Should they stay or should they go?
Fulham can just about consider themselves to be safe; even if we ignore Saturday’s defeat to Everton. With matters tightening up at the bottom of the Premier League table, there are enough teams between the Craven Cottage club and the bottom three that it’s practically impossible for Martin Jol and his side to go down.
April 28th, 2013
As such, attention can turn to next season and another assault on the top half of the Barclays Premier League table. First and foremost, that involves looking through the current playing squad for opportunities to improve it. Martin Jol has a total of five players on loan in his first team squad, and needs to make decisions on three or four of them.
The prospect of signing AC Milan midfielder Urby Emanuelson has already been ruled out; although Jol didn’t elaborate further. He stated: “Urby is a nice, technical crowd-pleaser. But there is not an option on him, because it would be impossible to buy him.” Whether it is a problem with finances or simply the Italian side being unwilling to do business will remain a mystery.
Assuming that 21-year old Emmanuel Frimpong returns to Arsenal, that leaves Eyong Enoh, Stanislav Manolev and Sascha Riether to prove their worth to the Fulham coaching staff and become full-time members of the squad.
Riether has perhaps had the best time of the loan signings; although a lot of that will come from him spending the whole season in London. He has been around the club and his fellow players since last summer and has, bar a few grim occasions, looked like a perfectly solid Premier League right-back.
The German is obviously well-liked by Martin Jol and has done enough to keep Aaron Hughes routinely out of the side. Assuming he wants to stay in London; I’d hope to see him start next season in a Fulham shirt.
As for Manolev and Enoh; that decision will rest solely with the powers that be within Fulham. Since joining in January, both have played a handful of games. They’ve looked capable on the ball but neither has pulled up any trees. If Ashkan Dejagah is to continue to get a run in the team, Manolev isn’t required and if Steve Sidwell can build on his season, consecutive red cards aside, Enoh won’t play more than a handful of times next season either.
The worry for Fulham has to be the age of the squad. Few, if any, of the regular squad members are the promising side of 25. Dejagah is new to the side but already 26. Enoh and Manolev are both 27. Martin Jol needs to start making moves to decrease the average age of the squad before pace and energy becomes more of a problem.
There is potential in the youth teams of the club and the use of Alexander Kacaniklic and Matthew Briggs at times this season is promising.
The trick for Jol will be managing the evolution of squad while retaining a steady run of results. Sunderland had a busy summer in 2012 and got very close to losing their top-flight status this season. With a couple of tricky games coming up, they still aren’t completely safe.
Fulham don’t need a relegation battle; but they do need a couple of changes.