Player Reviews: The Attackers

Fulhamish 16th June 2019

In the final instalment of this mini-series, the Fulhamish team take a look at how each of our forwards have performed over the season. Armed with your average player rating scores, these are the grades we’ve given each player. Agree with us? Disagree with us? Let us know!

Ryan Babel

Player Grade: B

Average Player Rating: 6.08

Writer: Jack Collins

Well, well, well. When Fulham signed Ryan Babel on a short-term deal back in January, many people dismissed it as a panic signing, as someone who couldn’t cut it coming from the Turkish Super Lig, as someone past their prime. However, the Flying Dutchman more than proved that he still has it during his brief stint at the Cottage. Whilst his influence was nowhere near enough to keep Fulham in the division (that ship had long sailed), he was a bright spark in our attack, mixing pace with physical presence and a decent eye for goal. Compared to the lacklustre André Schurrle, there’s only one player you’d say is on the decline, and it’s not the considerably older Netherlands winger.

It’s a shame that there is no way we’d be able to keep hold of Babel, but his performances will have attracted more than their fair share of suitors and he deserves his shot at high level football for his twilight years. For a man whose attitude was questioned upon his signing, he impressed me immensely with his drive, work rate and the care he put in to try and get Fulham to a better place than when he joined. It wasn’t to be, but Babel will always have my respect and thanks for coming in and giving it a fight. Fair play.

Andre Schurrle

Player Grade: F

Average Player Rating: 5.00

Writer: Nik Macnee

In a sense, I do feel sorry for Andre Schurrle. He’s the result of a player that’s been messed around by health issues, big money transfers and certain managers freezing him out of the team. He ultimately ended up at Fulham as a result of these factors on a unusual two year loan, declaring that he wanted to live in London for ideally the rest of his career. This did not go to plan…

Let’s start with the facts. Andre Schurrle is a bad footballer and lazy, and he simply does not make good decisions with the ball at his feet. Only one player (bizarrely it was Mitrovic) had more lost possessions per 90 than Schurrle did (4.7), with over 1000 minutes played. Looking at other stats too, It doesn’t get any better for him. Schurrle took one more shot than Mitro outside the box (notoriously bad shots!) – 36 compared to Mitro’s 35 – in almost half the minutes that Mitro played.

So where are we? We’ve got a player who’s taking shots away from our best attacker in notoriously bad locations and also turns the ball over a lot. He isn’t a team player either – Schurrle played less key passes (passes leading to a shot) than Joe Bryan, Luciano Vietto and Ryan Babel (especially embarrassing with Vietto and Babel, given they both played less minutes than Schurrle). His whopping tally of 0 assists (albeit a flawed stat) ranks behind Cyrus Christie, Havard Nordveidt and Maxime Le Marchand. When you’re a winger and getting beaten out on assists by centre backs, then that’s not just an embarrassment. That’s an indictment on how selfish you are as a footballer.

Above all that frustrated me about Schurrle wasn’t the turnovers though. After all, I’d been watching Aboubakar Kamara the season before. No, what drove me to the point of no return with Andre was his complete lack of effort and interest in even trying to get the ball back and make amends for his mistake. Just a simple throw of hands into the air to blame his teammates for his mistakes every five minutes. You almost kind of wonder what words an Ollie Norwood or Danny Murphy would’ve had for him in the dressing room after doing that.

We barely saw Schurrle after he was taken off at half time against Brighton at home, and never again after relegation was confirmed. An interview published in a German paper about his lack of desire to play in the Championship despite a two year loan and a heartfelt desire to live in London summarised Andre Schurrle. He was a liar, a fraud and a disappearance act once the going got tough. You’d think that the club would be desperate to just sweep him under the club but nope, they greeted his departure with sadness and videos – something that should outrage fans given how shit they’ve treated actual heroes of the club like Murphy and Hangeland. Andre Schurrle wasted their money but above all, he wasted our time. Good riddance.

Ryan Sessegnon

Player Grade: C+

Average Player Rating: 5.71

Writer: Cam Ramsey

Two goals and six assists in his maiden Premier League season. Whilst not a bad return for a teenager in a struggling squad, the jury’s still out on Ryan Sessegnon. Having set the Championship alight, it was initially believed that our resident wonderkind would take the pinnacle of the English game by storm. However, as deficiencies are amplified by ruthless critics, it soon became apparent that the flourishing youngster had to fine-tune his skill set to prosper in the unforgiving environment that is Europe’s most cutthroat division.

Claudio Ranieri almost taunted Sess’s stature in the press, which had an adverse effect on the starlet’s focus and motivation. Where he’d be typically tireless and adventurous, Sess faded out of games without a whimper after the haphazard Italian’s foolish words. Whilst they can be perceived as constructive, Sess effectively lost his spark.

He had a cluster of the game’s best fullbacks to contend with on a weekly basis and that’s invaluable to his progression. He was overpowered and outwitted at times, but he still had a fleeting edge that troubled the opposition, a gift that he needed to trust again.

Pinpointing Sess’s primary position was a constant dilemma, too. Recognised as an attacker, Sess’ was fielded at left-back, left wing-back, left wing and, towards the back end of the season, on the right to accommodate Ryan Babel. Next season, if he’s with us or not, he has to stick to one position. For his development as a promising prospect of the English game, it’s imperative that he knows his core responsibility and where he stands.

Sess shares an unparalleled connection with Mitro’ and their partnered industry is paramount. On the counter, Ryan is instrumental and his ingenuity came to prominence when it mattered. One example was Mitro’s last-ditch goal against Huddersfield Town, a measured strike that was orchestrated by the 19-year-old. Yes, it wasn’t a show-stopping Premier League arrival, but he was still a relevant, pivotal component. Whatever happens to Sess’ in the summer, he deserves a spirited round of applause. Away with the ‘Young Lions’, we’ll be watching on with pride and intrigue.

Aboubakar Kamara

Player Grade: D

Average Player Rating: 5.77

Writer: George Singer

Well, none of really expected AK47 to have a quiet season did we?

The young Frenchman continues in his quest to become one of the most frustratingly inconsistent players to ever play for Fulham Football Club. There were times this season, as we’ve seen previously, where Abou offers raw physicality that no other player in England can compete with. He’s so fast and strong, and is so unpredictable on the ball, that on his day he really could be unplayable. His goal at home to Leicester City was a great example of this; a great rare example of composure mixed with raw physical attributes, providing real hope in our ambition to survive in the Premier League.

However, the penalty debacle just 3 weeks later at home to Huddersfield proved to be the catalyst in the catastrophic blowout of Abou’s season. After refusing to let nominated taker Mitrovic take the crucial penalty, Kamara subsequently missed the spot-kick, losing the trust of the manager and fans alike. Just a couple of weeks after this, a reported bust-up at Motspur Park over a (relaxing?) yoga session saw AK47 arrested, and promptly shifted off on loan to Turkey.

I’m probably not alone in not wanting Abou to play for Fulham Football Club ever again. Abou requires plenty of polishing, and it’s still up for debate whether it’s a turd or a (very) rough diamond we have on our hands. Whilst I have no qualms in us giving the platform for young players to develop, to blatantly defy team orders, and to cause training ground fights, in my opinion this is unforgivable.

Alexandar Mitrovic

Player Grade: B

Average Player Rating: 6.05

Writer: Sammy James

It was truly a season of two halves for our Serbian striker. After a glorious four months where his goals arguably fired Fulham to promotion, the love story continued at the start of this season as Mitro notched five goals in the opening six games. Aleksandar was rightly being lauded from all angles. How had Rafa Benitez misjudged him so badly? Could he seriously trouble the big six strikers for the golden boot?

However, it all kind of unravelled a bit after that. As results dipped, Fulham resorted to pumping long balls at Mitro and consequently his confidence began to sap.

Once in a blue moon, there were some exceptional performances; particularly against Southampton and Brighton at Craven Cottage. Once Mitro had a goal, or Fulham were in the ascendency, you could see him re-ignite once again. However, he just couldn’t turn these displays into a regular affair, and he seldom grabbed games by the scruff of the neck.

Mitro was certainly not shot-shy: he had the joint-top amount of strikes on goal in the entire league alongside Sergio Aguero, but by the end of the season they were nowhere near the intended target. Blazed sitters against Cardiff and Wolves were particularly unpleasant.

If we can keep Mitro in the championship it’ll be huge. He’s still undeniably a brilliant player on his day, but maybe Rafa Benitez wasn’t completely wrong after all.

Floyd Ayite

Player Grade: C-

Average Player Rating: 5.34

Writer: Nik Macnee

It was a tough season for Ayite, who was quickly cast aside for newer recruits but came into the fold a bit more under Scott Parker towards. He was rewarded for his efforts with a goal against Leicester, which feels a bit sweet given how he’s played his part in Fulham’s turnaround since the summer of 2016.

Ayite is the simple “You know what you’re getting” winger in the sense of that he’s going to toil hard, make some intelligent runs and try to link up play. He’s never going to try anything that’s outside of his comfort zone as it very much feels that he knows what his limits are, compared to, say, an Andre Schurrle. This is admirable but not what is needed in a Premier League and that’s fine. We signed him in 2016 with the expectation of him to be a winger that will help get us promoted – which he did. So it’s hard to fully judge him as PL winger as he simply isn’t one.

He’ll be an important depth piece next year, which will undoubtedly be his last, but he’ll still be remembered as good servant to Fulham.

Luciano Vietto

Player Grade: E

Average Player Rating: 4.97

Writer: Cam Ramsey

What a torridly lacklustre season Luciano Vietto had in a Fulham shirt. Snagged on transfer deadline day in a business frenzy, Vietto came to the Cottage from La Liga giants Atletico Madrid on a season-long loan and expectations were soaring. Anticipating nimble sequences and electrifying expeditions, we all expected the pint-sized Argentine to terrorise defences to devastation, although that barnstorming forecast ultimately fell flat on its face.

At Villarreal CF, Sevilla FC and Atleti, the 25-year-old was a renowned threat in front of the target and his diminutive presence made him on of the Spanish top-flight’s most prolific strikers. But as brawn is a paramount requirement for any attacker in the Premier League, Vietto simply couldn’t manipulate proceedings to his advantage. The slight South American was systematically shrugged off possession, and as many a centre-half adopts a no nonsense approach, he was often left spread across the turf after trying jink his way through the eye of a needle.

In fairness, there really wasn’t an allocated spot for Vietto in our fold whatsoever. He’s incapable of operating in the same manner that Mitro does and he overcooked elemental phases whilst surging on the counter. In wider reaches, Vietto’s final product failed to materialise and his subservient physical fragility literally depicted boy versus man whilst he strained to commit fullbacks. I could be more scathing, but I’d rather save my energy for a player that actually featured.

Vietto’s temporary stint in SW6 was basically terminated after the Whites crashed out of the FA Cup to Oldham Athletic at home. For a seasoned professional that’s graced the heights of the modern game, I’ve never seen a more feeble offensive display from an accomplished marksman before. Shackled and tentative, Vietto was utterly atrocious. With one measly goal to his name for Fulham, albeit a terrific strike against Brighton & Hove Albion, Vietto was less than a peripheral player towards the latter stages of the 2018-19 campaign, in fact, I’d forgotten he even existed until now. Get on the weights and good luck at Sporting CP.