Jack Stroudley assesses the state of the squad at the moment and where we can improve.
We’re a little less than a third of the way through the season, and so far it’s been pretty average at best. We expected a slight drop-off following how good last seasons campaign was, but following an average summer transfer window it’s felt really flat. There are certainly gaps in this Fulham side that need to be addressed when the winter window comes around in January, but were are those gaps?
This’ll be the shortest part of this article as I think Fulham are pretty strong in this department. Bernd Leno is having another stormer of a season for us being in the top 5% for saves in Europe so far and with Fulham’s xG against sitting at 19.1 (compared to the 17 we’ve conceded) his impact and importance can’t be underestimated. Our rotational options are solid as well with Marek Rodak comfortably Fulham’s number two as well as Steven Benda whose starting to come back to fitness with some appearances for our U21s.
If Rodak was to leave in January to get more game time, Benda appears to be an adequate back-up to Leno, and with the German keeper still performing at a high level there’s no need to look to strengthen here in January.
This is another position that Fulham don’t necessarily need to worry too much about. With quality and depth in both full-back positions as well as four decent central defenders, albeit at varying stages of fitness, Fulham seem pretty well equipped in this department. If we were to improve here it would be centrally with maybe someone else who is composed on the ball, such as Nino from Brazilian side Fluminense.
Aged at 26, the Brazilian is coming into form with a recent call-up to the national side and has confirmed that he will be moving club in January. A pass completion rate of 90.7% puts him in the top 3% of defenders and 1.46 progressive carries per game suggests he is very comfortable on the ball. There have been rumours of late that a deal with €7m deal with Nottingham Forest could be on the cards but the defender has confirmed that no deal has been made yet, maybe it’s something Fulham should look at.
I’d like to preface this with the assumption that following his contact extension, Joao Palhinha will be at the club till at least the summer. Elsewhere, Fulham look OK in midfield area, with Sasa Lukic starting to improve alongside the reliable Harrison Reed. Tom Cairney is still able to hold his own on the pitch and while Andreas Pereira is struggling at the moment, Alex Iwobi is improving game on game.
I’d still like us to add one more in the midfield department, with rumours in recent days suggesting that Fulham are leading the race for Nino’s Fluminense teammate Andre. The midfielder once again looks very composed on the ball being in the top 2% for passes attempted and top 1% for pass completion. 1.43 successful take-ons and 1.79 progressive carries once again show he is not afraid to bring the ball forward and help create chances.
Bringing a new name to the table, Fulham could also look at Pedro Chirivella from Nantes. The 26-year-old has had a good start to the season for the French side with decent passing stats. 6.72 progressive passes per 90 and an 87.7% pass completion isn’t something to shy away from. According to transfermarkt he is valued at €6m, but I feel that Nantes would want a higher price for the midfielder.
As we get into the attacking third it’s clear that this area of the pitch is where the most attention needs to be focused on. Bobby De Cordova-Reid has probably been our most impressive player in this area with two goals so far. I expected Harry Wilson to kick on following a good end to last season however with only one assist so far, it’s clear that the Welshman is struggling. Willian has failed to hit the heights of last season and the explosive Adama Traore has been plagued by a recent injury.
If Fulham were to improve here I think that Joseph Paintsil could be someone to look at. The 25-year-old from Genk has had a good start to the season with three goals and three assists in the league as well as another two goal contributions in the Conference League. The Ghanian averages 2.48 shots per 90 and is in the top 6% for assists. He is also in the top 6% for touches in the penalty box and averages 12.34 progressive passes received per 90 (putting him in the top 3%). The right-winger has a transfer value of around €12m.
Finally, the most glaringly obvious area that Fulham must improve in when the winter window comes around. With just one league goal between our current crop of three strikers, a number nine is a necessity in January. We’ve loosely been linked to Santiago Gimenez over the last week (someone I suggested in the summer) and while he would be my main target in January, I don’t think we’ll be the only club in for him, so I’ll suggest another name.
Brian Brobbey could be just what Fulham need to solve our issues going forward. The 21-year-old has a solid start to the season with five goals for a struggling Ajax side and his numbers across the pitch certainly make him an intriguing prospect. 3.55 shots per 90 to match with 0.74 goals per 90 mean that the Dutchman isn’t afraid to get shots off when chances present themselves. Elsewhere, he is in the top 8% for pass completion and receives 8.27 progressive passes per 90. He is currently valued at €12m, but given that Ajax signed him for €17m I feel they will demand a higher fee. But it’s certainly one for Fulham to mull over.