When Fulham announced on deadline day that they were signing ex-Zenit St. Petersburg, St. Etienne and Monaco man Yohan Mollo on a free transfer, many responded simply with ‘Who?’.
So, in order to try and get a bit of context on Fulham’s newest Frenchman, we got to work unearthing some sources who could give us the lowdown on Mollo as a player and a person.
Both Thomas Giles and Artem Makarevitch are football journalists with a deep grounding in the Russian game, and so we got an overview and a Q&A sorted in order to give you the inside line on what we can expect from Mollo in the season to come.
Artem Makarevitch‘s Overview
Mollo is typically a left winger, but has been used both on the right wing and as a striker in his time playing in the Russian League. When he first moved on loan from St. Etienne to Krylya Sovetov (A typically relegation threatened side), he quickly became their main man, and helped them to a highly impressive 9th place finish.
He is the type of player who can create a chance out of nothing. When Mollo gets on the ball, he loves to take on players, whether it be by flicking it down the line and chasing it, or by using stepovers to get past his man.
A lot of his link up play with strikers in Russia has come from him cutting in from around 30 yards out and crossing it in to the strikers who make a run into the box. He also isn’t afraid to take shots from distance, and won’t hesitate to do so if he thinks that’s the best option available.
At times, people have questioned his attitude, because he comes across as a ‘cheeky’ character on the pitch, whether that be to referees or his opposition, but I don’t think that will be a major problem in the Championship.
When he moved to Zenit in the early months of this year, there was only 3 months of football left to play in Russia so he didn’t really get too much of an opportunity – a change of managers overhauled the system of the team, which he didn’t fit in to and therefore he was eventually released.
Mollo is a hard worker on the pitch, and he goes until the final whistle in every game, but he doesn’t contribute much to the defense.
The last thing I’ll say is that I think Fulham have gotten a real bargain here, and I really hope Yohan can show the fans what he can do this season.
Q&A with Thomas Giles
1. Purely in a footballing sense, what kind of player is Yohan Mollo and what are his main attributes?
Mollo is a very quick and tricky wide player. A right-footer who plays on the left and cuts inside onto his stronger foot. He has excellent acceleration, however, he is not just a speed merchant and is very capable on the ball – demonstrated by the fact he scored 6 and assisted 4 in 19 Premier League games in the 2016/17 season.
2. Fulham’s system is based on a strong central core and a front four which rotates to keep defenders on their toes – will Mollo fit into the fluidity of that system or does he like to stick to a particular role?
In terms of rotating the forward line, I would say Mollo is comfortable with that as he has also played up front during his time in Russia.
3. Which would you say is Mollo’s strongest position – is he an outright winger, or a wide player that likes to cut inside, or a creative central player, when he’s at his best?
Mollo did not enjoy his time at Zenit. I personally think he was a victim of the Zenit ‘fishing trawler’ transfer policy which essentially sees them hoover up anybody who does well at lower clubs – mainly to stop rivals from picking them up. A low risk signing at 500k Euros which did not work out – Zenit won’t be too fussed about losing him.
In all honesty, he was never really good enough for a Zenit side who had ambitions of winning the title and going far in Europe. He received criticism for being just ‘another average foreigner’ which is hard to disagree with when you look at previous foreigners at Zenit (Hulk, Witsel and now Ivanovic). He needed to move on for his own good as bridges were burned beyond repair whilst Zenit’s huge investment in the squad this summer meant he was never likely to get a look in.
4. Much has been made of a flare-up with the Zenit fans which was the end of his career there. Could you explain a bit more about the situation, and if Fulham fans should be wary of having a ‘troublesome’ player in the dressing room?
I don’t see him as a troublemaker. He has been playing reserve team matches this season so clearly hasn’t completely thrown the towel in.
5. Physically the Championship can be quite a demanding league, and commitment, when things aren’t going quite so well, is key to becoming a success with the fans. What’s Mollo’s attitude like and does he wear his heart on his sleeve in that respect?
Mollo is not the most physically imposing player and this is what worries me most about his move to England. The Championship is an unforgiving league and, having never played in that environment before, I will be interested to see how he adjusts. However, he will see this as a huge opportunity to establish himself in Europe, particularly after his time at Zenit, so he will no doubt be putting the full effort in rather than coming for an easy payday.