Season Preview: #5 Fulham

Martin Jol had a successful first season in charge at Craven Cottage, leading Fulham to a top-half finish of 9th place in the Premier League. The Cottagers have been a regular fixture in the top flight for 11 years now and are entering their 11th season (having come up from the Championship with Bolton and Blackburn, both of whom were relegated last season). Fulham, however, have regained a new lease of life since flirting with relegation themselves, but were saved by Roy Hodgson who subsequently led them to a Europa League final.

This summer has seen Clint Dempsey, scorer of 23 goals last season (17 in the Premier League) being linked with a move to Anfield, along with Moussa Dembele who has been linked with a move to Manchester United among other clubs. At the time of writing, both still remain Fulham players. The vast majority of transfers have been out of Craven Cottage with many of the ageing players being shipped out: Danny Murphy, Dickson Etuhu, and Andy Johnson, while Orlando Sa was released and Bjorn Helge Riise has left on a free. It has been rather quiet by way of transfer in, with just three players arriving – Sascha Riether on loan for Cologne, 31 year-old Mladen Petric and Hugo Rodellega from Wigan.

Ex-Spurs boss, Jol, did have Fulham playing some free flowing, attacking football last season, very much with the handbrake off. Dembele, Bryan Ruiz, Clint Dempsey and Pavel Pogrebnyak, who has since joined newly promoted Reading – all of whom linked together impressively at times last season being some high scoring results such as 5-0, 5-2 and 6-0 – the latter result being against a very sweet trashing of former boss Mark Hughes’ side QPR. On the other hand, there was a 5-0 defeat to Manchester United, 4-0 defeat to Everton and a 3-0 defeat to Swansea during the season. Away form has always dogged Fulham in the Premier League; there were just four wins on the road last season compared to 10 wins at home.

Fulham, are, as has been debated by myself on a couple of occasions, one of those clubs where remaining in the Premier League comfortably each season is in itself a success and over the years they have surpassed that by getting into Europe and to reaching the Europa League final where they beat some pretty big named clubs along the way. It is hard to say if Jol can ‘improve’ on last season’s 9th place finish. If the Cottagers were to hold on to Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembele, then that would be half the battle.

Opening five fixtures: Norwich (H), Man United (A), West Ham (A), West Brom (H) and Wigan (A)

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