Sea change by the river?

Posted by Phil Mison

Ravel Morrison AllsportRene Meulensteen has made Ravel Morrison his number one January transfer target.

A quiet week down at the Cottage with Fulham comfortably seeing off Norwich -- yet again -- to advance to the fourth round of the FA Cup? Far from it. Although the early rounds of England’s famous old cup competition now struggle to engage supporters in the way they once did, a symptom of the game’s over-exposure, the real bombshell Tuesday came while the hardy 11,000 who turned up were drifting away into the dreary West London night.

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Fired up perhaps by the side’s first clean sheet in eight games Rene Meulensteen chose the post-match press conference to tell the world Fulham had made a 4 million pound bid for Ravel Morrison and that, although the offer had been knocked back by West Ham, the lad ‘was keen to make the move’ and Fulham were considering going back in with a bigger offer.

This somewhat bold statement by the boss has rattled the embattled Hammers no end with the fall-out continuing all week, and Rene looking to be a little more circumspect as the transfer window temperature gets turned up. I think Fulham will go back for their man -- and once the horse-trading ends and honour has been settled, the Hammers will cash in and accept around 6 million pound for the 20-year-old prospect.

West Ham have other priorities all over the pitch. Despite that win in Cardiff they still, like Fulham, badly need to strengthen in key areas.

Not only did Fulham reveal their bid for Morrison, they also offered Leicester 2 million pounds for their centre-half Liam Moore, were in the market for Joleon Lescott on loan, and are now planning to raid Swansea for their 3 million pound rated left-back Neil Taylor. And these are only the prospective deals we know about. Rest assured there will be others the club are working on.

Now compare all this to the short-term loan deals and sticking-plaster solutions Martin Jol was asked to work with 12 months ago and refer back to my heading. The good ship Fulham has found a helmsman again! Perhaps folding up to bottom side Sunderland proved the final wake-up call needed to turn this project around. Shad Khan is backing his baby with cold hard cash at last!

All Rene’s transfer targets are in their 20s. Dan Burn has impressed the boss enough to see his loan period with Birmingham City terminated. Together with a fit-again Brede Hangeland the side has been given a massive boost -- as good as two major new signings for the remainder of the season.

We are not out of the woods yet. The abysmal Bryan Ruiz has been loaned back to Holland and a long-term replacement for John Arne Riise cannot come quickly enough, while I still have my doubts about Dimitar Berbatov’s desire for a relegation scrap.

Well, if Dimi wants to depart the Premiership with one last swan song for Arsenal, he has the ideal stage with which to impress Arsene Wenger on Saturday. I’ll take a match-winning hat-trick from him in the white shirt please, then by next Wednesday, he can pack his backs and leg it over to the Emirates with my best wishes.

You sense that Rene would just love it if Darren Bent got on a hot streak -- my would that solve a lot of Fulham’s problems. Well he can’t score if he’s not being played, and when he does get a start for heaven’s sake give him some decent service.

There’s no point in rehashing all the old stats about our inability to beat Arsenal. They are up the top and Fulham sit just outside the bottom three for a reason. The Gunners are so much better. It was 1-3 back in August. Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski will give Fulham’s porous defence plenty to contend with, while Wenger has a settled back five to select from. Theo Walcott is out of course, which helps us enormously in the fragile left-back position – where Kieran Richardson is about due another strained hamstring.

Fulham should actually see plenty of the ball in midfield. Scott Parker will be restored, and if Steve Sidwell would only add some brain cells and cut out the ill-judged lunges and missed tackles, he may be good for another goal. I will however rise from my seat at 2.30 and head home if Rene makes the same crass mistake of playing without wingers again for this difficult fixture.

We’ve picked up draws over recent visits to Wenger’s wonderland, here’s hoping for an effort that at least does us credit and shows we have this week perhaps turned an important corner in the history of Fulham FC.




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