining Nice for three seasons.
People will remember ex-Premier League big names Mario Balotelli or Hatem Ben Arfa as the men to create the chain reaction to Nice’s success, but it was the attacking threat of Alessana Plea and the smooth passing of Seri that shouldn’t be forgotten. And that is where the newcomer is hoping to bring to the table to Fulham. Now some people will wonder where Seri will fit if he shares a good chunk of the exact same skillsets as Tom Cairney and if the two can be able to play well together as a result.
That is because Seri can be seen as a better upgrade to Stefan Johansen for those that did not find his season to be as strong as it should have been. Seri did have a down season, but that could go down more towards the gradual exodus of players of players leaving Nice and their poor results in the league table as a result. On the whole, he is a more willing taker of long ball passes and, for a player of such small size and stature, has great balance to shed would be tackles and is not one to be dispossessed quite easily.
Either way, Fulham now have four capable midfielders under contract with two being committed beyond the end of this upcoming season. Both Johansen and Kevin McDonald (though not like-for-like with Seri since KMac plays such an crucial role in defense) might need to be replaced for either younger or more capable players for top flight European football and Seri certainly brings that. No matter what, supporters will be putting him under a microscope to see if this play matches the hype throughout his playing days in Southwest London.
Shout out goes to WhiteCravenFFC for making this video
Maxime Le Marchand
While Seri was a known commodity, Le Marchand has been more of an anomaly. That being said, it’s not like he will not bring anything to the table at Fulham. This past season, the 28-year old was splitting duties playing center back and left back; a situation that was exactly given to Denis Odoi. That said, Le Marchand’s 6’0” frame could be better suited playing at the center of the pitch in the Premier League.
After graduating from Rennes’ academy, Le Marchand started his professional career with famed Ligue 2 side Le Havre. He would play for that club for six years while having 175 appearances in the process. This led to a step up at Nice, where he became widely known as a solid-though-unspectacular defender for a side striving to reach new heights in the club’s history. In the end Le Marchand garnered 80 appearances in his three-year stay and garnered enough respect to a move towards one of the toughest leagues in world football. Whether he is good enough to partner Tim Ream for the full 38-game season is anyone’s guess.
As for him as a fullback, let’s not bother thinking about it. Despite looking better defensively in that position, take it from somebody that has seen Carlos Bocanegra be reduced to fullback duties that it is not ideal. During his entire playing career at Nice, Le Marchand has had a combined 8 completed crosses and 14 key passes, so any notion of him bombing up and down the touchline are just figments of the imagination right there.
Based off of his center back radar, he’s not much of a high-volume defender the likes of which Tomas Kalas was for the exceptions to being strong on intercepting passes and challenging well in the air. Otherwise, he’s a willing ball playing center back that will fit smoothly into the style that Jokanovic will want to play. That being said, his 6.85 average whoscored.com rating only had him 25th among Ligue 1 played over 15 games and mostly featured at center back. Fulham could do worse than signing Le Marchand, but I just felt like the club could have done better at filling that position. His transfer fee and contract length are unknown at this time, but it is quite clear that he is not valued as highly as his Nice-turned-Fulham teammate that will join with him.
On the whole, this is still a great day for Fulham Football Club. They officially have new players coming into the senior squad that still sits at just 18 registered players. That being said, Fulham are still in need of many more signings and they are in the running for plenty of other players in this transfer window. Swedish International fullback Ludwig Augustinsson and former loanee turned legend Aleksander Mitrovic are still the most notable names in the rumor mill so far. That being said, this could spell the end of hoping that Kalas or Matt Targett signing permanent deals for Fulham.
Whether they continue to use the loan system strongly like they did in their Championship days is unknown at this time. However, it will be interesting to see how they will be able to build a sizeable Premier League roster with depth across the board in the long run without running into violations of the Financial Fair Play laws. It has been seen that previously promoted clubs have spent £50-60 million on transfer fees their first season back in the top flight and Fulham have already spent half of it on two players. Here’s to looking forward to seeing how the rest of the summer will turn out.