So Fulham had the opportunity to strengthen their squad for one last push out of Premier League relegation. They were in the hunt for Gary Cahill and Scott Dann to improve the back three Claudio Ranieri wants to employ. They were in the hunt for Divock Origi or Michi Batshauyi before the club signed Ryan Babel. Even at deadline day, they were in the hunt for Bordeaux fullback Youssouf Sabaly and Slavia Prague center back Michael Ngadou-Ngadjui. Both would have been deemed major improvements to what Fulham currently have at their disposal.
Instead, literally on the final hour of deadline day, Fulham went on to sign outcasts from notable football clubs outside of Europe hoping to take advantage of one last opportunity in the big time. First, the club signed defensive midfielder/center back Havard Nordtveit on a six-month loan deal. Then, Lazar Markovic came aboard from Liverpool on a free transfer until the end of the season.
For Nordtveit, he comes from being a bit player for Hoffenheim after being found wanting at West Ham United. The Norway International has only played eight times in the Bundesliga this season and has generated not so great results while out at center back. If anything, it has been a struggle to even get a starting place in Julian Naglesmann’s side; even as they too play a three-at-the-back system. Even back at West Ham, Nordtveit struggled to get ahead of the likes of 33-year-old James Collins, Angelo Ogbonna and 33-year-old Jose Fonte to partner with Winston Reid during that 2016/17 campaign. Back then, the Hammers were one of the worst defensive teams under Slaven Bilic and really could have used a younger defender out there that could get the job done.
Sadly, Nordtveit just isn’t good enough to do so at center back and will give away plenty of fouls in inopportune times along the way. Even worse, he is just like Calum Chambers in that he is much better off as a holding midfielder, assuming all the data stands as the full truth. According to his transfermarket profile, Nordtveit has played 174 career games in that position while he has only played 51 times as a center back. But if that is the case, why should Fulham own two of the same thing?
Is it expected now that Ranieri pushes the ball-playing defender in a double pivot with Chambers? If so, what does that do with Jean Michael Seri and Tom Cairney? Does that also give Fulham a more defensive posture once more; such as a 3-2-3-2 or a 4-2-3-1 with only Cairney or Seri playing in the number 10 role?
Or if we keep this simple, Nordtveit is probably there just to replace Denis Odoi while Alfie Mawson is on the mend for almost the rest of the season. Perhaps that works out because Odoi is only good in the air and not much else while Nordtveit is only good on the ball and not much else. To me, it just feels like such a low grade signing that will just struggle to create any improvement in the team, at best.
As for Lazar Markovic, where on Earth do I begin?! It has been reported that Markovic was suggested by new teammate and fellow Serbian Aleksander Mitrovic to sign with the club. Let’s hope the star man knows how to analyze players better than Tony Kahn or Craig Kline because my goodness does this look like a gamble not worth going after. Even at age 24 and under contract with the league leaders, Markovic just hasn’t been able to put a mark down in Premier League football since arriving as a 20-year old from Benfica. And even when he’s had his opportunities, you wonder what type of player he is besides being a good passer and dribbler. Cool story, sounds like any other wide forward in England these days!
Again, Markovic is 24 years old. This is the time he should be establishing himself by now in terms of where he is in world football. Instead, he seems like a prospect that has gotten dramatically worse as the seasons go by and he essentially has no choice but to take a free contract that only lasts six months. If this opportunity passes him by, don’t be surprised to see him not return to the big five leagues in Europe in quite some time. It has been so bad for Markovic that he hasn’t played for his country since November 2016. If he makes an impact, it will be by usurping Andre Schurrle or Ryan Sessegnon from the matchday squad, which I just don’t see happening at all. I hope I’m proven wrong, but man it just feels like Fulham signed someone that is only there just to make up the numbers and that isn’t good enough at all for their predicament.