It is no secret that since the Khans took over at Craven Cottage, Fulham’s recruitment has been somewhat hit and miss. There have been gems – like the arrival of Aleksandar Mitrovic and the purchase of Stefan Johansen – but plenty of poor ones – where is Adil Chihi these days, for example? Perhaps the most alarming part of the approach was the way the Whites had to play catch up with a lot of deals being left until the last minute. A succession of managers have had to wait until the closure of the transfer window to figure out what their best side is and that could be the difference between staying up and going down.
The scattergun transfer policy has spread disquiet amongst the fanbase and director of football Tony Khan has copped plenty of flak for it. Marco Silva’s arrival as Scott Parker’s replacement seems to have shaken things up somewhat. The Portuguese head coach got his first two acquisitions in over the weekend and rather before obscure signings from continental divisions, they were two players with significant experience of English football. Paulo Gazzaniga has played in both the EFL and the Premier League, whilst Harry Wilson has real Championship pedigree.
The rumoured impending arrival of Matt Grimes, who is due to have a medical with Fulham next week, suggests that the Whites are targeting players who know what it takes to perform in the Championship. The Swansea skipper has been one of the division’s most consistent midfielders in the last few years and a key part of the side that reached two play-offs under Steve Cooper. Should all go to plan, the arrival of these three players would end even more nous to a squad packed with Championship experience, including the likes of Tim Ream, Tom Cairney, Denis Odoi and Harrison Reed.
Whether this approach signifies a change in strategy or is a reaction to the tight financial fair play envelop that Fulham have to operate in at the moment, remains to be seen but there is no question that this campaign will be do or die for the club. Failing to secure an immediate return to the Premier League would undoubtedly be a financial disaster, almost certainly sparking a fire sale of the biggest names and probably making it difficult to compete in an unforgiving Championship. The stakes are certainly high – something Silva has acknowledged even as he demanded further signings in his Sunday interview.
There is no doubt that Fulham have the quality to be in the automatic promotion shake-up, as evidenced by the early bookmakers odds. They have squad that seems to have plausible alternatives in almost every position. The one area where the Whites still look a little light is up front having struggled to score goals last season. The hope is that a fit and firing Mitrovic will reproduce his outstanding Championship form having been mishandled by Scott Parker, but there is still a need for a capable back up. Jay Stansfield has had plenty of minutes in pre-season but the talented teenager remains raw at senor level. That’s presumably why Silva has made such a play for young Flamengo forward, Rodrigo Muniz, as he seeks to repeat his success in bringing Brazilian talent to English football having nurtured Richarlison so superbly.
Ultimately, we’ll only know how successful Fulham’s summer recruitment has been when the serious stuff gets underway in August. The fixture computer appears to have given the Whites a winnable set of early games so Silva has the chance to build some early momentum for a change.