Window Shopping:Heading into January Fulham were in precarious territory in 16th place, two points above the drop. Failing to earn a single league point throughout all of January the Cottagers now find themselves bottom of the table, four points adrift of safety.
The situation required Fulham to boost their striker ranks, add some creative midfielders and provide depth to the back line. And they managed to do so in purchasing Greek striker Kostas Mitroglou and bringing in a number of key loan deals in Clint Dempsey, William Kvist, Lewis Holtby and Johnny Heitinga.
Players In: Kostas Mitroglou (Olympiakos, £12m), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders, Loan), William Kvist (Stuttgart, Loan), Lewis Holtby (Tottenham, Loan), John Heitinga (Everton, Loan), Ryan Tunnicliffe (Manchester United, Undisclosed), Larnell Cole (Manchester United, Undisclosed).
New manager René Meulensteen had his work cut out for him entering January and arguably did more to change his side’s fate than any other manager in the Premier League. The acquisition of Mitroglou gives the Cottagers a proven, physically-imposing and skillful striker who looks tailor-made for the Premier League.
In Holtby, they’ve acquired a bright-spirited, creative midfielder who’s hungry to prove himself to both his parent club, Spurs, and his national team, Germany. The lanky William Kvist looks a real find as well while Dempsey provides experience and added depth, even if he looks off the pace so far. Heitinga provides depth to the back line although he’s not the kind of game-changing defender fans would’ve hope to bring in.
Meulensteen showed a keen eye for the future as well, signing Manchester United youngsters Ryan Tunnicliffe and Larnell Cole. But perhaps the most important move the Dutch manager made was to rid his side of cancers, Adel Taraabt and Dimitar Berbatov. Both players, while talented, looked completely disinterested at Craven Cottage and had to go. Sending the underpeforming Bryan Ruiz out on loan was also a smart decision.
Talent-wise, there’s little question Fulham should stay up. Now fans have to hope Meulensteen has assembled the right cast of characters to keep the club in England’s top-flight.
While top clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool, and Arsenal sat twiddling their thumbs, the bottom of the table was scrambling to save their seasons.
Of all the teams near the relegation zone, Fulham soared above and beyond on Deadline Day, giving supporters hope for the rest of the season.
The beginning of the Rene Meulensteen era providing a few results but nothing earth shattering, and losses such as 6-0 to Hull and 4-1 to Sunderland left the club broken and in serious trouble.
The situation is dire. The Cottagers sit in 19th position, two points deep in the relegation zone, and matches with Manchester United, Liverpool, and Chelsea dotting their next five fixtures.
So instead of allowing the season to come to them and deal with the consequences, Meulensteen and CEO Alistair Mackintosh – aided by new front office additions Alan Curbishley and Ray Wilkins – took the bull by the horns, armed with an arsenal of cash from new owner Shad Khan.
Mackintosh had come under fire from Fulham fans in recent times, taking the brunt of the blame for a squad that had suddenly become old and decrepit under former manager Martin Jol, filled with players who should probably no longer be starting in the Premier League.
First Mackintosh sealed a move for a relative unknown in Danish midfielder William Kvist, owner of 44 caps at the international level. The deal is a low risk one as a loan, but also leaves open the chance for a purchase should the 28-year-old impress.
A look at Kvist’s numbers show the shrewd nature of the purchase. At just 81% passing on the Bundesliga season, there appears to be a problem there at first glance. However, after some digging, it would appear that a poor record heading the ball and lumping it forward seriously depleted his passing number, and his short- and mid-range accuracy actually impresses in the 90% range, according to Squawka statistics.
But the pair left the big guns for deadline day. First, Mackintosh convinced Daniel Levy to part ways with promising midfielder Lewis Holtby. Currently excess to requirements at White Hart Lane, Holtby provides a starving Fulham midfield with plenty of nourishment, and between Kvist and Holtby the creativity department should see itself improve exponentially.
The Holtby deal, while just a loan, also presents itself with promising future prospects. Should the Cottagers save their Premier League status this year – still a very iffy possibility – they may be able to convince Holtby that he can ply his trade best at Craven Cottage and that going back to Tottenham would only mean being stuck back out on the wing, a place the 23-year-old has publicly despised.
Finally, the Deadline Day roast beef to Fulham’s sandwich. After a scare thanks to Big Sam and West Ham (or so it was reported), Fulham secured the services of imposing Greek striker Kostas Mitroglou on a club record fee, brokered by the infamous Mino Raiola.
An outstanding goalscoring record at both Borussia Monchengladbach and Olympiakos (with flair and strength), the gritty Mitroglou is the perfect fit for a relegation battle, replacing the luxurious Dimitar Berbatov at the head of the Fulham attack.
While the Bulgarian provided Fulham fans with many moments to remember, he unfortunately was more of a burden in his second season at Craven Cottage, and the replacement is for sure an upgrade. Mitroglou, at 25 years old, also presents a wonderful chance for the club to make a profit should he impress in around 18 months time.
With a defense that has conceded a league-leading 50 goals thus far – 10 more than any other team – the front office pair knew they had to improve the back line. While the biggest hole remains unsolved at left-back, Fulham did bring in Johnny Heitinga on a free transfer, another quality signing. Everton’s former Player of the Year just two seasons ago, Heitinga has fallen behind
But the two weren’t done. Meulensteen used his Manchester United connections to convince the Old Trafford brass that bright young prospects Ryan Tunnicliffe and Larnell Cole were better served in London. The icing on the Deadline Day cake (we’re making a full three course meal here), the youth squad duo provide Fulham with talented young options moving forward, whether they stay up or not.
With all these additions, changes had to be made, and ties had to be severed to create roster space. Adel Taarabt left for AC Milan, clearing one of the two domestic loan slots given to Premier League teams (Darren Bent occupies the other).
Central defenders Philippe Senderos and Aaron Hughes departed for Valencia and Queens Park Rangers respectively, ending an era of frustration for fans forced to watch Senderos destroy a solid 89 minutes with one infuriating mistake. Hughes leaving is bittersweet, with many remembering his days partnering with Brede Hangeland en route to a Europa League final and 250 club appearances.
The transfer window is a fragile one – drop one domino and the whole plan falls out of whack. But the CEO and manager navigated the treacherous waters successfully, and while Fulham still have a serious bit of work to do on the pitch, the intention is clear – stay up at all costs.
It was a furious day of activity in England’s Deadline Day, but the top teams in the table were quiet while the bottom half made plenty of moves in an attempt to avoid relegation.
In fact, Liverpool failing to sign a player may be the biggest news out of the Premier League’s top 7 clubs.
Let’s go through all the completed deals for today:
Fulham – More to come on this complete and total squad turnover, but the Cottagers were by far the busiest team in the league on Deadline Day. They completed permanent deals for Kostas Mitroglou, William Kvist and John Heitinga, while bringing in Lewis Holtby on loan. Mitroglou is in on a club record transfer fee, and Holtby could be made permanent if the club stays up.
They also offloaded Aaron Hughes, Adel Taarabt, Dimitar Berbatov, and Philippe Senderos, with manager Rene Meulensteen clearly unhappy with the current squad makeup. They also offloaded Bryan Ruiz earlier in the window, while adding Clint Dempsey in the beginning of the window.
Finally, in the waning minutes of the window, the Whites nabbed Manchester United youngsters Ryan Tunnicliffe and Larnell Cole.
Crystal Palace – Tony Pulis has done a fair bit of dealing today as well, bringing in defender Scott Dann and goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey from Wolverhampton to shore up and already strong back line. Finally they sealed Jason Puncheon permanently, already at Selhurst Park on loan. That allowed them to make their biggest signing of the day, nabbing winger Tom Ince from Blackpool on loan.
Arsenal – Many have called for Arsene Wenger to sign a striker, but instead he went for the less sexy option of grabbing 31-year-old midfielder Kim Källström on loan from Spartak Moscow.
West Ham United – The signing of Abdul Razak was made official, with the midfielder coming in from Anzhi. The Hammers also grabbed Pablo Armero on loan from Napoli, a 27-year-old Colombian left-back.
They did, however, miss out on a striker, most notably in their attempt to hijack Mitroglou’s move to Fulham, ending up empty-handed despite reports that they offered the Greek 25% higher wages. In fact, they offloaded disappointing striker Modibo Maiga on Queens Park Rangers just in time for the deadline.
Finally, they retained Ravel Morrison despite heavy interest from Fulham and other lower table sides.
Chelsea – No major moves were made by Jose Mourinho, but this morning the confirmed the signing of highly-rated defender Kurt Zouma from St. Etienne, costing them a reported £12 million ($19.7 million). The 19-year-old was then immediately loaned back to the French side. Gael Kakuta was loaned out to Lazio, the 22-year-old’s fifth loan stint during his time at Chelsea.
Cardiff City – The Bluebirds’ new manager Ole Gunnar Solksjaer brought in a number of familiar faces from his time at Manchester United. Most notably they captured Wilfried Zaha on loan, joining Fabio who was sealed a few days ago.
Sunderland – The Black Cats signed 24-year-old Liam Bridcutt for a reported £2.5 million ($4.1 million) fee after handing in a transfer request earlier this month at Brighton & Hove Albion. However, Gus Poyet will also be pleased with retaining Lee Cattermole despite heavy interest from Stoke City. Danny Graham departed on loan to Middlesbrough.
Liverpool – After much speculation that they didn’t get the deal done in time, Liverpool did NOT get the deal done for 24-year-old Dnipro midfielder Yehven Konoplyanka. They hit a snag on a £15 million ($24.7 million) deal and ran out of time. No deadline day signings for the Reds, on the heels of missing out on Mohamed Salah who was stolen by Chelsea. More on this later.
West Brom – The Baggies have added a fantastic hairdo to their ranks when they inked Espanyol striker Thievy Bifouma on loan until the end of the season. It’s a bit of a panic purchase, with Nicolas Anelka and Stephane Sessegnon both out injured.
Southampton – Mauricio Pochettino, less than 24 hours after confirming he’d never play Pablo Osvaldo again, the striker was loaned to Juventus. So he punches a player at training, and is sent to the Serie A league leaders as a result. Justice is served!
That’s all for around the Premier League, Newcastle failed to replace Yohan Cabaye and Manchester United didn’t add a central defender. We’ll have more from around the rest of Europe a little later tonight.
Hull City 6-0 Fulham: Tigers run riot over defenseless Fulham (video)
The first half provided very little in the way of, well, anything from either Hull City or Fulham. Fortunately for those waking up late, the second half gave plenty of action. Unfortunately for Fulham fans, all that action came from one direction.
Hull’s goals began in the 59th minute, and it took less than 10 minutes for the hosts to go up 4-0 on hapless Fulham, 15 minutes for them to take a 5-0 lead. That’s 40 goals Fulham have conceded in just 19 matches.
The first goal came courtesy of a corner, sent in from Tom Huddlestone, that Fulham were unable to adequately clear. The ball fell to the edge of the box, Ahmed Elmohamady pounced, and David Stockdale could only watch as the rout began.
It took 11 minutes for Hull to get their second. Robert Koren slipped around Aaron Hughes with astonishing ease, getting on the end of a cross from Yannick Sagbo. He fired his shot in to the top corner to double the Tigers’ lead.
Moments later, Sagbo tried for his own goal, but his shot was blocked. No matter. Despite the presence of plenty of white shirts, George Boyd managed to make some room for himself, grabbing the ball from Jake Livermore and slotting into the bottom right corner.
Less than five minutes later, Hull had their fourth — and a fantastic goal celebration to boot. Once again, Fulham were unable to clear their lines, and it was Huddlestone that took advantage this time. After scoring, Huddlestone ran to the touchline and allowed one of the Hull staff to cut off a bit of his hair.
Perhaps that resulted in a Samson-like curse, as five minutes later, Huddlestone could do no more than hit the bar. However Matty Fryatt, on for Sagbo after the fourth goal, was there to follow up.
This time Hull allowed Fulham ten minutes of merciful rest, even permitting Hugo Rodallega a shot (blocked, of course). Then Koren came back for his second, poking in from close range after Stockdale parried a shot from Danny Graham.
Fulham fought back to grab a crucial three points against Norwich on Boxing Day at Carrow Road, as Scott Parker’s late winner sealed a 2-1 comeback win.
Norwich went ahead through Gary Hooper’s strike, but Pajtim Kasami’s free kick leveled things up at the break. Parker’s winner was a thing of beauty as Sascha Riether’s cross found him after the Canaries failed to clear and the English midfielder hammered home to give Rene Muelensteen’s men all three points.
With the victory, Fulham are now in 18th spot and are just one point from West Ham and Cardiff above the relegation zone. As for Norwich, they’re in 14th and are just three points ahead of Fulham.
Early on Norwich pressed and Nathan Redmond’s great run and cross down the left almost found Hooper in the box but the Cottagers cleared the danger.
However in the 13th minute Norwich took the lead as Hooper scored for the fourth home game in a row after Johan Elmander laid the ball off to the in form striker whose shot took a hefty deflection off Aaron Hughes and into the net.
Norwich pushed for a second as Fulham looked devoid of ideas going forward and struggled to keep hold of the ball. However the Canaries didn’t take their chances and Kasami made them pay with his 32nd minute free kick that somehow squeezed through the wall and into the back of the net.
The second half saw a tight encounter play out as Norwich went close to going ahead in the 51st minute when Leroy Fer’s header was cleared off the line by Riether. But Fulham hit straight-back as Adel Taarabt was clean through but John Ruddy stopped him with a comfortable stop.
In the 64th minute Fer once again headed in on goal from a corner, but this time the Dutchman’s effort was straight at Stockdale who saved. But Fulham were coming back as Kačaniklić found Sidwell in the box and the English midfielder danced past a tackle but saw his effort on goal blocked. Soon after Kačaniklić’s corner bounced around in the box and Hugo Rodallega thought the ball had crossed the line but Ruddy managed to gather and keep it out.
But Fulham’s pressure told, as Parker popped up to score the stunning winner in the 87th minute and give the Cottagers more hope of moving out of the bottom three.