While most of my previous ‘Strengthening Season’ articles have lamented how thin the different areas of the squad is, I find that I have a lot more faces to talk about this time around. That’s not to say that all of the attacking players that we have are Premier League ready, mind. The club website lists both Ryan Sessegnon and Neeskens Kebano as midfielders, but I will be adding them into the ‘forwards’ section, which maybe explains why we are seemingly top heavy here. Remember, the point of these articles is to assess whether or not the players we have can stand up to the demands of the Premier League, not speculate on possible incomings. While the Mitrovic deal looks extremely likely, I’ll be leaving him off the list for now.
Who do we have?
Touted as the future of England, Sessegnon is the crown jewel of Fulham’s squad and will surely be a vital part of our first Premier League campaign in four seasons. It’s always special when a player comes through the academy to the first team so there is really no surprise that he is loved as much as he is by Fulham fans. It will be interesting to see how he adapts to the top league, but I have no doubt that he is capable of making a difference. A mature head on young shoulders, Sessegnon deserves the plaudits that he has gained so far in his short career.
One of last year’s marquee had a tough first year at Fulham. He arrived with a big price tag and a lot of expectation but his slight figure made him too much of a lightweight up front. My gut instinct is that Fonte will be more effective in the Premier League than he was in the Championship were he was bulldozed off the ball when he got near it. While he didn’t play as much as he would have liked, when he did get on the pitch he showed that he has a real intelligence about him. He makes the right runs, likes to link up with those around him with neat passing and can finish (remember his goal against Ipswich?) I wouldn’t be happy if he was our only hope up front, but I certainly think that he warrants a chance in the PL off the bench.
Our other big signing from last year couldn’t be more different from Fonte. Kamara started the season a bit like a bull in a China shop and left a lot of fans with raised eyebrows wondering why on earth we had signed him but he ended the season as our most improved player. His performances against Derby and Aston Villa in the play-offs were ridiculously good and it will be fun seeing him be unleashed against some of the PL’s weaker defences next season. Certain games will be made for his explosive energy, but I wouldn’t imagine that we will see him every week.
Ayite is a player of real quality, but his inconsistency has held him back for his two year on the banks of the Thames. To be honest, I don’t see his role changing at Fulham much over the next year and he’ll continue to play reasonably regularly but not become one of our star men. I got very frustrated last season watching him play as his decision making when it really matters was so poor. He has moments of brilliance, but doesn’t show it enough. If our squad was bigger, I wouldn’t be too upset to see him go, but right now we need the numbers. It’s very frustrating because I know that he could be a real asset for us, and Slav obviously likes him, but I think he is too wasteful to make it at the top.
Like Ayite, Kebano has been far too inconsistent while at Fulham. I actually prefer him as a player as he is far more direct than Ayite, but Jokanovic doesn’t seem to rate him. Certainly he is better as an impact player than a starter, so he could be useful in the Premier League towards the end of games with his energy, but I wouldn’t want to rest our hopes on him. More of a Championship player I reckon.
Woodrow was once one of our most promising players, but he seemed to find his level when on loan at Burton Albion and Bristol City. As another academy player I am glad that he at least had a chance at Fulham, but he was never really able to fulfil the promise that he had in his younger days. There is no doubt that Woodrow can score goals, but I just don’t think he has it in him to do it in the Premier League. A shame really, but I think we should let him go.
So six attacking players and only one who I think can start regularly and make a real difference while some of the others can be useful off the bench. With just over three weeks to go until we kick off against Crystal Palace, it’s safe to say that we still have work to do!