Fulham Focus - Karagounis to give Cottagers short-term stability as well as quality
Having assessed the replacements for Moussa Dembele in the middle of the park after the talismanic Belgian’s move to Tottenham, it is fair to say that Martin Jol's options were limited. The Dutchman had either the choice of inexperience in Pajtim Kasami or the stable but hardly inspirational likes of Steve Sidwell. Thus, the signing of veteran Greece international midfielder Giorgos Karagounis on a free transfer this week, although not a complete surprise given the club’s lack of creative midfield options, came out of the blue.
Karagounis has quite a prodigious history, having played for the likes of Benfica and Inter Milan on the way to obtaining 120 caps for his country, taking part in their glorious Euro 2004 triumph and captaining them eight years later at Euro 2012. However, at the age of 35 and completely unproven in the Premier League, Martin Jol may have taken a risk in bringing the free agent to Craven Cottage.
However, Jol is a canny manager and will know that Karagounis will hardly be churning out consecutive 90 minute performances week after week. Indeed, he may not even be looking to play the former Greek captain away from home, where Fulham have consistently struggled since their arrival to the Premier League back in 2001. Away from home comforts, Karagounis may be spared for more solidity in the form of Sidwell or Chris Baird alongside Mahamadou Diarra.
However at home, where Fulham under Jol love to come forward and prioritise keeping possession, Karagounis could prove a shrewd signing. He may be 35 but he showed in the Euros that he retains an ability to keep the ball as well as an eye for a creative, defence-splitting pass. Karagounis is also cool in front of goal and showed it as he scored to put Greece into the quarter-finals ahead of favourites Russia.
Furthermore, Karagounis will himself know better than anyone his own limitations. He is experienced enough to know that in the Premier League, reckless dashes forward at his age will come to no avail. Indeed, with the likes of Dimitar Berbatov, Bryan Ruiz and Mladen Petric ahead of him, Jol will perhaps even stress to Karagounis that there is no real need for his body to go forward, simply his passing.
Fulham are quickly gaining a reputation under Jol for being an overwhelmingly attacking side, particularly at Craven Cottage, and opposition defences are beginning to arrive in West London and sit deep in an attempt to deny the home side space. Here, Karagounis can provide the answer with his vision and ability to provide for the likes of Berbatov to wreak havoc.
There is no doubt that Karagounis is not the long term future for Fulham but until a proper replacement can be brought in for Dembele, the Greek legend can at least provide a short-term fix to the issue.
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