Following Fulham’s 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo on Saturday, manager Slavisa Jokanovic indicated that Alfie Mawson would have to wait until September to make his Fulham debut.
Jokanovic’s announcement reveals the increased need for reinforcements in Fulham’s backline, as the Cottagers’ marquee defensive signing will be missing for the first three weeks of the season.
Speaking to Fulham’s official website after the club’s final friendly, the Serbian manager gave a disappointing update on Mawson’s fitness.
The former Swansea City centre-half underwent knee surgery this spring but had been expected to return for the start of the season.
However, those hopes were quashed by Jokanovic.
“Alfie Mawson’s a great signing, but won’t be ready for the start of the season. He must wait another three weeks, and then he’ll start working with us. I don’t think he’ll be available to help us until September.”
The news of Mawson’s delayed start to the season is worrying for the club, considering the shaky defensive display against the La Liga side on Saturday. Fulham conceded two soft goals, both headers that were converted from crosses.
It was an uncomfortable throwback to the porous Fulham backlines of seasons past, which lacked organisation and were prone to shipping goals from set pieces.
Mawson was bought to bring steel and fortitude to the Cottagers, and excels in repelling danger as he boasted the 12th-most headed clearances in the top flight last season.
With Mawson out, French defender Maxime le Merchand becomes Tim Ream’s partner, and the ex-Nice man was found out and beaten to the ball for Celta’s first goal. In addition, Mawson’s absence forces Ryan Sessegnon to play left back rather than his preferred left wing.
Added to Denis Odoi’s two-match red card suspension to begin the season, the Whites’ defensive options look startlingly thin.
In all, these factors reveal how important it is for Fulham to target further defensive reinforcements in the final week of the transfer window in order to shore up the back four ahead of the Premier League season.