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How Fulham’s Denis Odoi went from defensive liability to play-off hero

The 29-year-old grabbed the Cottagers’ winner in the play-off semi-final

Max Cohen

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Denis Odoi
Photo: Getty Images

Carried off the pitch on the shoulders of an adoring Craven Cottage crowd, Denis Odoi enjoyed his finest footballing moment in Fulham’s 2-0 play-off semi-final win over Derby.

The Belgian defender scored a sensational headed winner to send the Whites to Wembley, but few would have predicted Odoi would play the hero on Monday night.

How did a player once derided as a defensive liability become Fulham’s play-off saviour?

Ever since making the switch from Belgian football to Fulham in the summer of 2016, Odoi had struggled to nail down a starting spot at the Cottage.

Previously best known for an audacious bit of skill he pulled off against Newcastle on his debut, the 29-year-old became infamous for defensive lapses and poor giveaways.

Perhaps his lowest point in a Fulham shirt came this December, when Odoi was senselessly sent off in a dreadful 3-1 loss to Brentford.

His two yellow cards in quick succession were easily avoidable; afterwards, it looked set that the centre-back pairing of Tomas Kalas and Tim Ream would reign supreme for the rest of the season.

But after Kalas suffered a hip injury against Wolves in late February, Odoi has seamlessly marshalled the Fulham backline alongside Ream.

Even when the Chelsea loanee returned to fitness, the Belgian has kept him out of the starting lineup with superb performances filled with excellent tackles, a strong aerial presence, and intelligent interceptions.

Since Odoi replaced Kalas, Fulham have kept a remarkable seven clean sheets in the following 14 matches, in which Odoi has played every minute.

Odoi’s play-off performances have thrust him firmly into Fulham folklore.

In the narrow first-leg defeat at Pride Park, the centre-back made a number of stunning interceptions to cut out dangerous crosses that would have resulted in certain goals.

These vital interventions meant the scoreline was kept a manageable 1-0, allowing Odoi to rise highest from a corner and send Fulham to the play-off final.

During May 26’s match at Wembley, expect Denis Odoi to continue his recent resurgence

Max is a journalist studying at the University of Pennsylvania. Max specialises in English football and co-hosts a weekly podcast. He is also a politics reporter and deputy news editor for The Daily Pennsylvanian.

Everton

Three reasons Fulham should steer clear of Everton’s Yannick Bolasie

The 29-year-old has been attracting interest away from Goodison Park.

Max Cohen

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Yannick Bolasie
Photo: Getty Images

Following the news of Richarlison’s reported transfer to Goodison Park, Yannick Bolasie looks to be on his way out of Everton.

According to the Liverpool Echo, there are a number of clubs interested in signing the 29-year-old winger, including Leicester City, Crystal Palace, Fenerbahce, and Fulham.

But Fulham should steer clear of acquiring the services of Bolasie, due to his injury record, his age, and their strong options on the left wing.

He has scored just one goal in the last year and a half

Bolasie suffered a terrible knee injury in the 2016/17 season that kept him out for over a year, and since recovering from the ligament damage he has not been his old self.

The Congolese international made 16 league appearances last season, yet struggled to find his old form and scored just one goal and recorded no assists in those matches.

Although he might benefit from a move to a club where he would play more often, it would prove a gamble too far for Fulham to splash the cash on Bolasie.

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

He isn’t getting any younger

At 29 years of age, the attacker is probably past his footballing prime and his recent form has illustrated his decline.

Added to Fulham’s transfer policy that avoids signing outfield players above the age of 28, and Bolasie does not appear the type of transfer target the Whites would prioritise.

Ryan Sessegnon is the undisputed first choice left winger

The left wing position is undoubtedly Yannick Bolasie’s preferred position, as the attacker has played the vast majority of his Premier League matches in that role.

However, 18-year-old phenom Ryan Sessegnon occupies that position for the Cottagers and is one of the first names on the teamsheet.

In order for Bolasie to succeed at Fulham, he would either play out of position on the right wing or displace Sessegnon— two unlikely situations.

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Fulham

Four ins and outs Fulham could complete in the next week

The Cottagers look set for an active end to the transfer window.

Max Cohen

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Fulham
Photo: Getty Images

As Fulham’s preseason tour of France continues, the squad is preparing to battle some of Europe’s finest clubs.

Yet, there is substantial action going on off the pitch as well, with the Whites being linked with a host of top-quality talents.

Here are a number of possible arrivals and departures that could occur in the coming days.

Aleksandar Mitrovic from Newcastle United

Mitrovic has seemed to be on the brink of completing a £20 million move from St. James’ Park to Craven Cottage for weeks now, but the following days could finally see the Serbian sign for Fulham.

According to the Standard, the Whites are closing in on a deal that makes sense for both parties. Rafa Benitez has no interest in keeping the striker, and Mitrovic loved his time at Fulham and found the form of his career last season.

Fabri from Besiktas

ESPN has reported Besiktas’ Spanish goalkeeper Fabri is the subject of an offer from Fulham, who are looking to strengthen the goalkeeping position after the departure of David Button.

The 30-year-old has enjoyed an excellent two seasons in Turkey, steering Besiktas to the Super Lig championship in 2016/17 and leading them to the Champions League knockout stage the following season.

An experienced goalkeeper with impressive Champions League success, Fabri would be a strong competitor with Marcus Bettinelli for the number one spot.

(Photo by Franck Fife/Getty Images)

Wilmar Barrios from Boca Juniors

After an impressive World Cup with Colombia, the combative defensive midfielder was linked with a number of Premier League clubs, including Tottenham Hotspur and Everton.

However, reports from Argentina, as well as Argentinian football expert Peter Coates, indicate that Fulham have tabled an offer for Barrios.

It would be a spectacular coup to beat some big Premier League clubs to his signature, but Fulham have done just that with Jean-Michael Seri a week ago.

Cauley Woodrow

Woodrow once looked set to be the next star striker at Craven Cottage, yet has lost his way in past years and most recently endured a tough loan spell at Bristol City where he scored just two goals.

The 23-year-old Englishman has been conspicuously absent from Fulham’s pre-season friendlies, missing from the starting XI and the bench in the three matches against Crawley Town, Reading, and Fenerbahce.

Although there have been no rumours linking him with an exit, it seems likely he will depart the club this summer as he is not part of Jokanovic’s first team plans.

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Brighton and Hove Albion

Fulham’s sale of David Button to Brighton is a brilliant deal

The back-up goalkeeper was recently offloaded to Brighton.

Max Cohen

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David Button
Photo: Getty Images

On Monday, Fulham announced goalkeeper David Button was leaving Craven Cottage for an undisclosed fee to move to Brighton and Hove Albion.

The offloading of the club’s backup goalkeeper for any fee represents good business, as Button was very clearly second choice and, ultimately, supporters will be surprised that a Premier League club were willing to spend any money on the player.

Button joined the Whites in July 2016 and slotted in as first choice goalkeeper ahead of Marcus Bettinelli. Yet the Englishman lost his starting spot in embarrassing fashion after a horror show performance against Derby County the following April.

Button’s distribution, passing ability, and shot-stopping were abject that midweek night, allowing David Nugent to score some laughably easy goals en route to a harmful 4-2 loss.

After that match, Bettinelli took over and never looked back, leading Fulham on a sparkling end-of-season run to the play-offs that narrowly ended in heartbreak.

However, the following season Button again reclaimed the first choice role after Bettinelli was injured in pre-season. The ex-Brentford man started the season brightly, earning numerous plaudits and man-of-the-match votes during the early stages of the season.

But, his high-profile mistakes came back to haunt him, and after a poor showing against Brentford in December he was again benched for Bettinelli.

Fulham truly never looked back this time. Bettinelli’s arrival coincided with another sparkling run of form, this time one that took the Whites to third position and promotion through the play-offs.

It was clear Bettinelli was preferred to Button, and it made sense to see the elder goalkeeper depart this summer.

The sale of David Button to Premier League rivals Brighton is another intelligent piece of business by Tony Khan and Fulham, getting rid of benchwarmers and raising funds for further transfer targets.

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