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Why Fulham’s (nearly) dry January isn’t a bad thing

Written by Alex Mackenzie on 2nd February 2024

Palhinha in the rain
© Adam Farquharson 2024

Well, the good news is no one left. The bad news is Fulham only signed one player. But in the words of fellow Albanian Dua Lipa, could Armando Broja be the one? We’ll have to see.

Fulham now have to focus on the squad they have without fitting too many players into a new system for the rest of the season. It took a long time for these players to gel without Mitrovic. It could be worth suggesting that Fulham didn’t want to unsettle a squad too much; that was just starting to click.

It could also be because Fulham did not find suitable players to come in at the right price at the right time. Many names were mentioned: Pavlidis and Guirassy to name a couple. But Fulham will be thinking that the next permanent striker come defender has to be top class. When Mitrovic left, we all realised how this team went from challenging the top half and even a European place, to mid-table finishers quite quickly. So, fans will hopefully appreciate the patience shown before signing a permanent replacement. Oddly, that is how Mitrovic came to the club too. Are we falling for a similar narrative, but ultimately a different player? Only time will tell.

Joao stays

One big plus is that Joao Palhinha is still a Fulham player. Fans will also have learned to appreciate that too. It seemed that there would be a trigger of events if he left. The much talked about Andre would be likely be the new man playing as the six/eight in the midfield. It seems that the deal might have been conditional on Joao leaving, which may not happen until the summer – if at all – depending on the rest of the season.

Although Fulham looked very set to lose out on a brilliant player one way or the other, it’s encouraging to think we are looking to the future. It had been reported that Alastair Mackintosh made the trip to Brazil to watch the midfielder, and actually agreed core terms with Fluminense in the event of Joao leaving. A first for Fulham, as the deadline day madness unfolds on Fulham’s social media feeds. Just the one mad dash this time.

Tosin’s future in the balance

The other big story was Tosin. He remains a Fulham player as well, even with his contract running out in the summer. Rumours were that he might leave for AC Milan. Spurs and Liverpool were also interested. But he remains at Craven Cottage for now. As a player, I think it would be in my interests to churn out some very good performances between now and the end of the season. Fulham, I’m sure, will want to look at extending his contract in the summer. It puts Tosin under the microscope because a big move to a major club is not beyond him; on his day he can be a top-class centre-back. But the consistency in his performances will be under serious scrutiny if he wants to make a move for a club playing in Europe.

The other factor he should consider is playing time, which he won’t get at big club if doesn’t turn out world-class performances on all fronts in the next four months. His contract situation poses another question about replacements, which is probably why Tim Ream signed an extension recently. Having already secured Calvin Bassey in the summer, that might not have been a focus for the recruitment team. Fulham, will therefore want to keep Tosin to avoid that added expenditure, especially as they will get nothing for him if he leaves for free on expiration of his deal. A player who wants to leave isn’t good for a happy camp long term. Trevor Chalobah has reportedly been lined up in a move that could stir the west London rivalry even more than it does currently. Perhaps that will be a focus come summer.

A smart move

On the topic of west London rivalry, Fulham will be very grateful that they didn’t splash out on Armando Broja. Chelsea were asking for an astronomical price in the region of £50 million, which for a relatively unproven striker showing little sign of potential, is completely unreasonable. The 22-year-old’s price was eventually lowered and a loan is safer, but even so, Fulham would be better off looking abroad, avoiding Premier League price inflation if they go on to secure a permanent replacement. Someone who can hit the ground running and is at the peak of their powers. Not someone who needs time to develop. You never know though, if Broja plays well come summer the price has could have increased further due to performance, then Fulham may take that risk. Fulham can stir something up in Broja that is based on a shared common enemy and move to make it permanent.

In many ways, Fulham can thank their relative success in the cup for the squad being an almost non-rotating one. Players will have been more focused on that competition this month. January is never a great time to sign anyone unless absolutely required, and thankfully the preferred method of a loan agreement has been utilised. The squad may not have got a big lift or fall for that matter, but Adama Traore returning to full fitness will almost feel like a new signing. Much like Manor Soloman last term. Most importantly, the squad will feel very familiar at a time when they are all, seemingly, just getting settled in give one big summer transfer. It will also definitely be good for the finances of the club, which could be under more scrutiny with the new profit and sustainability rules taking hold. Fulham will hope that togetherness pushes the team forward for the rest of the season, and Broja plays with a point to prove.

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