Club Focus – Fulham – Could Johnson kick-start Cottagers’ season?

A combination of injuries to key players in midfield and attack, and those who are fit making the transition from Roy Hodgson’s style of football to Mark Hughes’ more direct, attacking approach, has left Fulham struggling for points at the wrong end of the table.

In the early games, when Hughes had options in his squad for most positions, the Whites seemed to respond to their manager’s approach with some decent results, both home and away. However with the defence slow to adapt and looking very leaky indeed, the loss of key personnel in the attacking areas has stopped the Cottagers in their tracks, and a creative forward unit is imperative for Hughes’ style of play to be a success. Diomansy Kamara once again showed he does not have the composure nor the footballing brain for this level, and with Moussa Dembele limping for almost the entire 90 minutes in the last two games and the captain, Danny Murphy, unavailable for selection, the creating and finishing of chances has been non-existent of late.

Fortunately, a potential answer to one of the above problems is now available and needs only match fitness before he becomes a strong feature in Fulham’s first team once more. Andy Johnson, who made his first appearance since January in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at West Brom, got through 45 minutes for the reserves yesterday afternoon, and managed an assist and a goal in that time. His goal in particular showed ability that the first team has been lacking in recent weeks. The England international pounced on a loose ball in the box, reacting first to smash home Fulham’s second. Had Hughes’ men had such a player with the awareness to turn half-chances into goals they would arguably be higher up the table – certainly they would have been 2-0 up against West Brom, and could well have put the Tottenham game beyond the hosts before the visitors’ fortunate winner.

Johnson has shown only glimpses of his potential since arriving at the club in 2008 for big money, so both he and the fans will feel he has a point to prove, and the early sharpness he showed both after coming on at the weekend and in the reserve team run-out suggest he is up for the challenge. The goal he made on Tuesday again showed ability that could come in handy against most defences – this time pace. Latching on to a ball over the top, Johnson brushed off a defender and the goalkeeper to set up an open goal for his teammate, Rob Milson. Speed, both with his feet and his head, may well prove a vital asset when he becomes a regular starter in Hughes’ line-up, as he surely must.

The manager himself has stated a returning Johnson will be like a new signing, and it really is just as well for the Welshman to have a player with such quality seemingly raring to go.

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