You know how much of a Fulham fan by how much you were refreshing the club’s social media account today. Because my word was today nothing short of ridiculous! Just when you thought bringing in over £70 million worth of talent was enough, Tony Kahn and the Fulham board decided to splash the cash just a bit more to satisfy Slavisa Jokanovic’s needs. By the end of the day, five newcomers have joined the club to round off probably the most incredible transfer window in club history.
In short, the club previous transfer fee record was broken three times, a starting XI could be made on transfer signings alone, and Fulham ranked within the top five in the premier league in transfer money spent this summer. To even imagine that the club would pull off such a feat and have such pulling power in European football after being in the wilderness for four years is nothing short of mind-bending! But before we can even catch our breaths and be able to find out if this summer was genuinely a success for Fulham’s long term future, let’s take a look at the five latest signings the club have brought aboard.
Of all the additions to the club, the loan agreement to bring in Sevilla Number 1 Sergio Rico will surely be the most head scratching. There’s no denying Rico brings a ton of pedigree over to Fulham. Before turning 25 in September, he has already made 169 appearances for the La Liga side and was in goal during the club’s two Europa League Titles in 2015 and 2016.
But with regards to form and current standing, Rico is in a very dark place. He saw his starting job lost to David Soria last April and that was followed by Sevilla bringing in Czech Republic Number 1 Tomas Vaclik. While he wasn’t entirely at fault for his old club shipping in a bottom half total of goals against (58, with 54.2 being expected according to Understat) in 2017/18, his 57.6% save percentage will be scrutinized. That said, Rico has always saved over 70% in his previous three campaigns and his long ball passing has always surpassed 36.2% accuracy during his senior career.
This will be discussed further, but Rico’s addition brings assurance to Slavisa Jokanovic that a top flight European goalkeeper is playing at Craven Cottage on Saturdays. The real question will come down to whether or not this upsets the dressing room now that Fabri and last season’s Number 1 Marcus Bettinelli aren’t guaranteed game time.
Next to sign for Fulham was a permanent transfer for one of the more familiar names in the Championship. At 24, Joe Bryan has gone on to establish himself as an elite level left back and one of the more important faces for his boyhood club Bristol City. But with an offer from a Premier League club too good to refuse, Bryan took his chance and is now with Fulham until as late as 2022 with a one-year club option. Yours truly even predicted such an outcome would happen, but to have the club near the River Thames officially bring him to England’s top flight was certainly unexpected.
Among all Championship fullbacks last season, only Millwall’s James Meredith and Preston’s Darnell Fisher had more than Bryan’s 99 successful tackles and only Brentford’s Yoann Barbet and Reading’s Chris Gunter had more accurate long ball passes than Bryan’s 102. Thus, there’s no denying he’s a well-rounded footballer that can fit with Jokanovic’s system. The real question now will be whether his production in the Championship can translate well into the Premier League.
Up front, Fulham then went ahead and signed a 24-year old Argentinian who has really struggled with his production in La Liga over the past three seasons. It seems like forever ago that Vietto was moved from his homeland to Villareal and turned up 12 league goals in after turning 21. But now he’s a small fish in a big pond after moving to Atletico Madrid.
Now Vietto is on his third loan spells in as many seasons and I’m not certain how his arrival will be a complete success. Sure, he could go on and be very productive as Aleksander Mitrovic’s back-up and be able to move on with his footballing career, but what about Rui Fonte and Aboubakar Kamara? And if we are just looking at a bench role for Vietto, is it that certain he will garner that many minutes while everyone else in the club would be wanting them? If it all works out, that is fantastic and I am more than happy to eat on my words! I’m just hard pressed to see how Vietto will truly be able to show his worth.
Next up to sign on the dotted line is a utility defender that is one of the more intriguing prospects in Europe. At 20 years old, and with three Dutch National Team appearances while under Manchester United’s watch, Timothy Fosu-Mensah has the world at his feet. This past season, he was on loan at Crystal Palace and went on to become a solid contributor under Roy Hodgson and helped stave the club from relegation. Now, he is in Fulham’s care and the youngster will be hoping to receive more playing time at Craven Cottage.
Throughout his league career, Fosu-Mensah could be seen playing at center back, right back and in central midfield. But it is out wide where the prospect could be seen at his best. With most of his league minutes coming from his 2017/18 campaign, there is evidence that Fosu-Mensah was required to play a defense first role at Selhurst Park. Now that he will be moved over to Craven Cottage, the question will now be if his skillset can either adapt or be a good fit under Jokanovic’s system. Because as of now, both Ryan Fredericks and Cyrus Christie have proven to be two completely different right backs in comparison to Fosu-Mensah.
Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa
Lastly, Fulham closed the summer transfer window with probably the most intriguing of all the additions. Even if Kevin McDonald wasn’t struggling against top-tier competition in preseason, an apprentice was required. McDonald will be turning 30 this November and has played WAY too many minutes over the past two seasons on a midfield full of players that played WAY too many minutes over the past two seasons. For the exception of Oliver Norwood, Fulham have never had another midfielder that could come in and take playing time away from the stars in need of a breather or injury recovery for the grueling season. Ibrahima Cisse, bluntly, has not shown that he could be capable for that role at this time.
Enter Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, who at 22, has gradually developed into a shoe-in starter in central midfield at Marseille. This past season, he went on to play over 2,000 league minutes while being part of a double pivot with Luis Gustavo in Rudi Garcia’s 4-2-3-1 formation and played a pivotal part in the club’s Europa League journey towards the Cup Final. However, Anguissa’s playing time was only 12th among Marseille players and his radar indicates how raw of a talent he still is. Add in the £27 million price tag, and you wonder if Fulham might have wasted their bank account on him.
That said, his market value on transfermarket is as high as former Tottenham man Nabil Bentaleb and is higher than former Newcastle man Mikel Merino, so the potential and pedigree are there. The question will now be whether Anguissa usurps McDonald and develops into the holding midfielder the club expect him to become this season or if this will be a learning curve as Anguissa gets accustomed to Premier League competition. These are one of the questions that make 2018/19 among the most anticipated in the club’s history.