Cottagers must prove ambition

Thursday 25th April 2013 17:56

Fulham: An established Premier League side

Fulham: An established Premier League side

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Fulham FanZoner Henry Walmsley believes the club should set themselves a target of finishing within 10 points of the top four next season.

Presuming nothing disastrous happens between now and the end of the season, next year will be our 13th year in the Premier League.

Before I go any further, let's just take a moment to appreciate what an achievement that is, especially when you think of the stature of a lot of teams who would love to be in our position.

But where next? Are we happy to be a team who consistently finish just inside the top 10? I'm sure a lot of fans would say yes, especially the ones who have been there since the darkest days at the foot of the 4th tier, but is this lacking ambition?

Mark Hughes said he left the club because we lacked exactly that; funnily he then joined QPR and is now unemployed, but I won't go into that.

The club's model we have to follow is that of our opponents this weekend, Everton, a club who probably start each transfer window with a similar budget to our own. I see us at the moment as a worse version of them.

Last transfer we took a serious hit and lost our two star players as well as our captain, so we had to rebuild.

If someone had offered me a top-10 finish on the 1st of September I would have grabbed it with both hands, which is a shame in a way because we finished nith last year - do we not want to be moving forward?

Without trying to sound like a Liverpool fan, I hope next year could be a year we make genuine progress, to get within, I don't know, say 10 points of the top four.

Unrealistic? At the moment we are 22 points off; last season we finished 17 points off. It would probably mean us needing to achieve about 58 points. I think that's do-able.

So how are we going to achieve this? Well for a start let's try not to go backwards from this season; it's essential that we keep our best players such as Bryan Ruiz, Dimitar Berbatov and Sacha Riether (sign him on a permanent).

Tthose in my opinion are our star players, all the rest are squad players who can be inter-changed without too much effect.

Ashkan Dejagah has made a very strong case in the last few months that he is a star player, but I don't think we'll be receiving much interest for him...yet.

Secondly, are there any players in our squad who we really do not need and should get rid of as soon as possible?

No players jump to mind apart from Mahamadou Diarra, which is a shame because he's a very good player, but it makes no sense to keep someone as injury prone as he is at the club.

So in what areas do we need to strengthen? A centre-back, central midfielder and a striker are essential and we could probably do with another centre midfielder on top of that.

The future of Mark Schwarzer seems to be up in the air at the moment; I'd be happy with him staying for another year, but if he wants to go then I'd be more than happy with World Cup finalist Maarten Stekelenburg between the sticks if reports are to be believed that he will be at the Cottage next season.

Another player who looks like he may be with us next season accordin to numerous newspapers is Athletic Bilbao defender Fernando Amorebieta, a player who I admittedly know little about but have heard good things about.

This means we could possibly be lining up with Stekelenburg, Riether, Hangeland, Amorebieta and Richardson as our back five next season. I would be very happy with that.

On to midfield, I am quite traditional in thinking you need to have four centre midfielders in your squad. Out of the current batch I'd take Steve Sidwell, Giorgos Karagounis and Eyong Enoh (if, like Riether, we could get him on a permanent). There's not a great deal of flair there, though, is there?

I can't think of many Premier League players who we would be able to buy, so I'll leave that one in the hands of Mr Jol and his scouts.

As for wingers, I'm happy with Dejagah, Duff, Frei and Kacaniklic; there's a good mix of youth, experience, flair and well everything for a team with our ambitions in my opinion so I'll move onto the strikers.

Berbatov has been fantastic for us this season at times, and has won us numerous points by individual pieces of brilliance. But he doesn't always work; there have been many games this season where we have looked awful and it has been down to him not staying up front in my opinion, so we need a Plan B, someone who will make runs and score tap ins.

Step forward Andi Weimann. I would love to see us snap up the Villa forward at the end of the season, which shouldn't be too hard if they go down but should still be achievable even if they don't.

There is one player who I haven't mentioned yet, Ruiz. How do you solve a problem like Ruiz?

I would like us to play with two strikers, but this means there is no position for Ruiz if you want to keep two wingers and Ruiz going out on the wing is not an option.

I'd like to see him make the transition that Mousa Dembele made, back into centre midfield. His strength and ability to hold onto the ball have improved massively this season and if he continues to work on that I think he could become a good centre midfielder.

My ideal team for next season would therefore be: Stekelenburg, Riether, Hangeland, Amorebieta, Richardson, Sidwell, Ruiz, Kacaniklic, Berbatov, Dejagah, Weimann.

This would see Berbatov given a free role, because to be honest that's what he's done this season and he doesn't seem set on changing.

If that was our team, and they could all stay fit for as much of the season as possible, I don't see why the target of 10 points off the top four couldn't be reached.

It's ambitious, I know, but we do not lack ambition, Mark Hughes does...

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