Fulham Transfer Tips
Peter Fraser salutes excellent work at Fulham and looks at what is needed for progression.
Last Updated: 24/12/08 2:21pm
After a textbook Great Escape last season, Fulham were tipped to struggle in 2008/09. However, the Craven Cottage outfit have impressed. Peter Fraser salutes the excellent work of Roy Hodgson and looks at what is needed for progression.
How new boys have done
Fulham manager Roy Hodgson arrived in West London in December 2007 to a slightly under-whelmed atmosphere. The Cottagers were battling against Premier League relegation and there was not a positive outlook.
Former Inter Milan, Switzerland and Finland boss Hodgson was held in high regard in Europe and on the international scene, but he was perhaps best known in England for a mixed year in charge of Blackburn between 1997 and 1998. He was, therefore, not hailed as the man to save Fulham.
However, after taking over from Lawrie Sanchez, Hodgson helped the club avoid relegation with a final day 1-0 victory at Portsmouth and, while other teams are springing up and down the division, he has since transformed the club into a comfortable mid-table side.
Fulham were again expected to struggle this season, I am man enough to acknowledge that I hinted the capital troops could be heading for the Championship in my Season Shape-up article in the summer. But Hodgson has performed a truly excellent job and has proved all doubters wrong.
A major factor for Fulham's success has been the shrewd work of their manager before the transfer window shut on 1st September. Twelve players arrived as Hodgson was one of the busiest managers in the summer when overhauling the expensively assembled squad he inherited from Sanchez.
A rock-solid defence has been the secret to success. Centre-back Brede Hangeland, who arrived last January, has grabbed the headlines, but John Pantsil - despite his recent amateur dramatics against Stoke - has added stability at full-back and has proved £1.5million value for money since the Ghanaian flopped at West Ham.
The experience of former Middlesbrough goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer has also played a major factor in Fulham's respectable goals against tally. The Australian's form since leaving Teesside in May has meant that David Stockdale, who joined for an undisclosed fee from Darlington in pre-season, has been loaned to League Two Rotherham, while ex-Neuchatel Xamax shot-stopper Pascal Zuberbuhler has yet to feature in the league.
While other defenders have impressed, Fredrik Stoor has failed to make an impact since his switch from Rosenborg and the Sweden international has been forced to settle for Carling Cup action. Toni Kallio has also struggled to force his way into an established backline.
Zoltan Gera has added to the experience of Danny Murphy, Jimmy Bullard and Simon Davies in an extremely attack-minded midfield and has settled well. Andranik Teymourian has struggled with injury, while the £2m paid to Sunderland for Dickson Etuhu - who has still to make his debut - has looked a little inflated, and on-loan Coventry midfielder Julian Gray has also yet to feature.
It is in attack, though, where Hodgson perhaps has made mistakes. Bobby Zamora, who joined for an estimated £5m in a combined £6.5m deal with Pantsil, has, at the time of writing, chipped in with only one goal, while record-signing Andy was hampered by injury at the beginning of his Fulham career and went six games before opening his account after leaving Everton for £10m.
What they need
Hodgson has built a side possessing experience and strength in defence and intelligence in midfield, turning Craven Cottage into a mini-fortress in the process.
Those qualities are to be expected from a manager who has spent most of his days on the continent. However, Fulham have struggled on the road and the side requires a little more backbone and creativity, a holding midfielder and attacker would be just what the doctor ordered.
The Cottagers can be seen to be a little one dimensional when moving forward. Therefore, the attacking purchase would ideally be a new striker - to add a little difference to the unproductive big man-little man combo of Zamora and Johnson, a pacey wideman to add a little extra to midfield, or both if the funds are available from Mohamed al-Fayed. The Harrods owner is not short of a penny, but he could be feeling the pinch in the current credit crisis.
A goalkeeper to offer competition and a possible long-term successor to 36-year-old Schwarzer will also eventually be required, while Hodgson should be backed if his proven record in the defensive transfer market deems it neccesary to reinforce his backline.
Fulham must also keep hold of their star assets or they risk undoing all the good work of the first five months of the season.
Centre-back Hangeland is rumoured to be on the wish-list of most top clubs around Europe following a string of impressive displays and Hodgson will be desperate to make it through January without seeing the Norway international head for pastures new.
Bullard is also thought to be sought-after property in the Premier League. Since joining Fulham, the midfielder has been called into the England squad to increase his reputation. The 29-year-old has made it clear that he wants to extend the year-and-a-half remaining on his current contract but uncertainty continues.
What they will get
Do not be surprised to see a couple of Scandinavian arrivals in January, with former Viking FK, Copenhagen and Malmo boss Hodgson possessing an understandably strong knowledge of the area.
Tromso have confirmed that Fulham have shown an interest in defender Tore Reginiussen, while FC Lyn-Oslo's Swedish goalkeeper Eddie Gustafsson is also thought to be a target and Hodgson could well return to one of his favourite markets.
Southampton midfielder Andrew Surman is expected to leave the cash-strapped Saints in January and there are no shortage of admirers of the England Under 21 international.
Fulham are reported to be one of a handful of Premier League clubs demonstrating an interest in Surman, who could add youth and energy in a defensive midfield role.
Celtic's Aiden McGeady may be the man to add a spark in the wide areas of midfield. The Republic of Ireland international has been linked with a switch to England, but whether he is prepared to sacrifice guaranteed UEFA Champions League football in the future remains to be seen.
Hearts captain Christophe Berra could be another defensive signing and Swindon striker Simon Cox seems certain to move from League One to a higher level in January. Espanyol goalkeeper Carlos Kameni could add competition for Schwarzer, but Tottenham and Newcastle are also understood to be tracking the Cameroon international.