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The Fulhamish Debate: The Return of Lucas Piazon

Written by Jack J Collins on 15th July 2017

The signing of Lucas Piazon on another season long loan from Chelsea was welcomed by the majority of fans this week – especially across social media where Piazon is well loved for his passion.

There remains a question, however, if Piazon is really what Fulham need at this point in the window. As everything for us is black and white, Fulhamish writers Guy Barlow and Jack J Collins take to the debating chamber to share their views on the matter.

Case for the Prosecution: Guy Barlow

How long does a club have to be linked with a player before it constitutes a ‘saga’? Ever since Lucas Piazon’s loan deal ended Fulham were supposedly on the verge of signing him back on a permanent basis, and now have instead signed him on another season-long loan.

Piazon himself has made it clear that he wants to join Fulham, mainly via DM to fans on Instagram, and many fans seem to be on board with him re-signing for the club.

However, some would argue that the question over his actual ability and usefulness remains – has sentiment blurred some fans’ perception of Piazon? Is it worth spending a what is potentially a sizeable portion of our wage budget on someone who is potentially just a squad player?

At a personal level, it seems he genuinely wants to play and succeed with our club, he loves the fans, and you might catch him on the tube home after a match. Overall, he seems like a thoroughly decent bloke.

But at a physical and footballing level, what does he add that we don’t already possess? He’s not blisteringly quick like Kebano, he’s not strong like Ayite, he hasn’t got a trick on him to beat a man like Aluko, and he’s not a set-piece specialist.

Without possessing any of these attributes he can’t really be a winger or central midfielder, and he certainly can’t be an out and out striker. Is he like a modern day Rooney? Is he position-less?

Remember, Fulham wasn’t Piazon’s first loan to the championship, that was at Reading in 2015/16, and by all accounts, he was pretty poor in an equally poor Reading team that finished 17th. Reading fans really don’t seem to like Piazon, and one has to wonder why that is.

The truth is that Piazon is a luxury player. A show-pony. A player that might produce a nice flick that gets a few oohs and aahs from the Riverside Stand, but also a player that could easily go missing in big games.

Luxury players just don’t seem to exist in successful Championship teams. Take promotion winning Brighton last year for example. They often played 4-4-2 with the following midfield and attack:

Baldock – Murray

Skalak/Murphy – Stephens – Sidwell – Knockaert

This team had lots of width – provided by natural wingers – a hold-up man and clinical finisher (Murray), and a quick striker to run the channels and get in behind (Baldock). Backed up by two holding midfielders, every player had their job and stuck to it.

Using a completely different system, Brighton still managed to score 74 goals last season, only 11 fewer than Fulham. However, where would a Piazon fit in that Brighton team?

Many fans will jump to the defence of Piazon by saying that he’s technically brilliant, or that he has a good ‘footballing brain.’

The one attribute he definitely has got is the ability to finish. See Brighton (H), Forest (H), and Bristol City (A). In fact, out of the Fulham midfield, he’s probably got the most composure in front of goal – Ayite’s miss against Brentford springs to mind in examples of things that Piazon would have probably stuck in the back of the net.

So the question remains, is Piazon worth it? The Championship is, of course, a long, hard season and it’s good to have competition for places but there is a section of the fan base who feel that Piazon’s wages could be better spent elsewhere, and I’d be inclined to agree with them.

Case for the Defence: Jack J Collins

Whilst it’s true that there’s only so far that passion can take you in football, I think Piazon is a more multifaceted player than we’ve seen in the last season at Fulham. The truth is that Piazon is clearly a No10, and (god forbid) if Tom Cairney was to get injured or suspended next season, I feel that we’d struggle to fill the void with any of our other attacking outlets.

Whilst Johansen or LVC could play there, I feel like both are suited far more to the more withdrawn role which allows them to do the box-to-box work, and Piazon is a far more natural fit for the position. His footballing intelligence, as mentioned above, is why Piazon is far more of a natural playmaker than anyone else in the squad behind TC.

In games which matter slightly less, for example in the League and FA Cup, having a fit and firing Piazon will allow Fulham to rest their star No10 and keep him in perfect condition for the tilt at the Championship title that we’re all hoping will materialise at the Cottage this season, whilst also developing Piazon as a player.

A loan deal for another year, I feel, is the outcome that suits us best – it allows us to fully appreciate Piazon’s versatility and passion without necessarily being lumbered with a transfer fee – and also means that if he stays as simply a squad player, we have lost very little.

That said, I think the diminutive Brazilian will offer more than that this season, being used as a key cog in a rotation policy. One of the things that he offers, which hasn’t been mentioned already, is his desire to track back and put a shift in defensively.

Considering one of the things that Fulham fans complained about last season was our inability to dig in and defend narrow leads, Piazon’s trooper-like work rate should be a godsend, and something that we’re talking far more about.

In that sense, Piazon is perhaps less of a show pony than someone like Ayité, whose ability to go past a man is unquestionable, but his workrate in a defensive shift is far less than that of Piazon. When we’re looking to hold on to a lead and things are getting nervy, I’d much rather have Piazon protecting a full-back than pretty much any of our other options in the front three (Sone Aluko aside maybe).

On top of that, Piazon’s finishing ability one-on-one has been proven over the course of the last season. Unlike many others, the Chelsea loanee seems to have the ice-cold finishing ability that we’ve been crying out for at points, and when he’s through on goal, I feel comfortable that he’s going to score. Playing him more centrally, I feel that we’d see more of this.

This is because it’s when driving into the box that Piazon comes into his own. Whilst Fulham’s ability on the flanks is well-known, it’s going to require more options next season to keep teams guessing how we’re going to come at them.

Playing Piazon as an inverted left winger allows him to utilise the moments of magic that he has in his locker – which was perfectly demonstrated by his goal against Nottingham Forest at home, swerving one way and then the other to unlock the Forest backline, before slotting home with aplomb. The more players we have who can unlock defences, the better, as far as I’m concerned. In complete honesty, I think that Piazon is one of those players.

Versatility, flair and passion are all qualities that we’ve seen our little Brazilian display over the course of his season with us last year. I can’t see any negatives to keeping that option within the squad, and I honestly believe we’ll see Piazon grow and mature as a player even further throughout the year. His attitude, commitment and drive are unquestionable, and I think under Jokanovic, Piazon can go on to be a key component in a slick, stylish Fulham machine.

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