Fulham: 2018/19 Premier League Preview
Can the Cottagers flourish on their return to the Premier League?
Action Images via REUTERS/John Sibley
Martin Jol, Rene Meulensteen and Felix Magath. None of the preceding managers could save Fulham from relegation in 2014, despite their best efforts.
It’s been a topsy-turvy four years since, and the West Londoners had never really looked close to a Premier League return, until manager Slavisa Jokanovic inspired a magical run which propelled the Cottages back into the top-flight via the playoffs. Tom Cairney’s 23rd minute winner was enough to see off Aston Villa at Wembley.
Now, Shahid Khan’s billions will be used to ensure that Fulham stay perfectly ensconced in the Premier League.
2017/18 Season Review
Twenty-three games. That’s how long it took for Fulham to lose in the season just gone. Inspired by the brutality of Aleksandar Mitrovic and the flying youth of Ryan Sessegnon, Fulham raided into a third place finish that saw them make it into the playoff positions.
We all know what happened next…
Arguably, the Cottagers were unfortunate to miss out on automatic promotion, losing to Birmingham on the final day of the Championship season as Cardiff drew 0-0 to send them up by two clear points.
Mitrovic, a failure at Newcastle, set the fighting tone, augmented by the silky Cairney in midfield. Ryan Fredericks – who has since joined West Ham – and the aforementioned Sessegnon offered pace and penetration on the wings, with the latter scoring an incredible 15 goals in the campaign.
Jean Michael Seri
Fee: £27 million
Twelve months on from nearly joining Barcelona, Jean Michael Seri has made the most eye-popping move of the summer? But why has he gone to Fulham?
In truth, the Ivorian has struggled to live up to his own soaring heights in the season just gone. Distracted by a failure to leave Nice last summer, his diffident form means Fulham have been allowed to step in for a cut-price move.
It’s a transfer that suits all parties. The Londoners get a top-quality midfielder, who can reinvigorate his reputation with a decent campaign. Should he perform to the levels shown previously, it’s inevitable that a big club will come in again. Fulham will make a profit, Seri will get his move, and everybody wins.
Fee: £400,000 (two-year loan)
Andre Schurrle’s reputation may have dwindled after questionable stays at Chelsea and Dortmund, but he remains an impactful player on his day.
Pacy and intelligent, brings a wealth of top-level experience to Craven Cottage, and will be interesting to witness alongside the bustling Mitrovic, should the latter make the move to Fulham permanent as expected.
Fee: £5.4 million
The Spanish-Uruguayan conceded only 30 goals last year, part of a title-winning Besiktas side that also boasted Domagoj Vida and Ricardo Quaresma.
Fabri is pro-active and scrupulous, eager in directing his defenders and with strong concentration. He should offer an instant upgrade on Marcus Bettinelli.
Maxime Le Marchand
Fee: £3.6 million
Signing alongside his teammate Seri, the former Nice man is a dependable option at left-back who is also capable of filling in centrally. Blessed with an intelligent sense of positioning and a decent passing range, Le Marchand will offer ballast for Ryan Sessegnon’s explosive forays further forward.
Ryan Fredericks is the only notable departure, with the right-back having joined Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham on a free transfer. Otherwise, Jokanovic has managed to hold on to the squad that did so well go gain promotion last year.
Fulham favour an enterprising style under Jokanovic, one that is built on gaining turnovers in possession from a feverish press.
They made more successful passes than any team in the Championship last time out, but it would be wrong to say that they are wedded to any particular system.
Jokanovic, having managed in Israel and Thailand before landing in Fulham, is a pragmatist at heart who caters his system to the players available.
With this squad, it makes sense to play a possession-based style, one that is expansive and makes use of its myriad attacking talents. Expect a pacy, entertaining 4-3-3.
The Key Question: Can they survive?
As lofty as their transfer dealings have been, Fulham’s only goal this year will be to ensure Premier League survival.
Khan’s deep pockets mean that there is no financial Armageddon looming should the club be relegated, but the Cottages are keen to cement themselves as a cosmopolitan force in the league.
Much will depend on that talented forward line. If Seri can bring together Sessegnon and Schurrle, Mitrovic could be on course for the best goal-scoring season of his career. A relatively weak backline, however, remains an Achilles heel.
Seventh to ninth, replicating the achievements of Leicester City and Burnley in recent seasons.
Relegation, and the inevitable departures of Sessegnon and Seri.
Fulham should finish comfortably in mid-table. They might feel inoffensive, but the Londoners are blessed with some real talent that also has a point to prove.
They could end up being one of the league’s most commendable performers, especially under a manager as talented as Jokanovic.
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