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Transfer Watch: The Babel Ballad

Written by Nick MacNee on 20th January 2019

Well, it finally happened I guess. Seven years after the rumoured Babelcopter sighting in Motspur Park, Ryan Babel signed for Fulham on Tuesday. Nik MacNee breaks it down.

To me, this deal symbolises Fulham’s desperation for just about anything and anyone in a bid to keep us up. A 33 year old tiring and slow Gary Cahill? Sure, let’s break the wage bank for him, whatever. A Danny Drinkwater that hasn’t played in about 18 months? Yeah, ok. Ryan Babel? Let’s do it. It just all feels a bit makeshift at the moment.

From a broad, non-statistical perspective, I can understand this transfer. If the rumours are true about Kamara’s departure (please), then it makes sense to get an adequate replacement ASAP. You’d figure that if Babel could make up Kamara’s production without the boneheaded plays on the pitch, the diving and the disruption off the pitch, then it’s certainly an improvement. His numbers from the past six months aren’t even horrifying for a 32-year-old winger: 0.23xG per 90, 2.18 shots per 90. These are numbers that I can live with.

But Babel hasn’t played major minutes in a serious football league in about five years, six and a half if you don’t consider playing in a stacked Ajax team in an easy Dutch league under Frank de Boer. Sure, there was a stint at Deportivo La Coruna in La Liga, but he lasted there for six months and only played 500 minutes’ worth of game time. The adaption to the pace of the English league isn’t something that can be done instantly, as we’ve seen numerous times throughout this season from our own players.

Furthermore, the track record of success from the Super Lig to the Premier League isn’t exactly all that existent. Cenk Tosun had a good scoring rate in Turkey but has only scored 7 goals since his arrival at Everton last January. Badou Ndiaye arrived at Stoke for £14 million as well last January and was promptly sent back to Galatasaray six months later. Gokhan Tore and Kerim Frei also followed the same pattern of arriving and returning in quick succession. There just isn’t any modern examples of this working out. The step up might simply be too high.

And what about Sess? This transfer will only serve to decrease the amount of playing time he receives under Ranieri. Is that what we really want? It’s a no from me. Sure, Babel has experience of the Premier League – from over ten years ago. Is that all that applicable now? Eh, I’m sceptical.

I understand why Fulham made this transfer. No really, I do. Sure, it’s low risk but is there all that much of a high reward unless Babel plays an absolute blinder and scores 10+ goals to keep us up? I’m not holding my breath that that will happen.

He won’t fix the leaky defence, the patched-up midfield and the communication issues that still arise amongst our whole team. If he does play well and play a role in keeping us up? He’ll be off in six months to another pay day (and I wouldn’t blame him).

To say this is a roll of the dice for Fulham would be an insult to craps games across the world. A stab in the dark is more appropriate, only we’ve stabbed ourselves long ago and can’t quite figure out how we got into this predicament. What a waste of a season.

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