Scott Parker revealed that Fulham are working hard behind the scenes to bring in new players, but was coy about a new approach for Terence Kongolo as he took questions from the press ahead of Saturday’s trip to Leeds.
The Fulham boss wouldn’t directly address the specifics of the club’s revitalised interest in Dutch international Kongolo, who was briefly on loan at Craven Cottage from Huddersfield last season before breaking a bone in his foot. He admitted that central defensive reinforcements are his priority before the end of the transfer window, but also hinted at interest in recruiting further forward options.
“Defensively we’ve not brought in many players, some full backs but not centrally. Certainly midfield we’ve brought in some players but front half and defensively we’re looking to improve and make us better.”
“I don’t think there’s a number on it. There’s areas where we needed improving. We’re active in a tough market and we’re trying our hardest to get them players in to give us every chance of being successful this year. We’ll keep trying to do that. To evolve as team you need to keep doing that with the players. You don’t want to sign them for the sake of it.”
Pressed specifically on Kongolo, Parker said:
“At this moment he is a Huddersfield player but we are in the market to try and improve us. We all understand where we need to strengthen from when we were last in the Premier League. Until players are over the line I wouldn’t like to comment.”
The Fulham head coach was also largely non-committal on Cyrus Christie’s proposed switch to Nottingham Forest.
“Cyrus had a big impact last year but I don’t know where that [move to Nottingham Forest] is [at the moment]. He’s a Fulham player, he’s been training with us but I haven’t got the information to give.”
He said that the medical staff and coaches plan to assess the players’ fitness tomorrow before making final decisions on the composition of Fulham’s starting line-up for the trip to Elland Road.
“We’ll have to see. We got back late last night and they’re just doing their recovery. We’ll have to make a judgement where the players are at physically. You need players at their peak of fitness. With the quick turnaround in pre-season and players late into the building some are just a little bit short. That will make us better but if not I’m not going to risk players. Everyone pulled through last night. At this moment there’s nothing jumping out at us.”
Parker admitted that he faces a tricky dilemma in selecting his goalkeeper after Alphonse Areola kept a clean sheet at Ipswich on his debut last night.
“The goalkeeper department is one of a few where I have big decisions to make. I’ve got two keepers fighting here who are very good in their own right. The same applies in midfield, wide players. They’re decisions that you want as a manager.”
He had words of praise for Mario Lemina, who got through an impressive hour’s work at Portman Road on his first appearance since signing on loan from Southampton.
“When he first game to the Premier League I think everyone saw what qualities he has that suit this league. He has that extra vision, he can open a door, he can assist but also use the physical side of his game and his technical ability. I think he will bring massive quality to us.”
Parker is not too downhearted following the defeat to Arsenal on the opening day and remains under no illusions about the pressures of competing in the Premier League.
“We learned the fine margins of Premier League football. We started well and we had some half chances that fell our way that you probably need to take. We realise the quality of this league but it was highlighted that you get punished when you make mistakes. I’m a realist really. I understand where we are, and what surrounds football. There’s a lot of talk, where’s the next story. I find it quite sad at times. We’ve played one game in the Premier League, there’s an awful lot (of games) to play.”
He certainly won’t be taking Leeds lightly after Marcelo Bielsa’s side beat them 3-0 back in June. Parker may take confidence from Fulham’s home win over the Yorkshire side before Christmas, although he bristled at suggestions he criticised their tactical approach after that game.
“I’m not sure I used the word robotic. It was a compliment meant to Leeds, I’m sure Marcelo never had an issue, it was probably more of headline. It was more for how well drilled they are and we saw against Liverpool what a tough side they are. Everyone who goes against Leeds fully understands what they’re up against.”