Date:Tuesday May 18 2010
Given our recent success, it's difficult to make the argument that Fulham are in need of a major overhaul.
There is no reason to believe that the squad, as it's currently constructed, would have any trouble competing on the same level for a third consecutive season. However, I believe this approach would be inviting disaster in the long-term.
Fulham have one of the older squads in the Premier League. Experience and professionalism have their advantages, particularly in Hodgson's highly-organized brand of football, but age eventually takes its toll on squad performance. The club needs to take advantage of our recent success, and hopefully the appeal of playing for a manager like Roy Hodgson, to recruit youthful talent that can sustain success in the long-term.
With our financial structure in mind, here's my case for improving the squad.
Jamie O'Hara (23) £4-6m - Finding a long-term replacement for Danny Murphy (33) is the most important task Fulham face. We've seen how poorly the club performs without Murphy directing traffic in midfield. O'Hara was outstanding during his loan at Portsmouth this season. He's ready for first team football and would be a perfect replacement for Murphy.
Some might argue for Stephen Ireland, who seems to be on the way out at Man City. My opinion of Ireland has dropped in recent months as I've seen a decided lack of motivation since he fell out of the first team. I'm not convinced he has the work ethic Fulham need. I have no doubts about O'Hara's effort.
Steven Fletcher (23) £4-5m - My high opinion of Fletcher is not shared by all, but I'm convinced he's destined to be a solid forward in the Premier League. His hold-up play is not as accomplished as Zamora's, but solid and should get better as he matures. He has a very good shot and did very well setting up others to score this season. His goal in the 6-1 drubbing at the hands of Man City and his work in the Claret's final match versus Spurs standout in my memory. I believe he has a bright future at the right club. I'm not suggesting that he'll immediately displace Zamora (29) or Johnson (29), but he's a great long-term prospect and a short-term replacement for Nevland, Kamara and Elm, who are confirmed and/or poised to make their exits.
Darren Ambrose (26) £1-2m - This is a bit of a punt. I'm not sure about Ambrose overall ability. What I am certain about is his free kick ability - it's exceptional. Our inability to score from free kick situations has been a source of irritation for me. Danny Murphy has been the designated taker, but he's hardly threatening in that role. Clint Dempsey and Paul Konchesky have shown some aptitude, but rarely put anything on frame. His ability to score from open play in the Premier League is a question, but I suspect he'll be at least as effective as Zoltan Gera (31), who despite his Europa League exploits, only bagged two goals in the Premier League. With Crystal Palace in administration, Ambrose may be a cheap solution to augment our attack. I doubt he'll start, but he'd be a great option to bring on late in close matches.
Nathaniel Clyne (19) £1-2m - As with Ambrose, I'd love to take advantage of the financial situation at Crystal Palace to add cover at right back. John Pantsil has one year left on his contract (not that he's going anywhere) and Stephen Kelly has failed to impress. Clyne is very highly-regarded and the possibility of he and Christopher Buchtmann forming a great fullback partnership for the future is quite appealing.
Anthony Gardner (28) £1-2m - Relegation has brought financial chaos to Hull City. They'll be looking to offload salary. At 6'5', Gardner has the physical tools to be a successful central defender. He's had some fitness issues over the past few seasons, which could be a concern, but that could be minimized by his role as substitute. I think working with a manager like Hodgson would improve his organizational play and make him a solid backup for Hughes or Hangeland.
Your thoughts please!
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Date:Tuesday May 18 2010
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