The news that former Arsenal defender Philippe Senderos has moved to Fulham on a three-year deal will not come as a shock to most fans, but upon closer inspection, a move to Craven Cottage has the potential to be mutually beneficial for both parties.
The manager at the helm there, Roy Hodgson, for however much longer he will continue to occupy the position, with persistent rumours linking him with the vacant managerial job at Liverpool refusing to away, has forged a reputation in his time in West London in particular for revitalising out of form, journeyman defenders and turning them into solid Premiership quality players once more. The Swiss international will be hoping for more of the same treatment.
After all, few, if any critics would have recognised players such as Paul Konchesky, John Pantsil, Aaron Hughes, Chris Baird and Stephen Kelly as being of sufficient enough quality to sustain a respectable league campaign and excellent European adventure over the course of the season, especially one as long as Fulham’s eventually turned out to be.
Of course, the cornerstones of Fulham’s success at the back have been the reliability of Mark Schwarzer between the sticks and the assured presence of Brede Hangeland at the heart of the back four, but anyone whose played at the highest level of the game will tell you, that unless each player does their respective jobs, then the defensive line will fail at some juncture and to ignore the aforementioned players contributions would be extremely harsh and also a tad patronising. With 12 clean sheets to their name this season and the eighth best defence in the league by the stats at least, as a unit, they work extremely well together and a lot of that credit must go to Uncle Roy.
Senderos has had a mixed career, and although never considered a regular at Arsenal he still managed to muster 54 league starts in his six year stint as a first-team player there. The feeling always persisted that he was a solid enough player, good in the air and when on form, a capable centre half, but he lacked the sufficient quality to be a lasting success at the club and it always appeared as if he was punching above his weight so to speak by keeping such illustrious company.
Much like Titus Bramble’s career has been defined, Senderos is a player who is remembered more for his failings and shortcomings as opposed to his achievements and his strengths. The cumbersome style he possesses is not the easiest on the eye and Senderos does play as if a gaffe of monumental proportions is just waiting to happen right around the corner at any given moment. From a fan’s perspective at least, he doesn’t breed confidence, only unease.
Yet it’s easy to forget that whilst obviously not in the class of say a club like Arsenal, before his negligible contribution on loan at Everton where he failed to break into the side, he does possess a pretty good pedigree. He boasts 39 international caps for his native Switzerland’s national side, he enjoyed a season long loan to Italian giants AC Milan last season, he boasts an FA Cup winners medal and he also captained the under 17 Swiss side to the UEFA European Championship back in 2002, a record not to be sniffed at for any player no matter how ungainly.
The move could represent a laying of the groundwork for a possible departure of defensive stalwart Hangeland though and with Hodgson drawing particular close attention to Senderos’ “great aerial presence at both ends of the field” it could be argued that he’s been brought in as a straight like-for-like swap for the much sought after Hangeland.
If the big Norwegian (although as a matter of fact for all you trivia fans out there, he did happen to be born in Houston, Texas in the US) does happen to stay at the club beyond this summer’s transfer window, then it’s unlikely that Senderos will be anything more than a replacement for the departing Chris Smalling and will be used in reserve behind the steady eddy partnership of Hughes and Hangeland that has worked so well in the past.
It’s clear for all to see that at the age of 25, Senderos’ career has stalled somewhat and that he hasn’t developed into the dominant centre half Arsene Wenger thought he might one day turn into when he emplaced so much trust in him when Senderos faced burst upon the scene, but in the capable hands of Roy Hodgson at least, I wouldn’t rule out a comeback of Lazarus-style proportions by this time next year such is the head honcho’s previous track record for saving lost causes and Fulham fans can welcome another addition to their rag tag bunch of misfits down at the Cottage.
Written By James McManus