Fulham Premier League Preview: A Possible Clint Dempsey Departure Opens Door for Dembele
All roads lead to uncertainty at Craven Cottage as Fulham head into the 2012/13 Premier League season.
Martin Jol has had an uneasy pre-season with the departure of a number of key figures, but it's the future of his most prized assett, Clint Dempsey, that will be playing on his mind the most as he prepares to face Norwich on the opening day of the season.
The American midfielder has been overlooked for a number of years in England’s top-flight but now, after another immense season at the Cottage, the League’s elite have come sniffing around the talented midfielder.
The temptation of Champions League football is one that Dempsey can ill afford to turn down at the age of 29, and however much they want to fight it, Clint is more then likely going to be exiting Fulham’s ranks before the end of August.
The other problem on the banks of the Thames is Jol’s glaring lack of strikers.
Last season saw Bobby Zamorra move across London to QPR, and partner in crime Andy Johnson has made the same switch on a free transfer this off-season.
Jol now only has a grand total of three strikers to choose from; Brian Ruiz and new signings Mladen Petric and Hugo Rodallega from Hamburg and Wigan respectively. The Dutch manager has said that he will definitely be adding at least one more forward before the end of the transfer window.
The solution to one problem could find a solution to the other, and if Dempsey does leave for Liverpool, Arsenal or United, the club should have a pretty penny to play with as they search for a new striker.
But Pavel Pogrebnyak’s snub of the club this summer highlights Fulham’s other major weakness. They can’t compete with the pulling power, or wages, of their Premier League rivals.
Dempsey’s departure could provide the funds for a forward but this mythical figure may not emerge, and gone will be the US National’s 17 goals he scored last season.
The back four, at least, is giving Fulham fans a few less headaches then elsewhere on the pitch. An experienced defence of Stephen Kelly, John Arne Riise, Brede Hangeland and Philippe Senderos will sit behind a sturdy, but altered, midfield.
Steve Sidwell will be responsible for taking on the duties of the departed Danny Murphy in the centre of the park, and he’ll look to form a solid partnership with Mahamadou Diarra, a man who had a sturdy, but unexceptional, season after joining on loan from Monaco in January.
The heartbeat of the Fulham midfield, though, will come from Mousa Dembele.
The attacking midfielder is supposedly wanted by Real Madrid and could be the perfect man to replace Dempsey if/when he leaves.
His close control and jinking runs have left many a defender turning in their sleep, and while he may struggle in front of goal, his ability to create space and find a pass into space was a valuable asset to The Whites last season.
His skill comes with a great work ethic and it’s rare to see Belgian giving up on a lose ball or shying away from a tussle in the midfield, a battle Fulham will need to win to ensure a solid season.
Eccentric owner Mohammed Al-Fayed is more likely to build another Michael Jackson statue then shell out big money to fill the gaps in Fulham’s squad and although financially stable, the club once again will be relying on team spirit rather then mega bucks signings to ensure another top half finish.
This is feasible as long as Ruiz and Petric can provide some potency in front of goal and Fulham’s fans will look forward to seeing if the Croatian forward can replicate or improve on his 38 goals in 98 games in Germany.
Their season, like their transfer details, is unknown but Fulham’s squad is just about experienced and talented enough to bring another top-half finish to The Cottage next May.