Monday, 28 May 2018

Fulham: 18/19 Summer Window Preview

So then, have we all recovered from the weekend? It's that time of year again, when we all start googling the Belgian Second Division to work out who our next big signing will be. The difference this time is of course, we're a Premier League team again! As I'm sure most of you reading would've been, I was equal parts exhausted and elated at about 7pm on Saturday night. After a long 4 years, we're back in the promised land.

Of course being back in the Premier League, and the financial windfall that comes with it means we're in a whole other world when it comes to transfers and the players we can potentially sign. We're a very attractive option for players now. We're based in London, we're known to play "attractive" football, and we've got an ambitious owner who won't be afraid to spend when required. I'm not expecting us to go out and spend Top 6 level money or anything close to that, but I would hope/expect us to spend somewhere in the region of 60-80 Million to try and ensure that our stay in the Premier League isn't a short one. It's also vitally important we get into the market as soon as humanly possible, because with the World Cup taking up most of June and July and the window closing in early August there's a very limited time to make signings with us already starting later than Wolves and Cardiff.

As always with these blogs, I'll look at the areas that I believe we need to strengthen, and because we're in the Premier League you may have even heard of most of them this year- so we're already better off than this time last year. As always I'm not expecting to sign these specific names, and it's more talking about the profile of player we need to sign. I should also say I'm not expecting to sign everyone on this list, because if we did we'd end up bankrupt and thankfully we don't have Harry Redknapp as manager. For a lot of these sections I'd only expect to sign one, or at the most two players from each.


I'm really curious to see what happens in-terms of Goalkeepers for us this summer. I think a lot of it will come down to how much faith Jokanovic has in Bettinelli. His improvement this season has been immense, I won't deny that- but personally I'd like to see us sign a properly experienced Premier League proven Goalkeeper to either challenge or surpass Bettinelli next season.

Michel Vorm (Spurs)
There are quite a few names that fit the bill of "experienced Premier League Keeper" who'll be available this summer. Just off the top of my head there's Lukasz Fabianski, Joe Hart, Tom Heaton, Fraser Forster, Ben Foster and Simon Mignolet who will all be looking for first team Premier League football next season. But in the end I settled on Michel Vorm, simply because his contract at Spurs is running out and he'd be available on a free. We've not got an unlimited amount of money to spend, even after gaining promotion, so signing someone with the experience and quality of Michel Vorm to push Bettinelli and potentially come in for him on a free would be absolutely ideal to me.

Lovre Kalinic (Gent)
I talked about Kalinic last summer, so it's obvious I'm a big fan of him- but now we're in the Premier League I'd absolutely love for us to sign him. It was funny, I talked about him last summer and then he ended up being linked with a big money move to Leicester which obviously put him out of range for us. I do think we need to sign a new Keeper, and if we're wanting to sign someone to be a guaranteed #1 for us, I wouldn't look past Kalinic. It would be hard to look past him anyway because he's massive.

The one problem we'd have with Kalinic is he's going with Croatia to the World Cup, so would miss the first part of Pre-Season. But if we want to sign quality, we have to contend with the fact that said quality is World Cup level.

I don't think many people would dispute that the defence is where we need to make some serious improvement in the summer. I personally believe that Fredericks and Ream's starting spots at the beginning of next season are sorted (assuming Fredericks signs a new deal and doesn't get a retrospective ban for the stamp on Grealish). But we need to add more depth pretty much everywhere, and make the defence a lot more solid if we're planning on staying up next season. Denis Odoi will always have a place in Fulham history for his goal that took us to Wembley, but if we start with Odoi at Centre-Back next season it won't be pretty.

Liam Moore (Reading)
I remember we were linked with Liam Moore in the season we went down when he was at Leicester, so it would sort of be full circle were we to sign him on our return to the top tier. I personally see this one as an absolute no brainer. From what I can tell Reading aren't in the best shape in-terms of FFP after their splurge on Aluko last summer so if a sufficient bid was made they'd sell, he's shown he's comfortable with the ball at his feet from when Jaap Stam was managing Reading- and first and foremost he's a damn good Centre-Back.

I saw last week that Brighton had supposedly bid for him, whether that's true or not is another matter entirely. But were we to bid for him, I would hope he'd favour us because it wouldn't be as hard to break into our starting eleven as it would be to dislodge either Dunk or Duffy.

Fabian Schar (Deportivo)
Deportivo were one of the teams relegated from La Liga last season, and as such the mass exits from said clubs are to be expected. Florin Andone has already gone through the exit door and signed for Brighton (for about a third of what Deportivo quoted Brighton last summer), and if I were Tony Khan I'd be making sure Schar was another player who was leaving Deportivo for the Premier League. As is the case with Liam Moore, Schar is a very "Fulham" profile signing. He's a good age, comfortable with the ball at his feet and just a generally technically gifted defender- and he'd be available for a pretty reasonable fee as a result of Deportivo's relegation.

Schar has made the preliminary 26-man Swiss squad for the World Cup, and he'll most likely be going to Russia- so that would be the only issue when it comes to Pre-Season preparations but I'd be all for his signing.

Christian Luyindama (Standard Liege)
I'd see Liam Moore and Schar as the starting Centre-Back next to Tim Ream for next season. This signing would be more of a depth option, but also with the potential to become a starter for us. Luyindama was one of, if not the best Centre-Back in the Belgian League last season. What makes him an attractive signing to me is the fact he's young (24), he's tall at 6'2-6'3, and he's been converted from a Midfielder into a Centre-Back at Standard Liege which should make him an ideal candidate to play in our back line given our need to have ball-playing Centre-Backs. Coming from the Belgian League he'd also be relatively cheap, plus what would one of these blogs be without a trip to Belgium?

Matt Targett (Southampton)
As of writing this, we don't actually have a Left-Back as a result of Targett's loan ending. He's the obvious one really isn't he? With Southampton staying up, I had hopes we could re-sign Targett even before we were promoted- and now with us both being in the Premier League it should make signing him that little bit easier.

The three questions I'd have would be; will Southampton sell Ryan Bertrand this summer? Because if they do then Targett may well be lining up against us rather than for us next season. I think it's too early to know too much about the transfer market, but Targett's tweet today may indicate that is the case. Also, how much will Southampton want for him? He's got a contract with them until 2022, and knowing that we'd want him- even with Bertrand they wouldn't let him go cheap. The other, simply, is whether Targett's good enough to be a regular starter in the Premier League.

Targett's been brilliant since we signed him in January, but moving up to the Premier League is a whole other world in-terms of being a Full-Back. Especially with a side like ours where we play on the front foot so often, being a Full-Back in the team is the easy part. You've got very little defensive responsibility in most games and the emphasis is more on the attacking side of the game. It's also the question I'd have for Fredericks next season, because pace won't be enough to make up for some of his defensive shortcomings when we come up against the Hazard's, Sane's etc. because they're just as quick as he is.

We simply won't be able to play like that in quite a few games next season- so the question has to be asked. I'd happily be proven wrong, because I really like him- and as already said he's been brilliant since we signed him. Worst comes to worst and we do go straight back down we'd have one of the best Left-Backs in the league again should we sign him as well.

Joe Bryan (Bristol City)
Looking at alternatives for Targett, and you don't have to look that far for a very good alternative. While Bristol City's season fizzled out by about March, Joe Bryan was one of the undoubted highlights. He finished the season with 5 Goals and 3 Assists, which for a Left-Back is pretty good. But he's also been quite good defensively, and he might end up being cheaper than Targett because of his long contract.

I saw the 6 Million figure being talked about in relation to Bryan and a supposed bid from Burnley, which in this market I'd say is very good value. Especially for an exclusively domestic transfer which automatically increases the prices being talked about.

Jetro Willems (Eintracht Frankfurt)
If we do look abroad for our Left-Back signing, my hope is we stop in Germany and look at the Frankfurt Left-Back Jetro Willems. Willems is someone who's been on the radar of football fans for quite a while now, despite his relatively young age. He broke through with PSV relatively early, and in those early stages of his career I believe he was linked with Man Utd around the time they moved Evra on. However two or three years ago he picked up a really bad injury, and that set him back a long way.

But, he's picked himself up after signing for Frankfurt and played 23 games for them this season- and were we to get him back to his best he'd be one of the signings of the season in the whole league not just for us. He's not that unrealistic of a signing either. Between the lure of the Premier League, and the fact I'm expecting Frankfurt's team to be torn apart as a result of Niko Kovac going to Bayern- even with Frankfurt qualifying for the Europa League. This has already started with Keeper Lukas Hradecky signing for Leverkusen from Frankfurt.

As with Bettinelli, I'm curious to see just how much faith Jokanovic has in the current midfield three of McDonald, Cairney and Johansen to impose themselves on the Premier League. Personally I think McDonald and Cairney will be starting and Johansen will be benched. Either way, we need to add some more quality to the team because Matt O'Riley won't be ready to play Premier League football and I can't imagine Ibrahima Cisse will be hanging around for too long now the season's over.

Oliver Norwood (Brighton)
He's worth the discussion. In his interview after the game on Saturday he made it clear that he'd like to stay with us- and we can do worse as a Midfield depth option. He'd have a use for us, even in the Premier League albeit I wouldn't want him to start anything more than the Cup games and maybe one or two over the busy Christmas fixtures. Depending on the price I'd be fine with us signing him permanently, so it's over to Norwood and his agent to make it happen.

Thomas Delaney (Werder Bremen)
Going back to the Bundesliga now, and the player I'd be signing to come in as an upgrade on Johansen. I'm pretty sure we were linked with Delaney a few summers ago when he was still at Copenhagen, and he's only gone from strength to strength since then. Delaney's coming off the back of a very good 18 Months for Bremen since signing for them and he's currently gearing up for the World Cup with Denmark.

Delaney would be pretty much the ideal midfielder for us and how we play in my opinion. I've seen that Brighton are supposedly in for him, with Bremen supposedly turning down a 10 Million pound bid so he won't be cheap- but given how key the midfield is to how we play we can't afford to go for a cheap option when trying to upgrade.

Badou Ndiaye (Stoke)
Another player who's World Cup bound is Badou Ndiaye from Stoke. Even with Stoke going down, Ndiaye managed to actually have an impressive introduction to the Premier League since signing for Stoke in January. He'd be very much the engine type player that Johansen's been for us over the last two seasons and his added physicality and general quality would be very welcome to the team. Unfortunately for us, he's impressed so much that we wouldn't be the only takers for him. I saw West Ham supposedly want him, and their budget would be a lot bigger in these circumstances- and they'd be a more attractive option for Ndiaye given how established they are as a Premier League club with established players and the addition of Manuel Pellegrini.

Marco van Ginkel (Chelsea)
Staying in England, and for a third summer in a row I'd have us going back to Chelsea for one of their loan army. The difference being I'd want this one to be a permanent move. Marco van Ginkel has been one of the many Chelsea players who have always been on the periphery thanks to their loan farm system, but I'd be all for taking a chance on him on a permanent deal for next season.

He's coming off of being the key man in PSV's Eredivisie title win, captaining the side despite being on loan and scoring 14 goals in the process would make him a very attractive player for us. That combined with the fact Chelsea are supposedly demanding 10 million for him, which is supposedly out of PSV's price range- but to me represents a bargain in the current market would make me very keen on him. Plus, he's had previous Premier League experience both with Chelsea and Stoke and I'm sure Jokanovic will be wanting players with said experience added to the squad.

Mijat Gacinovic (Eintracht Frankfurt)
The first Serbian on this list, and one you may know of- even if you don't know the name. Gacinovic was the player who scored Frankfurt's third goal against Bayern in the German Cup final to put the tie to bed in the last minute just over a week ago.

He'd be another player I'd look at as an upgrade for Johansen, and he has all of the attributes to prove a quality signing for us. He's another player World Cup bound, and although he may not start for them- being behind Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Nemanja Matic and Luka Milivojevic isn't an indictment on him. Gacinovic can also play out wide if required, and as I'll talk about more later, having someone who's versatile could be invaluable to the squad.

Valon Berisha (RB Salzburg)
One of the highlights of Salzburg's surprise Europa League run was the performances of Kosovan international Berisha. To be blunt, Berisha is absolutely top drawer, and he's proven it consistently this season in the Austrian Bundesliga as well as in the Europa League. As is the case with Ndiaye, he wouldn't be cheap, and we wouldn't be the only takers for him- but if we wanted to show some proper ambition in the transfer market signing someone like Berisha whose quality is undoubted would be a real statement of intent.

The main selling point for Berisha to me, other than his general quality is the fact he's also versatile. Berisha can play centrally or out wide, and that sort of versatility can be a real plus from a tactical standpoint- because we can't stick with the 4-3-3 for every game next season and expect results.

Another area where we need to strengthen significantly is on the wings. I personally don't think any of Ayite, Kebano or AK47 are good enough to start for us next season. So we need to sign a Right-Winger that can start for us. I also think we need to add depth at LW, because while Ryan Sessegnon's had an exceptional season for us this season- I don't think he should be starting every game next season. In short, we need to manage him perhaps better than we did this season because I don't think many would dispute he looked quite burned out by around the end of March/beginning of April.

Adama Traore (Middlesbrough)
My first choice for the Right-Wing position would be Adama Traore. With Boro staying down in the Championship, I'd think Traore would be available at the right price- and I genuinely believe that Jokanovic could carry on what Tony Pulis has started with Traore in managing to harness his absolutely unbelievable pace and skill and developing an end product to go with it. You only have to look at how AK47 has improved from where he was at the start of the season to where he was starting at Wembley on Saturday.

As I've said already, domestic transfers are never as cheap as they should be. Especially in the case of someone like Traore who's so important to Boro- but I'd absolutely love if we could sign him because he can terrorise defences on any given day. As perfectly exampled by when we played Boro in January.

Another domestic signing I thought we could look at for the Right-Wing spot is Oliver Burke at West Brom, but I think he may be better off with a season in the Championship playing regularly rather than going straight back into the Premier League where he failed to make an impact last season.

Amath Diedhiou (Getafe)
This is a story that isn't fully relevant, but I'll still tell it anyway. When we played Bolton away in February I was actually in Barcelona for a weekend away. I did the usual touristy stuff, and then on the Sunday I went to see Barcelona play Getafe at the Nou Camp. Expecting to see a masterclass from the likes of Messi, Suarez, Coutinho, Dembele etc. I left the Nou Camp most impressed with someone who I'd never heard of before in Amath Diedhiou from Getafe.

From what I saw he was a very direct winger in that he was never afraid to take someone on and run at them, which is the perfect fit for us in my opinion. Despite being Senegalese, he's also not been included in their World Cup squad which to me is a bonus because it would make him fully available for Pre-Season preparations. As I've made a point of throughout this blog as well, Diedhiou is also versatile. He can play Left-Wing (which he did against Barcelona), but he can also play up-front and given he's Right-Footed he could play on the right pretty comfortably as well in my opinion.

Iuri Medeiros (Sporting CP)
Another player who's making a second appearance in one of these transfer blogs is Iuri Medeiros. He's still just not broken through with Sporting despite his quality, and now that we're in the Premier League I'd imagine we'd be a more attractive proposition to him given the fact he's not broken through with Sporting and spent the second half of the season out on loan again (this time at Genoa). Although given the fact he's Portuguese I'd assume Wolves have first option on him.

Emiliano Rigoni (Zenit)
I'm interested to see what happens at Zenit over the summer. The size of investment Zenit have had over the last decade to me has been an example of the attempt to improve the domestic Russian game and players to the point where they're competitive for this year's World Cup. It's just a theory, but I wouldn't be surprised to see an exodus of some degree of the Russian clubs over the next year or two once the World Cup is done. Especially with a club like Zenit who are backed by government companies. That combined with the fact that as of writing Zenit are manager-less after Roberto Mancini left them to take the Italy job means someone like Rigoni could be available.

Rigoni would be close to the ideal signing in my opinion. He's comfortable playing on either wing, and crucially he knows where the goal is. He top scored in the Europa League Group Stages alongside his teammate Aleksandr Kokorin, although he didn't actually score any league goals for Zenit. But I wouldn't let that deter me from trying to sign him, the fact he got called up for Argentina last October and made his international debut should highlight that he does have something about him worth pursuing.

The key to any promoted club staying up is having someone who knows where the back of the net is. I actually think the Premier League will suit Rui Fonte more, but at the same time I wouldn't want to take a chance on him starting for us. The second half of the season has shown exactly the type of Striker we need to maximise our potential and get the best out of the rest of the team. I personally think we need to sign two Strikers in addition to Fonte and AK47 to be completely confident of our chances next season. Whether that's two Strikers of the same build, or two different ones I'm not entirely sure to be honest.

Aleksandar Mitrovic (Newcastle)
The player that showed that was Aleksandar Mitrovic, and in my opinion he'll go down as one of the best signings in Fulham history for his 4-5 months he's spent with us this season. Even though he didn't actually score in any of the three Play-Off games, his hold-up play was arguably just as important- especially in the last twenty minutes of the Villa game when we were down to 10 men. To put it simply, Mitrovic is the perfect player for us and it's a win-win situation because Mitrovic knows he has a home here with us. Especially with Jokanovic in charge he just fits here. He wouldn't be cheap. We'd probably be looking at around 20 million for him, but given his age and what the market for Strikers is like nowadays I wouldn't even say 20 million is an excessive amount for him.

My hope is we can push the deal through before the World Cup, because all we need is for Mitrovic to score a couple against Brazil and there's suddenly another 10 million on his price tag that could potentially price us out of the move which would be a shame.

Moussa Dembele (Celtic)
Looking at alternatives/additions for Mitrovic, and one player that I'd like to see us consider is a very familiar name to us Fulham fans. Dembele's not been helped by injury problems in this last season, which has perhaps made his stock fall a bit in the sense that rather than being linked with Man Utd and Spurs he was being linked to Brighton in the January window. However, that could play into our hands this summer.

After spending two years in Scotland playing European football, I'd say Dembele's now at the age where he should be looking at getting his feet under table in the Premier League to really kick on to the next level by playing the elite teams that comes with it. So where better to do so than with Fulham? Especially considering we'd be a very familiar set-up for him to bed in as he takes the step up to the Premier League and he'll know a few of the players and of course the coaching staff from his previous time with us.

It may just be a bit of a fantasy, but it's one I'd like to see realised- because I've always rated Dembele and said he'd be in the Premier League with or without us. So now we are, I hope he can come along for the ride.

Salomon Rondon (West Brom)
When talking about Mitrovic and Dembele, the cost of them isn't really known. They're both highly rated young players, and as such aren't going to be cheap. In the case of Rondon he has a known release clause of 16 million as a result of West Brom's relegation. Some people may see Rondon's name and price-tag and sneer at it, because he's not exactly a prolific goalscorer. However, for how we play he's the ideal target man. I'd go as far as to say he's a better target man than Mitrovic, and he's also scored more Premier League goals than him.

If there was a preference I'd take Mitrovic because he's younger and he's already been with the club- but Rondon would be a very, very good alternative. In short, Rondon is the "coaches dream" sort of player with how he operates on the pitch, which is why I imagine Tony Pulis kept faith in him for their entire time together at West Brom despite Rondon's lack of goals at times.


Moving onto the "outs" section now, and for a change in these Transfer Window previews it's not full of angst over us potentially losing our best players. In-terms of the outs for this summer I think for the most part it'll be about trimming the fat from our current squad and making room for better, more Premier League ready alternatives. I've made a point to talk about "significant" outgoings, because the likes of Luca de la Torre, Matt O'Riley and Steven Sessegnon I could see us loaning out but they've not really made a proper impact on the first team this season.

Firstly, on the loans front I don't see any need for Kalas, Ojo or Piazon to come back now we've been promoted. Especially in Kalas and Piazon's case, they've played their part in the last two exceptional seasons- but given the fact they were rotation options at best in the Championship for us I can't see them making the step up to the Premier League with us.

Ryan Sessegnon
With that said, even with a promotion under our belts the Sessegnon to "big club" rumours won't stop this summer. I'm actually not fully convinced we won't sell him to be honest. My reasoning being that the top Premier League clubs will look at Sessegnon being worth 40-50 Million now and maybe think it's excessive, but at the same time think about how much he could be worth if he performs for us next season, scores some goals in the Premier League and maybe picks up one or two England caps.

I do think Sessegnon will be playing in a Fulham shirt next season, but whether that's as a contracted Fulham player or after being loaned back by a Man Utd or a Man City remains to be seen.

Ryan Fredericks
It's worth putting Fredericks' name in this part, just because as of writing this he hasn't signed a new contract yet. I do expect him to sign one, especially now that we're a Premier League team- but you never know, a club like West Ham might come in with a ridiculous wage offer that we can't match and he moves on. I don't think it's likely, but until he puts pen to paper it could happen.

David Button
This is more of a "trimming the fat" sale than the previous two. At this stage of his career, Button will want to be playing football- and especially now we've gone up we simply can't offer that to him. I do think fans have been harsh on Button at times, because there was a noticeable improvement in him at the start of the season. However, you can't argue with results and Bettinelli coming in coinciding with us going on the run that got us promoted isn't a coincidence. I do think Button is a solid Championship Keeper though, and there will be takers for him especially at a cut price that I'd assume he'd be available for.

I've talked about wanting to sign a new Keeper in the "ins" section, but even if we didn't having Marek Rodak as a #2 for a season would be fine with me.

Neeskens Kebano
It's hard to say anything negative about Jokanovic after he's brought us up, but his treatment of Kebano has been a bit disappointing to me. He could've been a very useful squad player for us in the run-in for the season, and perhaps given Sessegnon a break in a game or two to try and keep him a bit fresher for the Play-Offs. As I say though, it's hard to question it, because it worked and we're up. I do think we'll be saying goodbye to Neeskens this summer though, because he's more than good enough to be a starter somewhere.

Ibrahima Cisse
One of the forgotten men of this season is Ibrahima Cisse. Those Pre-Season games where Cisse was banging in long shots off the bar seem like lifetimes ago. As with Kebano, he's definitely good enough to start somewhere- but the fact he wasn't even in the 18 on Saturday says a lot.

Cauley Woodrow
Remember him? I would've expected Woodrow to move on this summer even if we'd stayed down. The fact he's spent the last 18 months of his Fulham career out on loan with Burton and Bristol City should say it all really. He's nowhere near Premier League quality, and he's not even that young anywhere at 23 turning 24 in December. I'd be interested to see where he ended up, because under the right set of circumstances I do think he could be a starter for a mid-table Championship team, but he's nowhere near the standard we need for next season.

Rui Fonte
As I've already said earlier, I think the Premier League is actually more suited to Rui Fonte than the Championship. With some exceptions it generally favours a more technically gifted, perhaps not as physical player of which Fonte is. As such I'd actually like to see him stay and either use him as an option up-front or maybe even push him into a deeper Midfield role, because his football brain can't be called into question. Whether Fonte would be happy with that is another question entirely though, and if he wanted to move on or got an offer he couldn't refuse from somewhere I don't think we'd stand in his way.

That's that then. Another Summer Window Preview is in the books, and the first of hopefully many in that I'm looking forward to a season in the Premier League. Hopefully you all enjoy your summers and the World Cup before we all come back to the Cottage bright eyed and bushy tailed in early August. Thanks for reading as always, I always enjoy writing these posts- and hopefully you enjoy reading them as well. Thanks again. WE'RE GOING UP!

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