LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 21: Mark Schwarzer of Fulham takes a goal kick during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Wigan Athletic at Craven Cottage on April 21, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Long gone are the days when Fulham played 4-5-1.
‘Transition’ is a word that would fittingly describe the first year of Martin Jol’s tenure at Fulham. Yesterday was the day when Fulham would set out in a 4-4-1-1 or 4-5-1 formation, rigid, defensive containment and not entirely positive. Today, however, we are being subjected to the Fulham version of the Dutch ‘Totaal Voetbal’ under Martin’s Oranje Revolution. The 2011/12 season saw Fulham overhaul their character of a rigid side – to a side that have now adopted a flexible, counter attacking and technically astute 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation.
Both 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 formations are counter attack minded, although 4-2-3-1 is slightly more defensively minded and allows for more control in the midfield. Both formations allow for a 4-5-1 shape when defending an opposition attack and also share a similarity in the fact that they both rely on a lone striker to hold the ball up.
Towards the end of that season it became clear that Martin had settled upon a 4-3-3 formation – with variables. The midfield three were flexible, interchanging and creative, ever since Moussa Dembele was shifted into the midfield as a deep lying playmaker, Fulham really shifted up a gear. The creativity of Danny Murphy, Mamahdou Diarra and Moussa Dembele lead Fulham to the top half of not only the form table, but also the Barclays Premier League.
As we have come to expect with a Fulham the back four were solid, another great season from Brede Hangeland and in the second half of his debut season John Arne Riise really showed his worth and qualities. Hughes, Senderos and Stephen Kelly all had very solid seasons – but you tend to wonder whether Stephen Kelly really does posses the qualities to hold that RB spot down should he be challenged by another player as he was by the class Zdenek Grygera this year.
The front three of Dempsey, Pogrebenyak and Duff had stellar second halves of the season. Of course, Dempsey is our player of the year this year, and rightly so. Scorer of 20+ league goals with numerous assists the American has been our go to player this year – victories over Newcastle, Bolton (twice) and draw against Chelsea may not have been had it not been for Clint’s goals. The emergence of Frei and Kacanakilic really brightened the second half of the season – both are exciting technically gifted, fast and confident in their ability, and it shows. Again, notable mentions for newcomer Bryan Ruiz who scored two brilliant goals against Everton and Bolton – and now ex-player Andy Johnson who scored a hat-trick against QPR.
However, during the off-season we’ve lost Pavel Pogrebnyak, Andy Johnson, Danny Murphy and Orlando Sa. Which leaves 2/3 spaces in our starting line up:
Kelly, Hangeland, Hughes, Riise
Diarra, Dembele, ?
Duff, Dempsey, ?
These positions need to be filled over the summer, with strengthening in other areas such as RB, CM and most notably at ST. Acquisitions of Mladen Petric and Sacsha Reitner have strengthen at RB and ST, however I still believe there are more to come. Below are a few singings that I believe would benefit Fulham and some players that we have already been linked with.
RB – Nathaniel Clyne – Crystal Palace
Young, British and technically gifted Clyne has made a name for himself with solid seasons at fellow London club Crystal Palace. Capped by England at U-19 and U-21 he has attracted interest from Manchester United, Aston Villa, West Ham and Fulham. Key attributes include his lightning pace, ability to read the game and good passing range. £4-7m
CM – Moussa Sissoko - Toulouse
6 ft 2 inch tall Sissoko is 22 years old and has been a main stay of the Toulouse team in Ligue 1 for near on 5 years now, making 168 apps. Strong, fast and with an impeccable reading of the game Sissoko is hot-property. Linked with moves to Tottenham in the past Sissoko is available for around €7m
CM – Lassana Diarra – Real Madrid CF
Diarra has been around the Premier League block once or twice, having already played for Arsenal, Portsmouth and Chelsea. Despite being small, Diarra is strong, has great technical ability and can break up play effectively. Has been linked with moves to Fenerbache, AC Milan and Spartak Moscow. £6-10m
LW – Nacer Chadli – FC Twente
Belgian international of Moroccan heritage, Chadli is a tricky winger. A quick player, who possesses a wide skill set with fantastic ability to run at players with speed. Good dead ball ability and an eye for goal. €5-7m
RW – Alessio Cerci – Fiorentina
Cerci is a skilful, young Italian right winger. Left-footed Cerci can cut in off the wings with his pace and skill and find the net regularly. Phased out by Fiorentina because they use a 352 formation. Nearly joined Everton in January. €3-5m
ST – Steven Fletcher – Wolverhampton Wanderers
Fletcher possesses a cracking left foot, often overshadowed by his fantastic ability win the air. Scored 10+ goals last season for a team that struggled to score. Strong, with good feet but not the quickest, knows where the goal is. £6-9m
ST – Abel Hernandez – Palermo
Strong, very quick and good with both feet – Uruguayan Hernandez is in the early stages of his career, scored 6 in 20 last year. Has been capped at international level for Uruguay. €6-8m
These are some players who I believe would improve the team, yet also be realistic in terms of money and availability. All opinions and viewpoints accepted, please comment and let me know who you'd like to see at the Cottage next year!