With pre-season well underway, Kit Symons and the players have begun quickly and efficiently in order to reap the rewards of an early start, settling back into the rhythm as soon as possible. How will Fulham shape up going into new season? Hopefully this article will discuss that as well as having a look at what is still required from the transfer window with each system suggested.
Fulham have sent signals of intent with their early summer business, sealing a double deal by bringing in Rotherham’s Ben Pringle and Bolton’s Andy Lonergan, confirming the free transfers together. The club’s third summer signing was Blackburn’s influential creative midfielder Tom Cairney for a reported £3m, days later we confirmed the permanent transfer of Welsh right back Ashley ‘Jazz’ Richards to the football club for a low-cost £500,000. In our four early transfers, we’d added a senior left midfielder, a strong back up goalkeeper, a talented hub of our new look midfield and a ‘senior’ right back with substantial experience including two promotions, Premier League football and the international stage.
Before discussing how these players will fit into the football club, I feel it best to discuss the ‘Kit Symons style’ if there is such a thing. As an avid follower of youth football, and a fairly regular watcher of Kit’s under-21, you could call me somewhat of a specialist on the Symons style. Though he was able to pick from a talented group of players, Symons had the under 21s playing some lovely, dominant football in systems varying between a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3, utilising the full width of the pitch in both systems. The former saw play flow through the elegant Muamer Tankovic positioned in behind Cauley Woodrow, with a pivot containing the dependable Ronny Minkwitz that allowed Lasse Vigen Christensen to have the shackles off and support attack. Once in charge of the first team, we saw Kit Symons’ initial impact on a dejected group of players, bringing Bryan Ruiz back into the mix and displaying fluid football that brought the best out of Ross McCormack, Hugo Rodallega and rookie Lasse Vigen Christensen. We’ve frequently heard Kit Symons talk about “silky soccer” and if you hadn’t seen his under-21 group play, it’d be understandable for you to dismiss the potential of his coaching abilities, but he’s got previous when flaunting his style onto a football team. You may doubt his capability, but if he’s going to fail, he’s going to fail with good intentions of making us play the ‘Fulham way.’
The first way I can see us shaping up next season is in a Barcelona style 4-3-3, with a holding midfielder in front of the back four, two central midfielders further ahead of him, two wide touchline-hugging wingers and a lone striker. With Fulham pushing a move for Wolves midfielder Kevin McDonald, I could see him sitting at the base of midfield with Tom Cairney and Lasse Vigen Christensen being allowed the freedom to affect the game further up the field and to support lone striker, Ross McCormack, although, admittedly, I have reservations about McCormack leading the line on his own. On the left hand side, we come to Ben Pringle, who you’d expect to at least start the season as our first choice option on the left, though I will be interested in watching George Williams challenge with Pringle with another style to offer. We lack out-and-out wide right options, and that’s including Patrick Roberts, dubious future and all. I don’t want this piece to turn into a shortlist of players that we need to sign, especially those we’ve not even been linked with but I stray against that for just one; the perfect right-winger for us, in my opinion, would be Michail Antonio of Nottingham Forest.A pricy option, but in my theoretical team he’d be a necessity, giving our side another dimension with direct pace and power to compliment the technical qualities around the pitch elsewhere. The defence, as we know, still has some work to be done and the same applies for each system really, now that Ashley Richards is in we are looking for the centre back and left back pieces to finish the Fulham jigsaw. Who we’ll bring in to fill these positions is a bit of a mystery to me, we’ve been linked with centre backs Richard Stearman, Lewis Dunk, Tom Lees and James Tarkowski whilst left back has been a lesser publicly rumoured position, Joe Bennett is under the radar according to the Mirror and you’ve got to think that Fulham are still keeping their options on a move for loanee James Husband.
Moving on from transfer talk, we could also see us attempt more of a structured 4-2-3-1 where player questions become a little confusing. Tom Cairney for example, could play in the pivot, behind the striker or wide right; Lasse Vigen Christensen can play deep or on the right, Ross McCormack could play up top or behind a striker and that’s just off of the top of my head! The potential signing of Kevin McDonald would make him the constant in two deeper central midfielders and the most likely would see Lasse Vigen Christensen beside him with Tom Cairney behind Ross McCormack. Would we then lack a vertical threat? I think so; I also believe that the prior 4-3-3 would offer more fluidity and flow moving the ball through the fifths of the pitch. Again, I’d say we’d still need to sign right-sided winger and the two defenders mentioned previously, making it clear that no matter what we wanted to do, there’s still the four signings we’d have to make to give us quality all over the pitch.
Before rounding up this piece, I wanted to consider an “out of the box” option for Fulham in the coming year and that being a 3-5-2. We have three central defenders, two wingbacks, two central midfielders and then an attacking midfielder behind two strikers. Ashley Richards showed his qualities in a wing back role for Wales against Belgium, and it would be an intriguing experiment to see Ben Pringle in a wing back role, utilising his energy and technical abilities to be a possible asset in that role. Again, the midfield has Kevin McDonald and Lasse Vigen Christensen sitting behind Tom Cairney who occupies a position supporting two strikers in Ross McCormack, and in this event, a new signing. Jack Grimmer would make an excellent right sided centre back in this kind of system, a centre back at youth level with physical attributes to cope being pulled out wide if necessary. Dan Burn could be utilised in as the ‘central centre back’ role, with one of our new centre backs sitting in the left position. This last system is completely theoretical and I don’t expect to see it at any point next season, but hey! Whilst I’m here, I might as well be a little creative?
As you’ve read, just a few ideas of how we’re shaping up and should hopefully clarify some issues we still need to cover in the transfer window, but once the players are in, its down to Kit and the coaching staff to display the silky soccer our Welsh manager frequently speaks of, and something he’s bound to have picked up from the esteemed Jean Tigana, whom he played under for eighteen months at the tail end of his career.
I thank you for reading through this; I hope you’ve enjoyed it, it’s been a while since I’ve donned my writers cap, in my summer break it’s normal that my brain switches off completely! I’m feeling positive about the coming season, and that will only heighten as we see more quality join and watch the teams plan and direction develop over the pre-season matches.