We’ve Won It One Time: Fulham are in with a wing and a prayer
13:30 10 October 2012
An Fulham fan’s view of the emerging battle for the attacking wide positions
About our blogger
Name: Will Paul
Favourite player: Brian McBride
Most memorable game: Fulham 6-0 QPR and Fulham 1-1 Manchester United (Bouba Diop Screamer!)
Predicted finish: 9th
Hello and welcome to the first of my weekly blogs on everything Fulham. Seeing as this is the first, I feel as though I should give you a bit of background to myself: I’m Will, long-term fan (sufferer) of Fulham, all-time admirer of Brian McBride and wonderer at Papa Bouba Diop’s last minute unleashing of an entire wardrobe full of power to beat a hapless Roy Carroll in 2004. So yeah, that’s me. Onto the blog.
It’s a shame about the match at Southampton on Sunday. Putting aside a thoroughly dreadful first half, in which we didn’t deserve anything but a good, old-fashioned thrashing, we can feel somewhat unhappy at the draw.
We were greatly improved in the second half, showing some of the flowing moves that we are capable of, with one of those leading to an excellent cross back from Sascha Riether to find Kieran Richardson to hammer home his first Fulham goal.
At 2-1 it looked like the win was sealed. That was until Mark Clattenburg performed his routine ritual of putting in a shocking refereeing performance when in charge of a Fulham match (he’ll never be forgiven, in my eyes, for preventing Fulham from their best FA Cup run in recent years and a real chance to reach Wembley back in 2010!). Nothing can be done about that however, so a 2-2 draw was fair overall.
But what interested me more was the depth of wingers that we seem to possess, not only at the match, but also in general at the club.
On Sunday we possessed the luxury of having four: Alex Kacaniklic and Damien Duff, who both started, and on the bench, Richardson and Pajtim Kasami (arguably being used as winger this season).
"If you were to ask me, I would have to stick with Duff and Kacaniklic, but allow Frei, Richardson and Dejagah plenty of opportunities to impress and try to wrestle the position from the tight grips of the former two"
They are great options to start with and are wide men that can do damage against any team with the pace, skill, trickery and natural ability they all possess.
However, this week the race for those berths took a significant step up in competition. Whereas Kacaniklic and Duff had started the season as first choices, simply because there was no-one else (Ashkan Dejagah and Richardson had not signed, Kerim Frei was injured and Clint Dempsey was being a moody so and so). That is of no detriment to them of course – they have both taken to the role with much aplomb, especially the impressive Kacaniklic, who looks like he might be quite a talent.
This week, however, marked the return of both Frei and Dejagah, both playing in the 3-1 under-21 win over Chelsea, as well as marking a significant increase in the intensity of the race for the two available positions.
Each player has his own quality. Duff and Kacaniklic have both been fantastic - scoring, assisting and have been assured so far. Frei has an undeniable level of skill and pace that will one day take him to the top of the Premier League, his destruction of Branislav Ivanovic in the 1-1 draw with Chelski last season highlights that.
Richardson comes off the back of a number of successful seasons with Sunderland, where his pace and attacking intensity impressed me.
Dejagah may be an unfamiliar name to most Fulham fans, but for those who watched Wolfsburg last season, he is a player that was greeted with much applause at the announcement of his signing.
Ten assists and three goals last season, in just 26 appearances, arguably led to him being the German side’s player of the season and a firm fan favourite.
It will be interesting to see how Martin Jol handles the situation. Does he stick with the form and talent of Kacaniklic and Duff, does he move for the undeniable talent of Frei and increase his exposure to first-team football, does he move for the experience of Richardson or does he move for the exciting, pacey and direct approach of Dejagah?
If you were to ask me, I would have to stick with Duff and Kacaniklic, but allow Frei, Richardson and Dejagah plenty of opportunities to impress and try to wrestle the position from the tight grips of the former two.
You simply cannot drop players that are playing well, but you cannot prevent such an array of talent from playing.
By keeping the current pairing, but allowing the others their chance, you force every player to step up their game, and that can only mean good things for the squad.
The competition between these five footballers will be a fantastic competition to watch, and with it will come the best of each one.
The surplus of fantastic wing talents is a headache to Jol, but one that he will be more than happy to have.
With such a vast array of flair, the strikers will get plenty of service, and with the likes of Dimitar Berbatov, Mladen Petric and Rodallega up front, wil get chances they’ll happily tuck away.
The depth in wingers is profound, and something that will serve Fulham well this season. This could be a fantastic season for attacking and I look forward to sitting back and watching them duel for a first team slot.
We could just see some of the best wing play we have ever seen at the Cottage.