Craven Corner: An Upward Trajectory

4th February 2018
(Photo: Rex Features))

The transfer window has closed, and Fulham have kept their stars, while adding a few top quality additions over the course of January too. Ad Brons Smith takes a look backwards at a perfect month, and how it should influence the Whites moving forwards.

First of all, the board deserve a lot of credit for their work during January. Not only did they manage to keep the likes of Ryan Sessegnon, Tom Cairney and Ryan Fredericks at the club after some serious interest from Premier League clubs, but we managed to sign Cyrus Christie, Aleksandr Mitrovic & Matt Targett – three signings that add true quality to this squad.

Mitrovic is an outstanding signing and will be the name that gets the headlines now the window has closed, but upon reflection the three signings strengthen any weak points in our squad.

Mitrovic is the answer to our striker worries, after Aboubakar Kamara and Rui Fonte haven’t scored consistently over the course of the season, and Targett is the perfect addition to allow Ryan Sessegnon to play further forward for the second half of the season.

As for Cyrus Christie, it’s a signing I never expected to happen, but after thinking it through it makes a lot of sense. With Fredericks’ long-term future at the club still in doubt, Christie brings a similar profile to that right-back position.

While I still expect Fredericks to be the first choice for that role, Christie signing on a long-term deal means we have a decent replacement ready to go for next season, should Ryan not sign a new contract before the end of the year.

Fulham’s signings are all tidy additions to the squad (Photo: Rex Features)

Fredericks has been in contract talks with the club for a good six months, and with both parties failing to reach an agreement so far, Christie’s arrival means we haven’t got to panic buy in the summer, and that also means Cyrus can settle at the club before taking the right-back slot on a full-time basis next year.

As for the players that departed Fulham this month, my pre-window predictions came true with Yohan Mollo & Rafa Soares both having their contracts terminated, after failing to impress Slavisa this season.

There were further departures for Jordan Graham, Michael Madl & Ragnar Sigurdsson, all of which struggled to make an impact at the club and while I wish Madl all the best for the future, he sadly fell behind Kalas, Ream & Odoi for the central defensive roles in our side.

But, there’s a great vibe around Craven Cottage at the moment, both the fans, players and staff all seem optimistic about what we can achieve this season and once again, Fulham were rampant at home this weekend.

Slavisa stuck with the same front three that destroyed Burton in our last home fixture, and while it was the right thing to do, Fonte failed to make the same impact against Forest as he did against Burton. His performance lead to an introduction for Mitrovic before the hour mark and the Serbian’s presence was definitely felt by all.

The introduction of Mitrovic changed the game (Photo: Rex Features)

It’s safe to say that the Newcastle loanee is a passionate player, and his work-rate and physicality proved a tough challenge for the Forest back four, with the Serbian coming so close for a debut goal after his header was cleared off the line.

Despite his fiery past, Mitrovic is still only 23 years old and with his talent and structure, this loan move to Fulham could be the changing point in his career. If his cameo was anything to go by, Jokanovic has finally found a striker he can rely on.

Although I have been a fan of Kamara this season, he will be behind Mitrovic for the second half of the second. But, I do hope that we see AK47 feature a lot in the remaining games, and with Jokanovic having both Mitrovic & Kamara in his match-day squads, I really hope we see Fulham line up with both strikers starting before May, as that would be a really exciting duo.

Despite all the excitement around our attacking talent, I have to commend the efforts of Marcus Bettinelli and Tomas Kalas this weekend. Betts’ double save in the second half was just as valuable as a goal, and Kalas looked back to his best, being calm on the ball and dominant when called upon.

Their efforts were rewarded with a much deserved clean sheet, and it was great to see Bettinelli improve on his distribution too this weekend, as that’s been an aspect of his game that many fans have criticised.

Tomas Kalas was close to being back to his imperious best at the weekend (Photo: Rex Features)

As for the second half of the season, the sky is limit if I’m being honest. We’ve really turned the screw in recent months, and have climbed up the Championship week after week. Fulham sit in fifth position, currently, with Tom Cairney still to come back to the side again once he’s fully-fit which means we’ll only get stronger as the season progresses.

Not only that, but we’re currently unbeaten in our last 8 league games, and if we keep up that form there’s no reason why we can’t make a push for the second automatic place this season.

February will be an incredibly tough month for the club though, and it will determine how good this squad really is. With games against Aston Villa, Bristol City & Wolves to come, Fulham will be taking points from the sides around them if they are successful in February.

Last time Fulham played Wolves things did not end well for the Whites (Photo: Rex Features)

If Fulham can take 9-12 points from the next four games, then Slavisa’s men would have closed the gap on the automatic spots, putting themselves amongst the promotion places at the business end of the season.

After such a successful January, on and off the pitch, I can’t be more excited as a Fulham fan as I really feel we’ll get even better with each passing game; and with Mitrovic leading the line and Cairney still waiting in the wings, Fulham will have a great opportunity to prove just how good they really are.

P.S – For those of you who are travelling to the Bolton game you may see a Q&A with me in the match-day programme!

If you have missed any of the Craven Corner articles you can catch up here.

Thank you ever so much for reading and for your continued support. If you have any thoughts or feedback, please don’t hesitate to message me on Twitter – @ABronsSmith

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