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2018 Fulham Player Profiles: Denis Odoi

How will the fullback turned center back cope with Premier League football?

Fulham v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

Basic Stats: 41 appearances | 33 starts | 8 substitutions | 2,948 minutes | 2 goals | 0 assists

Economics: £900,000 Transfer Fee | Signed: 2017 | Contract Ends in Summer 2019 plus a 1-year option

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CC Thoughts: In his two seasons with Fulham, Denis Odoi has certainly had an eventful tenure. While being advsertised as a fullback on both the left and the right side of the pitch, the former Lokeren player eventually found his way at center back despite not being all that tall. But after losing his spot in the starting XI to Ryan Fredericks, Scott Malone and Ryan Sessegnon last season, Odoi was always willing to do whatever it took to help the club win and, boy, did he do it with flying colors.

That’s not to say that Odoi didn’t do it without plenty of hardship along the way. He was always known as being a defense-first fullback that didn’t provide that much mobility in the position when he arrived at Craven Cottage. However, he was considered a much safer option for Fulham if they were to play teams that knew a thing or two about counter-attacking, so it’s not like he lacked any set of skills. It just needed to be honed in an area of the pitch that would best suit him and Fulham’s needs.

Enter him playing center back and his inclusion into the position when coming on as a substitute at Reading after Tomas Kalas’ early red card. Afterwards, he put in another stellar performance starting in the same position at Leeds United. Odoi went on to start at Fullback 10 times this campaign, but it was his remaining 21 times at center back where he really made his mark.

That doesn’t mean that he had some trials and tribulations in his new-found position. Odoi would end up picking up two terrible red cards (the first was at Brentford while the second was against Aston Villa in the playoff final) that really could have costed Fulham promotion. But otherwise, Odoi’s mobility during his time as a fullback really came in handy while partnering with Tim Ream to finish off the league campaign. His performance in the second leg against Derby County will stick into the minds of supporters everywhere thanks to his second half goal that put Fulham ahead in the two-legged tie for good. And even after his red card at Wembley, it’s as if everyone at the stadium forgot that Fulham were playing with ten men as the rest of Odoi’s teammates took their defensive performance up another gear to punch their ticket to the Premier League.

Which leads us to many things. First of all, despite Odoi’s heroics, was he really that much of an upgrade to Tomas Kalas at center back and did he simply ride the wave once a few tweaks to the starting XI were implemented (Marcus Bettinelli’s addition being among the biggest of those tweaks)? Or was he able to take advantage of the opportunities that Slavisa Jokanovic gave him after a poor run of form by Kalas and no other quality center back options behind him?

Like the rest of his teammates, Odoi will have to prove himself once more now that he will be playing in the top flight of English football. But like the rest of his teammates, Odoi has seen his fair share of adversity and he is willing to go through another round of adversity if that’s what it takes.

Key Stat: 2.96 aerial duels won per 90 minutes. Despite only being 5’10”, Odoi was able to use his athleticism to claim plenty of headers this campaign. In the end, his success rate in the air is only bettered by two taller and more imposing teammates: Tomas Kalas (3.46 per 90 minutes) and Aleksander Mitrovic (4.41 per 90 minutes).

Your thoughts: So what say you. Is Denis Odoi a Premier League caliber center back after his performances this past season? Or at age 30, this is the most we can get out of the Belgian and it is time for either Maxime Le Marchand or another addition to the squad to take his place? Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts in the comments below.