In the summer of 2018 Fulham were promoted to the Premier League and appeared to take a scattergun approach to recruitment. The brought in a genuinely remarkable 15 players in the summer transfer window alone, including 10 permanent signings.
They seemed to be trying to build an entirely new team in one window, which was a problem. There didn’t seem to be a focused plan to it, which was an even bigger problem. They signed three goalkeepers! In one window. It wouldn’t have been as bad if the incumbent at the time, Marcus Bettinelli, hadn’t been better than all three of them. Or if they hadn’t already owned Marek Rodak, the current number 1 choice.
Someone had clearly had a little bit too much tipple at the end of season party and remained intoxicated throughout the window.
This time around, Fulham appear to be taking a different approach. They signed Anthony Knockaert, from Brighton, on a permanent deal after a successful loan spell where he helped them gain promotion back to the Premier League. A deal of £10.5mil rising to £15mil is definitely an overpay for a player who has struggled in the Premier League in the past, but Knockaert was an important player for Fulham last season and given the success Aston Villa and Wolves have both had with using squad continuity* after gaining promotion and keep hold of players they had on loan, it makes sense for Fulham to do the same.
Fulham announced their second summer signing when USA international left back Antonee Robinson put pen to paper to complete a £2mil deal from Wigan Athletic. For Fulham, it is quite the coup. Never mind that they snatched him from under the noses of Sheffield United, this is a player who should be be an AC Milan player by now.
Robinson was due to join the Italian giants for £10million in January before a medical issue stalled the move and time constraints caused it to fall through. For Fulham to get a player like Robinson for such a small fee is tremendous business.
Robinson is a rangy, athletic leftback that Fulham can mark down as a long term fixture at the club. At 23, Robinson isn’t even close to being the finished product and Fulham don’t need him to be. Joe Bryan, Maxime LeMarchand and Tim Ream can all play the left back position, which means Fulham can bring Robinson along slowly, and not need him to produce from week one.
For Robinson, that could proof vital as nothing derails a young newly minted Premier League players career quicker than being rushed into action before they are ready, and then dumped out of the team if things don’t click immediately.
Robinson will have time to learn and develop before having too much pressure placed on him, Fulham know that they have good short term options in Bryan and LeMarchand, medium term options in Bryan and Robinson, and a long term option in Robinson. For a club who will have a fight on their hands to avoid relegation, it’s smart to build that way.
It’s also smart not to spend big money in a position where you have existing players of the required quality. Robinson at £2mil makes sense, whereas at £12mil he would not. Fulham have other needs that should be address with their budget, but Robinson was too good an opportunity to let slip.
Fulham are an ambitious club with a very wealthy owner, so you’d have to imagine there will be more signings this summer. A couple more like Robinson will ensure that whatever the outcome of this season, they’re safeguarding their future should the worst happen.