We’ve already analysed how Martin Jol tinkered with the system successfully to help Fulham earn a point at Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day and lauded the defensive capabilities of the likes of Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey. Danny Murphy might have been overwhelmed as the only true central midfielder in the line up but ending up orchestrating the play from a deeper position and organising the defence expertly.
All the talk surrounding the January transfer window is currently concerning who Jol might bring in up front, with the assumption being that both Bobby Zamora and Andy Johnson are on their way out. Fulham certainly do need to supplement their striking options, but a long-term replacement for Murphy has been a priority for at least the last five transfer windows.
Finding a player who can step into Murphy’s shoes is easier said than done. There aren’t many who could match the skipper’s range of passing let alone his defensive discipline. Roy Hodgson was desperate to bring in Rasmus Elm back in the summer of 2008 – and the Swede admitted it was tough to turn him down after visiting Motspur Park – but despite a mention in a Swedish tabloid’s silly season column, he’s probably progressed beyond our level now. The last month has seen Fulham linked with landing Mark Noble, but regardless of whether West Ham would entertain losing one of their key midfielders in the middle of a promotion push, I wouldn’t place the former England under-21 man in Murphy’s class.
Jol has spoken of Marcel Gecov as a long-term successor to the skipper and, although the Czech youngster has looked impressive during his rare first-team outings, you get the impression that he’s some way from becoming a regular at the moment. That leaves me wondering whether Murphy’s Fulham career could possibility be extended if Jol adopts a similar shape to the one used at Stamford Bridge.
In the same way that Hodgson lessened Murphy’s workload by deploying him as more of a holding midfielder to screen the back four a few years ago, the captain’s legs would be saved should be asked to play more of a quarterback role in front of a more attacking quartet. Murphy’s tackling is significantly underrated and he’d probably find more space to hit those searching passes from further back. It’s only an idea but, with Jol likely to have to trawl the continent for a replacement, it might add a little more longevity to Murphy’s Fulham career.