The international break is upon us and Martin Jol will be having as tough a time as any club manager. Following Fulham’s promising start to the season, the Cottagers have collapsed in recent weeks and have lost talismen Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey late in the transfer window. As important as Dempsey’s goals were, it is Dembele that will provide the biggest miss. His absence was keenly felt at Upton Park last Saturday, where Fulham missed the Belgian’s midfield presence.
But with the transfer window now closed, Jol has to find a replacement within his current options. So who at Fulham could fill Dembele’s shoes alongside Mahamadou Diarra until January?
Steve Sidwell: The ex-Chelsea and Aston Villa man took Dembele’s place at Upton Park and it is fair to say he struggled somewhat, though he did not see much of the ball admittedly as West Ham constantly searched long for Andy Carroll. Does not possess the creative class of Dembele but is an experienced campaigner and could ensure some stability until Jol can go into the transfer market again.
Pajtim Kasami: Arrived from Palermo last summer with high expectations but appeared a little lightweight and underwhelmed in his outings in the playmaker role. However, has time on his side and featured well in pre-season. Should perhaps not be rushed in too quickly but Dembele’s departure could be the opportunity he has needed.
Kieran Richardson: Has played before in central midfield for his previous clubs and would provide a pacey option with a modicum of creativity but without the presence that Dembele brought. However, looks to be far more suited to the wider positions and took up a position on the left against West Ham, although to little effect.
Damien Duff: Nominally plays on the wing but with his pace declining and new wide players arriving in the form of Richardson and Ashkan Dejagah, could play a role in central midfield. Will undoubtedly lack the physical presence in the tackle but in home games, possesses the talent and vision to pick passes, as well as get forward and score goals. Would obviously not be a long-term solution at the age of 33 but could be an option for Jol.
Simon Davies: A somewhat forgotten man at Craven Cottage. Was a key member of Roy Hodgson’s squad but has struggled with injuries of late. Much like Duff, is ageing and is suited to the wider roles but without a true replacement for Dembele, could perhaps provide some experience and nous in the middle of the park.
Chris Baird: Versatile, Baird can play central midfield if Jol wishes to be more defensive-minded but as a Dutchman, would surely prefer more attacking thrust.
So, we can see how Jol is not entirely laden with options when looking to replace his star man. It looked a risk to eagerly jettison the likes of Dickson Etuhu and particularly Danny Murphy in the summer and with Dembele’s departure, those fears have now come to fruition.
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