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.