Squad Depth – 2010/11 vs 2011/12

A lot of noise has been made regarding Fulham’s perceived squad depth, or lack thereof, both during and after the transfer window.

There can be no doubting that Fulham lost some solid performers, either on free transfer or for a nominal fee, over the summer months. However, I would argue that not only is the current Fulham squad stronger than the one that ended last season, but one of the strongest that I have seen at Fulham. Lets match up the outgoings with the incoming players:

Diomansy Kamara – Bryan Ruiz

I don’t think you can doubt that this is a massive upgrade. Diomansy Kamara may have saved Fulham from relegation, but his time here was incredibly frustrating and his form inconsistant. He never was the 10-15 goal a season striker that Sanchez thought he was brining to the cottage. The verdict is still out on Ruiz, but I would wager that he would not have to do much to have a better record than mr.Kamara.

Zoltan Gera – Pajtim Kasami

Zoltan Gera became a cult figure at Fulham following his heroics in the Europa League. There is no doubt he was like a player born-again playing behind Bobby Zamora in the 4-4-1-1 formation that brought Fulham so much success in Europe. However, in the cold light of day, he was relatively ineffective in the premier league, often shunted out onto the wing. Without his Europa League heroics, I doubt many would have been overly upset at him leaving. In his place we have Pajtim Kasami, a young Swiss footballer. Whilst it would be foolish to call this an immediate upgrade as Kasami has no premier league experience, I really think his addition has made the squad stronger. He has huge upside, and has impressed me in the few games he has played for Fulham this season. A real one to watch.

Kagisho Dikgacoi/Jonathan Greening – Marcel Gecov

We never really got to see much of Dikgacoi during his time at Fulham. Although he impressed at the World Cup last summer,  the fact he saw so little game time would indicate that he was not really premiership standard. Gecov cannot be called an improvement yet, but his age means that he has more chance of having an impact. Touted as a potential replacement for Murphy, he is probably a scratch with Dikgacoi, although if he has a positive impact this season he has to been seen as an improvement.

John Pantsil – Zdenek Grygera

Pantsil was an ever-reliable right back until the arrival of Mark Hughes. Last seasons more attacking mentality left him more exposed than under the Hodgson regime and his confidence fell to pieces along with his performances. In his place arrives Grygera who has had relatively indifferent form for the last few years. Not really an upgrade, but seeing as the way Pantsil deteriorated last season Grygera may be more like for like and having played for clubs such as Ajax and Juventus, certainly adds squad depth.

Carlos Salcido – John Arne Riise

Definitely an upgrade. Salcido had a decent first season for Fulham but is being replaced by a top class left back with premier league experience.

Eddie Johnson – Orlando Sa

I liked Eddie Johnson, but there is not escaping the fact that he really was not up to standard for Fulham. The step up from the MLS to the Premier League was too much for him and he had three very uneventful years at Fulham. On the back of this Sa looks like an upgrade. If he can ably back up Zamora and chip in a few goals he will have been a success. Highly tipped at U21 level, he could be the real deal.

Pascal Zuberbuhler – Csaba Somogyi

Ah, to be a third choice keeper. Both have strange names, both recruited purely for back-up and likely never to see a game. Call this one a scratch.


Overall, Fulham have definitely improved as a squad. Many of these players have not had PL experience but the players they are replacing were mainly benchwarmers and secondteamers. Fulham have got younger and more athletic too, which is a huge bonus.


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Transfer Window Roundup

It has already been done to death on other blogs and messageboards, but  I thought that I would add my two cents.

Bryan Ruiz (Twente, £10.6m)

Fulham’s big signing of the window. A player who has been getting rave reviews for the last few years, and is considered by many Eredivisie fans to be the best player in the league.  10 goals and 12 assists last term and a fabulous 28 goals and 11 assists in the season before make for encouraging reading, even if they were from the open and attack-minded Dutch league.

Ruiz brings some pace and attacking flare that has been sadly missing from Fulham’s 2011/12 campaign, as well as a legitimate goal threat from either out wide or as a striker. It is too early to tell whether Ruiz would enable Fulham to function without Zamora, but it is very easy to get excited when your club signs this kind of player. There are several caveats to his move however – Can he deal with the fast paced and physical nature of the Premier League? Can he put indifferent form from the Gold Cup behind him and be a difference maker in a Fulham team that desperately needs one? Can he shrug off the stigma of other big-signings who have failed to impress at Fulham?

John Arne Riise (Roma, £2.5m)

Fulham finally got their man, only 10 years after they initially were in for him. Riise fills a need at LB and has ample premier league experience. Whilst Salcido was a solid option at the left-back berth last season, Riise should add a bit more attacking flair with better defensive positioning. An early-season injury has derailed a solid start, but the ever impressive Matthew Briggs has filled in admirably, so much so, that by the end of the season it will be interesting to see who is starting at left bak.

Pajtim Kasami (Palermo, £3.5m)

A very exciting attacking no.10 from Italy has been put in the shade somewhat by other signings, especially as he was not brought in to fill an immediate need with Fulham’s blessings in midfield. However, his first few games have been very encouraging, and it is very easy to forget the guy is only 19. I really think he will develop into some player, and will definitely have an impact this season. Kasami could easily become an advanced playmaker in a 4-2-3-1 formation, so watch this space.

Marcel Gecov (Slovan Liberec, £700k)

Snapped up by Fulham after shining at the U21 European Championships, including a man of the match performance shutting down £20m man Jordan Henderson. We are yet to see him get any game time this season, but I have little doubt he will be featuring in some of the early Europa League games and possibly the early Carling Cup and FA Cup games. Jol touted him as a potential replacement for Danny Murhpy, so it will be interesting to see what skillset he brings to the club.

Zdenek Grygera (Juventus, Free)

The last time I saw Grygera was when he came on as a sub against Fulham at Craven Cottage when Juventus were unceremoniously dumped out of the Europa League 4-1. He has had his injury problems in recent years, but seems to be an able right back/centre back and it would not surprise me to see him take Fulham’s RB berth ahead of the unfancied Baird. How long he will keep it is anyone’s guess.

Orlando Sa (Porto, Free)

An intriguing signing. On no-ones radar for the entire transfer window, he suddenly appeared in tandem with Bryan Ruiz on deadline day. What to make of him? Well he is a young Portuguese player, formerly of some promise, who’s career appears to have stalled over the last few years. Sounds like a target man with technique (like Bobby?) style player who could land anywhere from unrealised gem to David Elm. Probably a back-up fro Bobby, he came on a free and if he can perform his role suitably, will be a massive plus.
Csaba Somogyi (Unattached, Free)

Impressed on trial at Ajax whilst Jol was manager, I would be suprised if he gets more than one game in a Fulham shirt.

The Youngsters – Dan Burn, Tom Donegan, Muamer Tankovic

Burn is a highly rated centre back from Darlington. He could be Fulham’s next Chris Smalling, or could be sold down the road. Hopefully he might turn into an English Brede Hangeland. Donegan was snatched from Everton after impressing for the youth team against Fulham. Strong with a good engine and passing range, he could be the answer to the Murphy conundrum, but it is a bit early to know what to expect from him. Tankovic was only unveiled after the transfer window had ‘slammed shut’, and in an odd move for the club who don’t usually parade around youth players, was given much fanfare on the official website. He was supposedly being chased by Chelsea and Arsenal, so his signing is a bit of a coup, although no-one has any idea how good he is.


All in all, a successful transfer window. We got cover up front, signed some exciting attacking players and got younger.

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Life After Murphy

I am well aware that Danny Murphy has been written off consistently throughout his Fulham career, and this is not a call for him to step aside. He is still the conductor of the Fulham orchestra, and a real leader on the pitch.

This is a look at how Fulham can move away from an over-reliance on a 34yr old midfielder who will surely not be around too much longer.


Martin Jol’s start at Fulham has come under criticism from many fans. His use of Aaron Hughes as a right back, his inclusion of Dickson Etuhu over the more mobile and attacking Steven Sidwell and the fact that Fulham are yet to score in the premier league this season have all caused ire on the terraces and internet message boards.

Danny Murphy has also come in for some criticism for some below-par and immobile displays (struggling with a groin problem has not helped his cause here) and opponents appear to be finding it easy to stop Fulham by stopping Murphy. So what is the solution? What if the worst happened and Fulham lost Murphy for the season?

Below is a potential line-up without Murphy:

I think the biggest issue with Fulham is that when Murphy is on the field, others often shirk the responsibility of both possession and creation. Too much is left to Murphy – he initiates the moves, is always the player others look to pass to to start something. Alongside this there is a real lack of movement in midfield as Murphy drops deep and Etuhu is static in his defensive role.

Without Murphy, there are several options in the central midfield roles. I have chosen Etuhu and Baird to partner, mainly for Baird’s range of passing an ability to cover defence. The likelihood is, however, that Sidwell would be in his place in more of a shuttling role linking defence and attack.

In front of the two deep lying midfielders is a combination of Duff, Dembele and Dempsey. Their respective postions are not set in stone but consistent movement would be key (much like against Dnipro). Again Kasami or Davies could easily be added to replace any three of these players. Dembele would be the key player here. He is by far the most comfortable in possession and has an eye for a pass, even if he is sometimes plagued by indecision. He would ideally drop into space between the lines of midfield and defence, taking control of possession and distributing the ball. Watching Kasami play against Dnipro I get the impression he is a classic No.10 and would relish this role, so he could be an alternative to Dembele here.

Duff would remain wide, offering width and combining with either Riise or Kelly, depending on which side he is on.

Whilst Dempsey could play the same role as Dembele, he is a more direct player, and would be better supporting Zamora up front either from the wing or just behind him. We know he can get goals and having him on the receiving end of passes and through balls would be ideal, especially if Zamora is misfiring.

The lynchpin up top would be Zamora. He relishes being ‘the man’ up top and works incredibly hard harrassing defences and bringing others into play. Hopefully come September 1st we will have adequate backup/competition for him so that Fulham still have a focal point in attack if Zamora gets injured.

So that is the run down, two deeper sitting central midfielders one defensive, the other more forward looking (either through passing -Baird – or shuttling runs – Sidwell) and three supporting the lone striker. Fulham have played in a similar fashion for the last few seasons, and this would be a small modification of the system produced under Hodgson and continued under Hughes. More energy in midfield could solve some problems and this line-up should have it in spades.


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Films on Fridges – Pelada

On Saturday night, I headed out to East London for a spot of open air film watching. Courtesy of the wonderfully named ‘Films on Fridges’ (a homage to the now defunct Hackney Fridge mountain, a victim of the olympic site) I enjoyed the delights of a football based documentary ‘Pelada’.

Pelada is the story of two young American’s trip around the world in search of ‘pick-up’ games of football and the people and stories behind them. A truly impressive effort that spanned 25 countries and several years. The two young guides on the journey, Luke and Gwendolyn, are disaffected former college football stars who had failed to make the big time and were struggling to find a direction in life. It may sound a bit phoney, but it really is the opposite, Pelada is a very authentic look at football, why people love it and what it means. You certainly won’t find any glamorous names or big teams involved, it really is a look at football in its most basic form – two goals and a ball.

Highlights from the film include an over 60’s match in Brazil, where Sunday afternoon drinking and socialising are as important as the score, and undercover women’s football in Tehran (an illegal activity).  Both of the two protagonists really develop as the film goes on, changing from success-oriented American students to more humble, appreciative and rounded figures.  Whilst it becomes obvious that football does not have an all conquering ability to bring people together, it does continue to amaze how with little more than a ball and a camera you can make friends and gain an insight into the people and places they visited.

If you want to enjoy a more off the wall football documentary that is about people rather than players, Pelada is well worth a watch.

(Films on Fridges runs until August 13th and shows a variety of films. Well worth a visit for the rarity of open-air cinema in the UK, Tickets £10)



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Hit Refresh…


In a moment of inspiration I have decided to attempt to thow my efforts back into a new blog – how long will it last? No one knows….


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