How much difference does one player make anyway?

Interested in your views on how replaceable players are.  I remember a few years ago, getting to White Hart Lane and finding that Hangeland was out and the much maligned Chris Baird was playing instead.  The result: comfortable enough 0-0 draw.

If Hangeland were to break his leg tomorrow I would be reasonably happy that a combination of Hughes, Baird and Senderos would be more than adequate to keep us broadly where we’d have been with Hangeland. We wouldn’t be quite as good, but all of these players can play as part of a functioning back four well enough; I don’t think the drop-off over a season would be *that* great. 

Similarly, if we lose Dembele then Steve Sidwell plays more. How much of a difference is that really going to make over a season? Again, we’ll be a bit less good, but not by that much because Sidwell’s a good player who brings extra things to the team.

Dempsey is the big concern, having scored so many goals, but even he can’t be worth that many points a season can he? We managed 16 more points than the team that finished 17th last year.  Put another way, that means that our entire team contributed 16 more points than Bolton’s entire team. How many of those can you attribute to one man?  If you think Dempsey’s worth 15 points a season you’re effectively saying that the rest of our team is about as good as Bolton’s (aren’t you?), and it isn’t.  If Dempsey hadn’t played, someone else would have, and that person would presumably have contributed *something*.  The drop-off won’t be that big, even from the best players. 

I think this is why teams routinely soldier on after losing their star men. To really get into trouble Fulham will have to lose more than a couple of good players – I simply think we’ve done too much right in the last few seasons to be at risk.


12 thoughts on “How much difference does one player make anyway?

  1. In ‘Why England Lose’ by Simon Kuiper, I seem to remember they discuss this idea with the reference being Lyon. Basically, players come and go, and as long as you have replacements or other players who can make a small step up, it is better to sell at the top of the market than hold on to a certain player who you are petrified of losing.

    Arsenal are a team who have constantly lost ‘star’ players, and whilst they have not really progressed as a team, they certainly have not regressed and are a consistent top 4 team.

    I get the feeling that Fulham will be a consistent mid table team until the time that we lose the current board and structure at the club. The last few years have shown that you can change the players and the managers, but FFC ultimately will be fine.

  2. Interesting question. It’s one I think about and am never sure about! In baseball it’s easier to quantify something like this with the mountains of data, and the VORP stat, Value Over Replacement Player, has caught on to a limited extent. The Cardinals lost Albert Pujols this season, the best all-round player in the game, and are doing well anyway, very much in the running for post-season action. It’s helped that Carlos Beltran has hit 28 homers. If Ruiz can step up, if Petric does well, Fulham should have a comfortable season sans Clint, it seems to me. But it will require others to step in and smooth over the hole. Incidentally I think I’ve gotten used to the idea of Clint going and am strangely looking forward to seeing how the team operates with a different look and some new faces. Like many here, I like Jol and what he’s doing. Fulham had some great seasons before Dempsey really turned it on, so onward.

  3. There’s also the phenomenon of teams raising their performance level after the star player has been sold, which I would’ve loved to see for our modest FFC. Remember Zamora? Yeah, me neither.

    Ideally, we would’ve bagged between 7-9 million pounds for Dempsey to use on future acquisitions, he would’ve gotten his CL football, and the team who got him would have a world class player. Winner-winner-winner all around.

    The current situation with Deuce is worst-case scenario in that nobody is happy and the self-imposed lock-out will _probably_ have a negative impact on the team’s morale a la Tevez and Manchester City. I hope not, but I can’t help but think otherwise. In the end, perhaps the club’s asking price was too much (given current economic climate in the game) and that was the main issue in preventing his move. That and LFC seems to take FREAKIN’ AGES to close any deal. Who knows?

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