Are Fulham pushing above their weight?

by Michael Somerville

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Potentially crippling injuries to Bobby Zamora and Brede Hangeland in the 3-2 defeat to Stoke on Wednesday have made a difficult job seem all the more daunting for Fulham manager Roy Hodgson.

Club top scorer Zamora (11 goals) is expected to be sidelined for eight weeks after suffering a dislocated collarbone after a robust challenge from Stoke’s Amdy Fye.

And one of the league’s most highly rated defenders Hangeland had real problems with the physical nature of Stoke’s attacking play in the first half, during which the Potters scored three goals in 25 minutes. A recurrence of a knee injury forced him off at half time much to Hodgson’s dismay but should start the away game at Blackburn. John Pantsil also suffered knee ligament damage in the recent defeat to Chelsea, and suddenly, the good luck that came with last season seems to have deserted the Cottagers. A popular player at the Cottage, Pantsil could be out for the rest of the season which is undoubtedly a real blow for Fulham’s season.

A lack of depth in defence could start to show as young Chris Smalling was plunged in central defence and could continue to start over the coming weeks. The 20 year old from Mansfield has enjoyed a meteoric rise in football having played admirably against formidable European opposition such as FC Basle and CSKA Sofia, as well as against West London rivals Chelsea in which he played impeccably but conceded an unfortunate own goal.

It seems that Smalling hasn’t let that particular misfortune get to him, as he started the FA cup third round tie at Swindon and kept a clean sheet and earned a man-of- the match performance. Chris Baird is also likely to play more games at right back following Pantsil’s injury, something that could see the midfield weakened as Baird has been so reliable and disruptive to the opposition at centre midfield.

There’s no doubt that there are few better than Hodgson to deal with this potentially stretching situation and the ex Inter Milan boss looks to be bringing in necessary reinforcements. It’s possible that Fulham may be now forced to bring in a target man player such as Emile Heskey, Marlon Harewood or James Beattie. Or a more economic solution may be required in the loan of Stefano Okaka from AS Roma, a player that scored against Fulham in the Europa League this season. The Italian under 20 International (scoring two goals in two games for his country), looks to be finalising a 6 month loan move to Craven Cottage with an option of a further year. His first team chances look limited at the Stadio Olympico with the arrival of Luca Toni and it makes sense to move to a team with first team football available.

Can Hodgson fit him into his squad and can the back four hold firm? Time will tell…

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  • Bloggsy

    Mansfield? Ergh. Smalling played for the Stones (Maidstone United) before joining Fulham.

  • Darren

    Roy Hodgson has been a complete revelation at Fulham, he has turned the club around by playing quality football while making them hard to beat in the process. I’ve always been a great admirer of him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up at Anfield in the coming months

  • dexylongshot

    Wouldn’t surprise me either and he’ll be in the England frame if Fabio leaves before 2012. Fulham have been excellent but Zamora and Hangeland being sidelined will maybe see a downturn in their fortunes for a few months. The thing is, I think he will get in decent reinforcements, his knowledge of the world game puts him up their with the very cream of Europe, I wish him well.

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