Current affairs

The summer months can get frustrating for football fans. For every newspaper story (most, we assume, with a grain of truth to them) we have several internet rumours and counter rumours (few, we assume, with a grain of truth to them) and everyone laps it all up anyway because without actual matches our addiction needs feeding somehow.

Really it’s all about players coming and going.

The significant moves so far, then:

Subtract: AJ, Orlando Sa, Danny Murphy, Pavel Pogrebnyak
Add: Mladen Petric, Hugo Rodallega, Sascha Riether

If we add in the likely disappearances of Dempsey and Dembele you see the following:

AJ, Sa, Murphy, Pogrebnyak, Dempsey, Dembele

AJ doesn’t really need replacing. He was a squad player on star player wages, and living embodiment of the ‘health is a skill’ maxim. Ditto Orlando Sa, whose contribution last season could be covered by a younger player.

Danny Murphy is a big loss but Mahamadou Diarra is a big gain. They are completely different to look at but actually possess reasonably similar skill-sets. So of course we’ll miss Murphy in all kinds of ways, but it’s not like there’s a huge void where he once stood. Indeed, Diarra’s form at the end of the year was presumably the beginning of the end for Murphy.

Pogrebnyak hit some extraordinary goalscoring form when he first arrived but never really convinced beyond those goals. Had he not scored with his first five shots (or whatever it was, a statistically improbable feat that he’ll never replicate) his spell here would have been considered a lot of nothing. Now, of course he did score those goals, but the point is that him doing so was so far beyond the realms of probability that the word fluke is probably not unreasonable. It was a happy fluke but I’ll eat my hat if he scores 12 league goals for Reading this season. Mladen Petric doesn’t have to do much to replace what I’d expect from Pogrebnyak next season.

We don’t know anything much about Sascha Riether. As I’m fond of saying, we Fulham fans can’t agree about players we see every week so why we’d take a second hand view of “someone from Germany” to describe a player I don’t know.  His CV suggests a moderately interesting player of Fulham-like quality, but really we’ll have to see him in action before passing judgement.

Timmy’s Rodallega post is exactly what I’d have written, too. He’s a very talented player who might or might not be a fine signing. It’s interesting to see the club move beyond Roy Hodgson’s preference for sensible Anglo-Saxons (I know, I know), and we could find ourselves in a crazy mad skillz flair-off in which Rodallega and Ruiz go bananas with wizardry next season (probably once, against Wycombe in the Milk Cup). If we consider Rodallega a Dempsey replacement (he’s not, but can perform essentially the same role, with different attributes, obviously) then this is another “big thing” ticked off Jol’s list.

So really it’s just now a question of Dembele. Steve Sidwell’s fitness can mean that we’re not actively shopping in this area, but behind Sidwell we’d be looking at Gecov and Etuhu, neither of whom Jol appears to trust. So if we get real money for Dempsey and Dembele then we might like to spend it on another midfielder.

Jol also has the likes of Kasami, Frei, Trotta and Kacaniklic to fit in next season and between them we might expect at least one major step forward. Bryan Ruiz, if he’s going to come through, will do so in this his second season. That alone could cover for the lost genius of Dembele.

When you look at all this we’re really not far off being fine. Even if we lose Dempsey and Dembele we’re now just about par for the course, with an equivalent arrival probably amounting to a serious cherry on top. This assumes that everyone gels and plays nicely, but there’s no reason to think that this won’t be the case.  We’re moving into Martin Jol’s team now, quickly, with only really Hangeland and Schwarzer remaining as key players from the Hodgson team.

2 thoughts on “Current affairs

  1. I still think we’re in need of one more striker, a young right back, a winger with a degree of pace to replace an ageing Duff (e.g. Chadli, Sinclair or someone the like) and a younger midfielder as a true Murphy replacement (unless Jol’s identified someone in the dev. squad/academy to fill that role in the future e.g. Minkwitz). I don’t buy that Diarra is the one to fill Murphy’s void. He’s 31 for a start (possibly older as no one actually knows his true age) and is more of a ball winner who indeed has a degree of creativity and vision but not at the levels of Murphy.

    I think Dembele could end up staying this season in which case a midfield 3 of Diarra, Dembele and Ruiz as a higher number 10 could work. Then I imagine Rodallega on the left to replace clint, Duff/new winger on the right and Petric/new striker up top.

    If Dembele goes I see Kasami stepping into his shoes eventually.

  2. We can handle losing Dempsey. In addition to Rodellega, who I think is his replacement, we have Frei and Kaca waiting to take on more prominent roles. We will miss his heading and finishing abilities. But Petric may replace some of that, and I expect Ruiz to start scoring more based on what I’ve seen of him. And if we sign Carroll (something I doubt) we certainly won’t be lacking in the aerial department!

    Midfield is the real danger area. Losing Murphy was massive. Last season he was the 7th most creative player in the league based on chances created. Above him was Taarabt and then the top-5 each played for a top-5 club. So now, behind Diarra and Dembele I don’t think we have the players who can play as Jol wants. For some reason, I don’t think we’re losing Dembele, but if we do we are stuffed. Even if we don’t, we need players there who can step in if/when one or both get injured. Can Gecov and Kasami do it? I have no idea. I know Sidwell and Etuhu can’t (whatever their qualities as players on the bench).

    As we have revamped our attacking options and right-back problem seemingly very well without spending money upfront, I’d like to see all of our efforts placed into central midfield. Do whatever needs doing to get Dembele to sign a one-year extension and bring in one or two central midfielders to back up or play alongside (to the extent we play 4-3-3, which I think likely) Dembele and Diarra.

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