Jan 31, 2014, 10:02 PM EDT
While top clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool, and Arsenal sat twiddling their thumbs, the bottom of the table was scrambling to save their seasons.
Of all the teams near the relegation zone, Fulham soared above and beyond on Deadline Day, giving supporters hope for the rest of the season.
The beginning of the Rene Meulensteen era providing a few results but nothing earth shattering, and losses such as 6-0 to Hull and 4-1 to Sunderland left the club broken and in serious trouble.
The situation is dire. The Cottagers sit in 19th position, two points deep in the relegation zone, and matches with Manchester United, Liverpool, and Chelsea dotting their next five fixtures.
So instead of allowing the season to come to them and deal with the consequences, Meulensteen and CEO Alistair Mackintosh – aided by new front office additions Alan Curbishley and Ray Wilkins – took the bull by the horns, armed with an arsenal of cash from new owner Shad Khan.
Mackintosh had come under fire from Fulham fans in recent times, taking the brunt of the blame for a squad that had suddenly become old and decrepit under former manager Martin Jol, filled with players who should probably no longer be starting in the Premier League.
First Mackintosh sealed a move for a relative unknown in Danish midfielder William Kvist, owner of 44 caps at the international level. The deal is a low risk one as a loan, but also leaves open the chance for a purchase should the 28-year-old impress.
A look at Kvist’s numbers show the shrewd nature of the purchase. At just 81% passing on the Bundesliga season, there appears to be a problem there at first glance. However, after some digging, it would appear that a poor record heading the ball and lumping it forward seriously depleted his passing number, and his short- and mid-range accuracy actually impresses in the 90% range, according to Squawka statistics.
But the pair left the big guns for deadline day. First, Mackintosh convinced Daniel Levy to part ways with promising midfielder Lewis Holtby. Currently excess to requirements at White Hart Lane, Holtby provides a starving Fulham midfield with plenty of nourishment, and between Kvist and Holtby the creativity department should see itself improve exponentially.
The Holtby deal, while just a loan, also presents itself with promising future prospects. Should the Cottagers save their Premier League status this year – still a very iffy possibility – they may be able to convince Holtby that he can ply his trade best at Craven Cottage and that going back to Tottenham would only mean being stuck back out on the wing, a place the 23-year-old has publicly despised.
Finally, the Deadline Day roast beef to Fulham’s sandwich. After a scare thanks to Big Sam and West Ham (or so it was reported), Fulham secured the services of imposing Greek striker Kostas Mitroglou on a club record fee, brokered by the infamous Mino Raiola.
An outstanding goalscoring record at both Borussia Monchengladbach and Olympiakos (with flair and strength), the gritty Mitroglou is the perfect fit for a relegation battle, replacing the luxurious Dimitar Berbatov at the head of the Fulham attack.
While the Bulgarian provided Fulham fans with many moments to remember, he unfortunately was more of a burden in his second season at Craven Cottage, and the replacement is for sure an upgrade. Mitroglou, at 25 years old, also presents a wonderful chance for the club to make a profit should he impress in around 18 months time.
With a defense that has conceded a league-leading 50 goals thus far – 10 more than any other team – the front office pair knew they had to improve the back line. While the biggest hole remains unsolved at left-back, Fulham did bring in Johnny Heitinga on a free transfer, another quality signing. Everton’s former Player of the Year just two seasons ago, Heitinga has fallen behind
But the two weren’t done. Meulensteen used his Manchester United connections to convince the Old Trafford brass that bright young prospects Ryan Tunnicliffe and Larnell Cole were better served in London. The icing on the Deadline Day cake (we’re making a full three course meal here), the youth squad duo provide Fulham with talented young options moving forward, whether they stay up or not.
With all these additions, changes had to be made, and ties had to be severed to create roster space. Adel Taarabt left for AC Milan, clearing one of the two domestic loan slots given to Premier League teams (Darren Bent occupies the other).
Central defenders Philippe Senderos and Aaron Hughes departed for Valencia and Queens Park Rangers respectively, ending an era of frustration for fans forced to watch Senderos destroy a solid 89 minutes with one infuriating mistake. Hughes leaving is bittersweet, with many remembering his days partnering with Brede Hangeland en route to a Europa League final and 250 club appearances.
The transfer window is a fragile one – drop one domino and the whole plan falls out of whack. But the CEO and manager navigated the treacherous waters successfully, and while Fulham still have a serious bit of work to do on the pitch, the intention is clear – stay up at all costs.
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