It’s been a bad week for Fulham. A disappointing 1-0 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday in the Capital One Cup was bad enough, but that was eclipsed by the sale of influential midfielder Moussa Dembele.
Tottenham are the beneficiaries of Fulham’s misfortune with Daniel Levy splashing out £15 million on the attacking midfielder as Andre Villas-Boas looks to fill the creative void left by Luka Modric.
Martin Jol now faces his own rebuilding job as he attempts to repair the damage of the Belgian’s transfer. It’s a tough task.
Dembele has perhaps not been spectacular in his two years at Fulham, but he has proven himself to be a very good Premier League player and his importance to the Lilywhites was considerable. He was their driving force, combining his impressive technique and physical presence to run Fulham’s midfield both in possession and without.
Should he spend the £15 million on one player, Jol may limit the effect of Dembele’s absence. But that seem’s unlikely and perhaps a tad naive as he lacks numbers in the middle of the park. Steven Sidwell and Mahamadou Diarra will be supported by young Pajtim Kassami and versatile defender Chris Baird.
It’s not the strongest midfield, but Dembele and Clint Dempsey more than made up for it last season. This season they won’t and while it will be difficult for Jol to replace them with players of a similar calibre it’s crucial he invests the money wisely. He has been shrewd in signing Mladen Petric and Hugo Rodellega for free and this needs to continue.
The midfield needs strengthening and with players capable of performing in the Premier League. The Daily Mail has reported that Jol is on the verge of signing Sunderland’s Kieran Richardson. For £2 million, it’s a decent deal.
He is proven in the Premier League and gives the added bonus of versatility as he is capable of playing left back, left midfield and also in the middle. Jol may potentially be eyeing a return for him in the attacking midfield role he played in as a youngster.
But he is not in the same calibre as Dembele. Sidwell and Diarra should cope defensively but Spurs signed Dembele for his creativity and ability going forward, and Jol will need more than Richardson to replace that.
Reports suggest Fulham have bid £6.5 million for Lyon striker Bafetimbi Gomis. With only three ‘senior’ strikers at his disposable, the Cottagers boss’ pursuit of Gomis is understandable. The French international drew comparisons with Didier Drogba early in his career and bagged 14 goals for Lyon last season. It signals a desire to have strength in depth up front and it’s an idea Jol needs to replicate in his midfield.
Fulham will suffer without Dembele, as most Premier League teams would. But that does not signal the end of their season. They showed they have quality throughout their squad in the 5-0 demolition of Norwich and providing they invest the Dembele money wisely they are more than capable of coping without him.