In the first of a four-part series, Frankie Taylor looks at how we can strengthen our squad this summer. First up, goalkeepers.
Who doesn’t love building fantasy Fulham teams? Most people count sheep to help them get to sleep, I bore even myself by thinking tactics, styles and players who’d fit in well at Fulham and take us to new heights. The potential to increase spending now we’re back in the Premier League makes it even more exciting.
Harmony comes first
Scott Parker and Shahid Khan have both said publicly they don’t want to overhaul the squad at the expense team spirit, and both men are seemingly keener on quality and personality over quantity. Since Joeberto Carlos’s match-winning contribution at Wembley, Scott Parker has also been rumoured to have been given more control over transfers at Fulham, something Slavisa Jokanovic always cried for.
Things are looking positive; the staff on and off the pitch may be the most together it’s been since Roy Hodgson’s Europa League squad, as fly through a quick pre-season before the boys are back in playing in the Premier League.
The state of play
This what’s going on with the squad as it stands: Terence Kongolo is probably set to stay at Huddersfield given his long-term injury, while deals will likely be done for Harrison Reed and Harry Arter at a rumoured £8m and £4m respectively. In the interest of squad continuity, both deals are worthwhile, though nothing is confirmed with the boys back in training. Denis Odoi’s option to extend to 2021 was taken up last August, while Neeskens ‘Congo Beckham’ Kebano earned a contract last month thanks to his vital contributions during the run-in.Embed from Getty Images
Also, Magnus Norman, Matt O’Riley and Luca De La Torre have left or are leaving at the expiration of their contracts, with Norman already joining Carlisle and De La Torre emigrating to the Netherlands to join Heracles. We’re yet to hear confirmation, but I’m going to guess the club takes Jordan Archer’s option on his deal to be third choice keeper, which also opens the ability to loan out some of the young lads, in particular George Wickens and the Ashby-Hammond brothers (Taye and Luca). I’m not convinced that Jean-Michel Seri has much interest in playing for Fulham again, but Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa played his best football once Scott Parker was in charge and perhaps both sides recognise that, I do think we see Anguissa in a Fulham shirt again – and that feels like a new signing on it’s own.
This is the squad we’re building on at the start of writing:
Goalkeepers: Marek Rodak, Marcus Bettinelli, Jordan Archer
Defenders: Denis Odoi, Cyrus Christie, Steven Sessegnon, Michael Hector, Alfie Mawson, Tim Ream, Maxime Le Marchand, Joe Bryan
Midfielders: Harrison Reed, Kevin McDonald, Stefan Johansen, Josh Onomah, Tom Cairney, Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa
Attackers: Anthony Knockaert, Aboubakar Kamara, Bobby Decordova-Reid, Ivan Cavaleiro, Neeskens Kebano
Strikers: Aleksandar Mitrovic
In the sticks
Starting in goal, Marek Rodak has been excellent for Fulham. I feel more comfortable with Rodak between the sticks than I have any Fulham goalkeeper since Mark Schwarzer left the club. Fully deserving of his contract extension back in May, Marek Rodak is the long term keeper that Fulham have long been looking for. His distribution is largely very good and for years I’ve been talking about how excellent a shot stopper he is. The big Slovakian is a true game winner and while the quality of finishing will be noticeably better in the Premier League, I’m confident going into the new season with arguably the Championship’s Goalkeeper of the Season.
Bets on Betts’s future
There’s talk over Marcus Bettinelli’s future, and in the case that he leaves, I would propose just signing another Jordan Archer-like keeper, so our young goalies can head out on loan.
Perhaps we could take a look at the free agent market, with someone like Londoner Rob Elliot (recently of Newcastle United). Elliot is an experienced goalkeeper who’s capable of stepping in when needed, but he may want a move where starts are more guaranteed.
While I’m not keen on any players leaving, purely to keep the entirety of that squad together, Bettinelli may want to go and be a number one elsewhere. And after six seasons of service he’s earned the right to want to pursue those options. Alternatively, Betts could choose to stay and push Rodak as the senior member of this goalkeeping group, knowing an injury or suspension could see him given the opportunity to regain his spot in between the sticks.
Fulham on the other hand, may want to go in the direction of building competition and chase a goalkeeper that can seriously challenge Rodak for the number one position, though I find that unlikely. But if they did, there are a few keepers I’ve liked for a long while, including Robin Olsen of Roma, Alban Lafont of Nantes (on loan from Fiorentina) and Newcastle’s Freddie Woodman, currently on loan at Swansea. But I feel I’d be thinking too hard to try and justify spending a lot of money on a goalkeeper with our 23-year-old Slovakian academy product performing so well.
Another Juve keeper coming?
The club have been linked with Mattia Perin of Juventus for £11m, which seems like a misuse of budget given it’s the one position we don’t need to strengthen. Perin has long been a bright talent, starting consistently in Serie A at 20 before being brought in at Juventus to challenge Wojciech Szczesny as a replacement for Gianluigi Buffon, but has lost out.
There’s no doubting he’s a talented goalkeeper, but with question marks over his ability to transition to English football on top of a number injuries (ruptured the cruciate ligament in both knees as well as having two operations in his right shoulder), I’m not convinced the potential ability is worth the risk when we’ve already got a very capable starting goalkeeper. I’ve backed Rodak to be a Champions League level goalkeeper since his arrival at Fulham at 16 and I don’t think it’ll take long before the rumours of eight figure fees crop up.
It’s still easy to forget how young he is for a goalkeeper. Marek Rodak is the guy. Nothing more needs to be said.