Player Reviews: The Defenders

Fulhamish 3rd June 2019

After last week’s review of the ‘keepers, Fulhamish’s writing team continue this mini-series reviewing each player’s season. Armed with your average player rating scores, today we’re looking at the defenders. With the leakiest defence in the league, these scores were never going to be too flattering, but do you agree with our assessment? Let us know!

Alfie Mawson

Player Grade: D

Average Player Rating: 5.82

Writer: Drew Heatley

In a way, it’s a good thing Newcastle tonked us 4-0 on the final day, because Alfie Mawson was in danger of becoming deified. Our £25m centre-back made just 15 Premier League appearances in a season decimated by injury – with the longest stretch on the sidelines came after he (allegedly) injured himself putting on his boot. Fulhamish. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and combine that with the fact that stats showed we conceded fewer goals when he played (we even kept a clean sheet or two around Christmas) – and he was being touted as the best defender we never had.

But our showing against the Magpies proved that Mawson is as fallible as the rest, just in time for him to prep for what’s really his debut season in a white shirt. He arrived declaring “I’m here to do the dirty work” and finished the season (allegedly) saying “well no one’s going to take me now, are they?”. It’s best we write 18/19 off, before we start to doubt his commitment. What’s not in doubt, however, is his tremendous upside, which we’ll all be hoping to see during our gruelling 46-game campaign next season. He’s going to marshal a defence that concedes a league-record low as we romp to the title. Allegedly.

Joe Bryan

Player Grade: C+

Average Player Rating: 5.74

Writer: George Singer

It’s hard not to like Joe Bryan. He’s an intelligent chap, funny on social media, and left Steve Bruce hanging with a last minute switch to sign for Fulham. If you’re looking for a way to immediately endear yourselves to the Fulham faithful, this is probably one of the best ways to do it.

Bryan had large shoes to fill, as the comparisons between himself and the excellent loan spell of Matt Targett were always to be expected. Whilst he didn’t quite hit the same heights of his countryman, of all the defenders in the club he can probably hold his head the highest.

Once he’d recovered fully from an achilles injury, Joe put in some strong defensive performances against some of the best wingers in the world, and was far from the weakest element of our leaky backline. Comfortable on the ball, and confident overlapping in the attacking third, there’s plenty of promise for next season in the Championship – a league Joe clearly knows well. At 25 years old, he’s only going to improve, and if he (as expected) sticks around in the summer we can all sleep soundly knowing we have our left back position nailed down.

Cyrus Christie

Player Grade: C-

Average Player Rating: 5.25

Writer: Jack Collins

Let’s make no bones about it, it’s not been a great year for Cyrus Christie. His inconsistency and defensive frailties have been representative of the team as a whole, but I also feel that he’s got more than his fair share of the blame for a season dogged by defensive mishaps. Under Jokanovic, full backs were expected to bomb on and get round their winger, contributing to attack as much (if not more) than defence, with the 6 dropping in to split his full backs in response. Under a system that he was signed for, Christie did absolutely fine. Against Liverpool at Anfield in November (in what turned out to be Jokanovic’s last game), he was one of Fulham’s better performers in what was a decent performance against the (eventual) Champions League winners.

Under Ranieri, however, Christie’s regression was obvious. The Italian had no intention of allowing his full-backs to attack in the way that Slavisa had, and as such, Christie suffered. Defence has never been the best part of his game, but his work rate and speed counter this usually; but not when the team plays a Catenaccio style. Obvious instructions were placed on both him and TFM to check back inside once they had crossed the halfway line, to the annoyance of both the crowd, and you would imagine, Christie.

This is not a defence of the numerous errors made this season, or a number of errant crosses; but it is a defence of the fact that Christie has been far from Fulham’s worst player this year – in fact, he came in ahead of five others in the average player ratings – having played three different roles for three different managers. Cyrus has had a tough season, but external factors as much as anything else have been a part of that. In my opinion, he would remain more than capable as a right back in an attacking system in the Championship next season.

Maxime Le Marchand

Player Grade: D

Average Player Rating: 5.4

Writer: Cam Ramsey

Prised from OGC Nice alongside Jean Michael Seri last summer in a particularly dubious double swoop, Maxime Le Marchand arrived in SW6 with an element of adaptability to his name. Capable of deputising in the heart of the back four or on the left channel, the 29-year-old’s versatility’s certainly a sought-after trait. However, due to the endless alterations to our rearguard, his core responsibilities were often chopped, changed and discarded on a weekly basis. Le Marchand simply couldn’t gather momentum, and whilst he had regular starting spells, inadequacies plagued his game, especially in elemental, bread and butter routines.

Culprit to brandishing painfully heavy first touches, the Frenchman also sporadically surged down blind alleys in possession, inviting the opposition to pray upon his irrational indecision. Despite being an aerial presence, Le Marchand – most notably against Oldham Athletic in the FA Cup – was periodically beaten in perilous areas, as though his boots were crafted from concrete. Fleeting flashes of his reputable potential did indeed arise and he gradually acclimatised to the physicality of the English game. He even notched a solitary assist against Southampton in November, too. Our faithful, almost ironically, coined an endearing chant to embrace his inclusion and that, in my book, is worthy of extra bonus marks.

Denis Odoi

Player Grade: C-

Average Player Rating: 5.44

Writer: George Singer

Despite his play-off heroics (let’s ignore the Wembley his red card for now…) Odoi was a player that I looked back on fondly, but fully expected to be upgraded upon over the Summer window. Clearly, with the arrival of Mawson and Chambers, Slav and Tony initially had the same thought.

However, with Mawson’s lengthy injury, and Chambers impressing in central midfield, Odoi got a lot more minutes than any of us probably expected. In fact, only Rico and Mitrovic played more minutes over the season than the Belgian. In the end, he played probably about as well as any of us expected expected. His performances were always energetic, and his versatility helped plugged gaps all across the back, however he was clearly in above his head in the Premier League.

Whilst being a surprisingly skillful player, and very comfortable on the ball, there was always a bit of Philippe Senderos about him. By that, I mean it felt he was due at least 1 mistake a game. In the Championship we would normally get away with this, however against the best forwards in the world you can’t afford for your centre back to make marauding runs up the pitch on a whim.

Rather than place blame on Odoi, I’d rather the blame was placed on our recruitment team. If a player who couldn’t even get into our 16/17 play-off side gets the third most minutes in the Premier League, something clearly didn’t go to plan.

Tim Ream

Player Grade: C-

Average Player Rating: 5.09

Writer: Sammy James

After a deserved Player of The Season nod during our promotion campaign, good things were expected of our American centre-half who was back in the Premier League for the first time in seven years.

However, over the summer a mysterious back injury meant that he was missing for the first six weeks of the season. The team made a leaky start to the season without Ream, so much so that his return against Everton was seen as a potential solution to the issue. However, If anything, Tim’s inclusion made things worse – as we went on the concede 15 goals in 4 games. Ream was of course not at fault for all of them, but it was evident by his lack of pace that he was not at 100%.

Things didn’t get too much better for Tim once Slavisa left – with a personal low-point being his mistake in the Spurs home game. A bizarre mis-kick from the American fell straight to Christian Eriksen, who then proceeded to assist Dele Alli, to blow what looked like a comfortable lead for Fulham. However, the fact he remained a mainstay in the team probably said much about the importance as a character on the pitch – and in fairness his performances did improve. Whilst he is not the most vocal, he is clearly respected by all at the club.

With Alfie Mawson returning from injury next season, and both being naturally left-sided it will be interesting to see how much Tim starts next season. It goes without saying though, that Scott will undoubtedly see him as an important man to have around the camp if Fulham are to regalvanise for a tough Championship slog.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah

Player Grade: D

Average Player Rating: 4.83

Writer: Tim Clarke

The announcement of TFM’s loan deal on deadline day made a certain amount of sense. With Fredericks having left the club, and many sceptical that Christie was up to the task, the arrival of a young player with Premier League experience seemed like a prudent move. But TFM and Fulham’s season have a lot in common: arrived full of promise, yet failed to deliver time after time.

Make no mistake, whilst TFM is not to blame for Fulham’s dismal season, he was at best a bit-part in the tragedy that was 2018/19. However, considering he was clocked as the fastest player in the league this year (22 mph, which means he could be booked for speeding on Stevenage Rd), it’s not unreasonable to have hoped for something far greater from the young Dutchman.

Instead, we will remember him for the following:

  • Scoring an own goal that saw us lose to Huddersfield
  • Being sidelined with a cruciate ligament injury
  • Not returning to United when he wasn’t even making the bench when we could have made room for Nathaniel Clyne in January
  • Registering the lowest average rating on the prestigious Fulhamish player ratings system.

And yet despite all of this, I am confident that there is a player somewhere there. When he gets offloaded to a Norwich or a Brighton and starts doing bits there, all we will be able to do is shrug and say ‘How very Fulhamish…’

Timothy, we hardly knew ye…