Oh boy, this is going to be a big one…
The transfer window is closed, the recruitment job (for now) is done and the business on the pitch can really start. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side has been assembled and not a single player can arrive from another club until January. Although free agents can still join, this post will look to cover every transfer dealing done by Fulham this summer as well as a depth chart by the end as we get into the marathon of the Championship.
Going in position order, Brentford’s David Button became the senior keeper to replace Wolverhampton bound Andy Lonergan to compete with Marcus Bettinelli for the number one jersey. The 27-year-old Englishman came to Fulham for an alleged £2m fee and has started well – commanding his penalty box and although his distribution has been sketchy, Button holds 3rd place in the division for accurate short passes made for a goalkeeper this season; even holding a 79% passing accuracy in the home game against Cardiff.
Our first official signing of the window saw the loan move of Michael Madl made permanent for a purported fee of £1.2m. The cool, calm and collected Austrian immediately showcased his ability in his loan spell and his permanent arrival was the perfect start to the window. The second of five defensive influxes was in the shape of likeable Belgian Denis Odoi; athletic, composed and supportive displays on top of a forever memorable piece of skill against Newcastle has seen him etched into Fulham hearts already. The Belgian was rumoured to cost around £850k and early signs suggest that he’ll be a bargain at that price. Soon after, Scott Malone joined us from Cardiff as Jazz Richards went the other way in a swap deal; the rangy former Millwall left back has impressed displaying an eagerness to support attacks coupled with a relative comfort in defensive situations. Although obviously not the perfect footballer, Malone is a full back that suits the managers’ style and that has shown in his primitive time at Fulham gaining a Man of the Match award in a game against Premier League Middlesbrough, competing for game time with 16-year-old Ryan Sessegnon.
Our fourth overall signing of the summer came as a surprise in the shape of Chelsea’ Tomas Kalas on loan, an non-speculated out-of-nowhere announcement of the 23 year old Czech international and two time Middlesbrough loanee was well received by the majority at Fulham, with the rest perhaps won over by his early performances developing a unruffled partnership with Michael Madl – and Kalas displaying a strong ability in the air for a central defender not much bigger than 6ft. Kalas is the picture of a modern centre back with his ability to bring the ball out from the back; only Michael Madl and Tom Cairney have better passing percentages than Kalas of Fulham players to have started all 5 league games. Our final defensive signing of the summer came in the shape of Icelandic warrior Ragnar Sigurdsson – sinker of England’s European Championship campaign – with his £4m fee also making him Fulham’s most expensive signing of the summer. Yet to make his debut, Sigurdsson had built a reputation for reliability in Europe winning trophies in Sweden with IFK Goteborg, in Denmark with Copenhagen and finishing fourth in Sweden with Krasnodar. One of two Fulham imports leaving the Europa League for Fulham in the second division, Sigurdsson played the whole game for Krasnodar as the Russian side went to Goodison Park in the 2014-15 edition of the trophy grinded out a 1-0 win, their only win of the group stages after 3 draws.
After failing to secure the transfer last summer, Fulham finally got their man this; in the shape of Kevin McDonald. The Scottish deep-lying playmaker finally got his move to the football club in July and has already captured Fulham hearts. His excellent range of passing, composure in possession in tight spaces, expert level of positional awareness and ability to the win back the ball has seen him early on become a lynchpin of the Fulham midfield as we look to circulate possession on top of protecting a previously fragile back four. A £1.2m man, McDonald has found his groove and will be a hugely important part of Fulham’s success this season. The core of the midfield was finalised with the addition of Celtic’s Stefan Johansen; touted early in the transfer window, it appeared that Fulham had begun to look at other targets but returned to Glasgow to make the Norwegian international the final permanent transfer of the summer. A three time Scottish Premier League winner, a former Norwegian Player of the Year and a former Scotland Players’ Player of the year and member of the 2014-15 SPL Team of the Year, Johansen left Celtic with a year to go on his contract for a crisp £2m. A hard worker, Johansen also possesses a wand of a left foot with an eye for the creative pass seeing him regular showcase a strong assist number by the end of the season. A bundle of energy, Johansen can keep up his work rate for 90 minutes, working as the legs for McDonald as the Scot sits more in midfield. I’m sure these two will quickly become the first choice partnership in central midfield, complimenting each other tremendously as we chase promotion to the Premier League.
The change of system from Slavisa Jokanovic came clear early on in pre-season; a switch to a 4231 with Sone Aluko, a free transfer from Hull, taking up a role as more of a second striker than an attacking midfielder – a role that lets him support the striker and roam. He’s shown on many an occasion already this season that if you let him turn and run at you, he’ll fly past – you get to tight? He’ll knock the ball past you and go around you that way. Aluko’s proved himself to be a talented footballer in this division; raising questions of just why he didn’t get much game time at Hull. The addition of Aluko’s pace was improved upon with the arrival of sub £2m man Floyd Ayite from France. The Togo International immediately looked at home on the left for Fulham with his blistering speed being accompanied welcomingly by his work rate in helping out his full back defensively. Our strength in depth was highlighted when Ayite missed the game at Blackburn but we’ll get into the depth soon enough. As the sole pure winger at the football club, Ayite’s role within the squad becomes even more important with his direct running and all round wing play.
The depth for the three positions behind the striker was the main focus of August with three of the six signings that month covering those positions. The first of which was Spaniard Jozabed who arrived from Rayo Vallecano after Fulham triggered his €4m release clause. Arriving as the highest scoring midfielder in La Liga last season, Jozabed drew interest from Liga clubs but it was Fulham that secured his signature in although his one main cameo came in the Capital One Cup, he showcased a lovely technical ability. As he gets fitter, we should see more of the first Spaniard in Fulham’s history as he arrived without any form of pre-season. Also joining the Fulham ranks was Congolese attacking midfielder, Neeskens Kebano, who arrived from Genk for £3.8m. Making his debut in the win against Blackburn, Kebano was unlucky not to pick up the Man of the Match award after being involved from the start following just one training session. The exciting and explosive midfielder looked an absolute livewire on his debut for Fulham and as the second to leave Europa League football for England and the second division, his pedigree is enough to be excited by. The last attacking midfielder to join the club was another on loan from Chelsea in Lucas Piazon. The exciting Brazilian (another nationality first) spent last year at Reading and should provide nice depth for the football club with his capability to play left, right or behind the striker.
The final addition for Fulham of the transfer window was minutes before it “slammed shut,” Fulham’s search for a striker to replace the goals of Ross McCormack and Moussa Dembele came in the shape of Derby’s Chris Martin. The physical presence and linkman arrived initially on loan with an option to make permanent, and the deal in theory makes perfect sense for Fulham. Experienced in leading the line, Martin at times was left isolated at Derby last season, but with Fulham’s 4231 and getting players around the striker, Martin should see increased service, more chances and more time on the ball. With extra support from second striker Aluko and build up play featuring crosses (99 attempted in 5 matches according to WhoScored statistics) from the wide positions – Martin’s history suggests he’ll gobble up quality service. Martin possesses the ability to hold and play reminiscent of a Bobby Zamora; acting as the linkman for the entire attack before getting into the box and holding a highlight reel of dominant headers and poachers finishes. The glue of the attack, Martin was the perfect way to round up the transfer window as undefeated Fulham look to be promoted in their third season in the Championship.
So with the transfer window well and truly rounded up, it seems apt to create a depth chart for the season ahead. Using Slavisa’s 4231, the below image should highlight just how strong we are looking this season with all of the different options at Jokanovic’s disposal… I’m looking forward to this season as it really gets started. “I have no time to dream.” Well Slavisa, we all are dreaming and we are all behind you.