by Mike Forrest
Having agonisingly lost their two most important players in Dempsey and Dembele coupled with the departure of proven premier league players Andy Johnson, Danny Murphy, Dickson Etuhu and Pavel Pogrebnyak, it has been a summer of change for Fulham, but change is not always welcome.
The season started brilliantly and optimistically for Fulham with the 5-0 dismantling of Norwich. The key cog in that performance was central midfielder Moussa Dembele. However since then things have turned sour for the Londoners. The departure of Dembele not only means that Fulham have to change tactically but it also makes the already threadbare central midfield even more pourous.
Yet Fulham cannot feel aggrieved by the departure of Dembele. It was inevitable. They had the whole summer to have potential replacements ready to sign but evidently did not. This will deepen the already large wound left in the wake of such a pivotal figure and adds to the frustration of the fans who have seen the core of a potential top 6 team evaporate.
Fulhams incompetence of not signing a central midfielder is highlighted by making the acquisition of striker Dimitar Berbatov their main priority. Whilst the signing of such a big name assuaged fans’ rational fears for a while, the 3 – 0 thumping dished out by West Ham hammered home Fulhams massive flaw – a powder puff central midfield. Why Fulham priortised the signing of Bebratov is mystifying. Is there much point in having a great attacking force in Petric, Ruiz and Bebratov if behind them the midfield is going to be constantly overrun?
These are worries that are going to plague Fulham but worringly the decision not to have a replacement for Dembele was self inflicted. Equally worrying for the Cottagers is that they find themselves in a situation reminiscent of Bolton last season; 12 players including Hangeland, Schwazer and Hughes are out of contract next summer. Having seen the way the club failed to adequately handle the transfer window, one wouldn’t store too much faith in them to solve this potential nightmare.
The optimism that was brought about by the thumping Fulham gave Norwich is a distant memory. Three consecutive defeats later, including one against league 1 opposition and 7 goals conceded signals that it will be all hands on deck for the Cottagers and whether marquee signing Berbatov will have the desire for such a battle, well that’s a question for another day.