Midfield remains Fulham’s problem
When it was announced towards the end of last season that Danny Murphy wouldn’t be renewing his contract with Fulham, there was a sense of trepidation in the news.
January 22nd, 2013
Having joined the club in 2007, Murphy quickly established himself in the team and set about making the midfield berth his own. The captain’s armband was handed to him the following season; with his disciplined, calm style suiting the Whites.
Sitting just in front of the defence, shielding them from attack but with the passing range to pull the strings of a game when given the chance, Murphy was soon a favourite at Craven Cottage. His hard-working attitude helped to endear him to fans as Fulham enjoyed some of their most successful years with long, long runs in the Europa League and dizzying finishes in the Premier League.
His departure was always going to be an interesting situation for whatever management had to deal with it. However, with Martin Jol new to the club and committed to building his own team; 35 year-old Murphy was never going to be a long-term option. There was no revolt; but Murphy’s departure left a hole in the centre of the Fulham’s team.
For now, Jol doesn’t seem to have worked out how to fill it.
When Mahamadou Diarra signed last year, he appeared from the outset to be the ideal player for Jol to use. The former Real Madrid and Lyon midfielder hadn’t quite been at his best since injury helped end his time in Spain but his pedigree was indubitable.
In theory, all the tools were there to replace Murphy’s influence on the team. His sound passing ability, disciplined mentality and fine work ethic are all ideal ingredients needed in a player to be that pivot for Fulham.
Sadly, that hasn’t happened as the Malian continues to be dogged by injury. The risky side of the calculated risk to sign him 12 months ago has come back to bite Fulham.
In his place, Fulham have battled admirably thanks to Steve Sidwell and Giorgos Karagounis. Unfortunately, neither player has been making the kind of strides that will alleviate worries about Fulham being over-run in the middle of the park.
For one, Karagounis is 12 days older than Murphy.
For two, Steve Sidwell has never been the deep-lying, playmaker type that Fulham need. As the other half of the midfield partnership, Sidwell is perfect and compliments Karagounis and Diarra rather well; even if the sight of him exchanging passes with Dimitar Berbatov does give me a funny turn. The former Reading and Chelsea player races from box-to-box all game long, equally eager to break up play in his own half as well as break late into the penalty area to score a vital goal.
However, a replacement for Danny Murphy he will never be.
Sadly for Martin Jol, another dip into the January transfer market as he did to sign Diarra, may be needed to help the London side to another admirable finish in the Premier League.