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Fulham’s strike farce: What now, Mark?

17 August 2010

Mark Hughes

With Craig Bellamy signing a season-long loan at Championship side Cardiff City (the club he supported growing up) and with West Ham potentially in the lead for Roque Santa Cruz, new Fulham manager Mark Hughes looks set to miss out on his two value targets for striker reinforcements.

In light of Fulham’s current strike force consisting of Bobby Zamora (himself a Sunderland target) and a bunch of replacement-level fill-ins, long-term injury concerns and out-of-position midfielders, these are fairly sizable misses. Fulham struggled to create dangerous chances in its opener at Bolton until the final 10 minutes and relying on Zamora to a) stay healthy all season and b) maintain the form that saw him strike 19 times in all competitions last season is a very dicey plan.

Even if Andrew Johnson finally recovers from his knee injury, he wasn’t exactly a sure thing when paired with Zamora. This means, for now, you will continue to see Zoltan Gera and/or Clint Dempsey in a second-striker role when the Cottagers don’t line up in a true 4-5-1, with Zamora isolated up top.

Hughes appears to be positioned to solve his other major dilemma, that of disgruntled goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, as multiple reports now hint that displaced City keeper Shay Given may be the trigger that allows Fulham to sell Schwarzer to Arsenal. That’s all well and good — when healthy, Given is the better keeper — but defense has not been Fulham’s problem. It wasn’t on Saturday and it shouldn’t be as long as the Cottagers don’t yardsale their back four.

The problem, like it always is, especially away from home, will be scoring goals. Even if they land Moussa Dembele from AZ Alkmaar, that’s not really a solution, as Dembele is an attacking mid or wing miscast as a striker. It would be like adding another, young, clever Gera-type to the attack, but still leaves Fulham woefully short of top-division options in the striker role.

So, just two weeks into his tenure in Southwest London, Mark Hughes is facing his first quandary. You’ve swung and apparently missed twice, Mark. What are you going to do in the next two weeks to avoid the strikeout?

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