Countdown to the Premier League: Previewing Fulham
After finishing in ninth place last season, Fulham manager Martin Jol claimed his side were the ‘best of the rest’ in the Premier League.
The Cottagers played some fine football during Jol’s debut campaign – with one of the highlights a 5-0 thumping of Wolves – but a significant turnover in personnel over the summer could prove difficult for the Londoners to adapt to.
Influential captain Danny Murphy has left for Blackburn while Russian Pavel Pogrebnyak decided against extending his six-month spell and has signed for Premier League new boys Reading.
Jol has boosted his striking options by bringing in Hugo Rodallega and Croat Mladen Petric. However, much may depend on whether the club can hang on to the services of star men Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembele.
Here are the thoughts of contributors to Clean Sheets…
How will Fulham fare this season?
Matt Wood: I’d be surprised if they manage to do any better than their ninth placed finish last season. Having said that, Fulham became one of the most attractive teams in the league last season and the fans will be hoping the football continues to impress even if the team end up being stranded in mid-table.
Alex Hams: Anywhere above tenth would be a real achievement for Fulham, who may have a tough season this time out. The departure of Danny Murphy will really tell in the latter half of the season, as his experience has been vital for the club over the last few years. Clint Dempsey also looks set to leave, with Roma and Liverpool interested, and if he does they will miss his versatility and tenacity in attack. There are a few reasons for optimism though, with some additions to their forward ranks, the Cottagers could be a problem for some teams, and are usually strong at home. Too good to be relegated, not good enough to get into Europe, mid-table beckons.
Rohil Daya: Martin Jol has continued the good work done by Mark Hughes and his Fulham side plays some really attractive football. Yet they never look like they can fight for the top places in the league. The departure of Clint Dempsey could affect them massively but another steady season is likely for the Cottagers, with a top-half finish the best they can aim for.
Elliott Bretland: Another season of mid-table mediocrity beckons for the Craven Cottage club. However they have too much quality in the squad to be sucked into a relegation dogfight.
Is Martin Jol in danger of losing his job at any point this season?
MW: There’s a clutch of teams below the top seven or eight that are all probably at a similar level. Fulham are arguably one of those and could easily be dragged in towards the bottom of the table if things don’t go their way early on in the campaign. If they’re in trouble at Christmas, expect a change.
AH: It would be a surprise to see Jol shown the door this season, as he seems to have the team playing good football and achieving the expected level of success. Of course if performances drop, which is a possibility, he could be in trouble, but the squad have the ability and the know how to keep the Dutchman safe.
RD: After a tricky start to his first season, Jol managed to win over the fans and the board. His clever buys have by and large worked in the league. A poor start to the season could put him under some pressure but as long as his team is away from the bottom-three his job should be safe.
EB: If the team is doing badly at Christmas I wouldn’t be surprised if Mohammed Al-Fayed rang in the changes.
Who is the one player Fulham could do without?
MW: I’ve always felt Philippe Senderos was a clumsy type of defender and looks like he’s an accident waiting to happen when he takes to the field.
AH: Bryan Ruiz looked out of his depth last season, with the hustle and bustle of the Premier League getting the better of him. He is a bit of a luxury player, and in a mid-table scrap you need everybody fighting and performing consistently. The occasional moment of magic doesn’t make up for going missing during most games.
RD: Philippe Senderos. He has never convinced me in the Premier League and looked dodgy at points during last season.
EB: Steve Sidwell isn’t the player he was when he moved to Chelsea from Reading all those years ago.
Which new signing will invigorate Fulham?
MW: Hugo Rodallega should be given much more of an active role than he was afforded at Wigan last season and should get his fair share of goals.
AH: The man who ruined England’s summer in 2008, Mladen Petric. The Croat has a cultured left-foot, bags of experience and didn’t cost a penny.
RD: Hugo Rodallega performed well for most of his time at Wigan but I am going for Mladen Petric. The Croat had a good goal scoring record in Germany and he should be a more than adequate replacement for the departing Andy Johnson. Despite his age, the 31-year-old should start most games and could become the focal point of Jol’s new look attack.
EB: Mladen Petric has great European pedigree and the skilful Croatian should do well in the Premier League.
One player from Fulham to have in your Fantasy Football team this season..
MW: With 23 goals in all competitions last season, you can’t argue with having Clint Dempsey in your team for £9.5m. Whether he’ll be wearing the white of Fulham is another matter.
AH: Mark Schwarzer is always a good option in goal, but Moussa Dembele for £6m is, potentially, one of the best bargains out there.
RD: John Arne Riise at £5.5m is a good option. Fulham generally keep it tight at the back and he can also produce one of his famous left-foot blasts.
EB: At £6m, Moussa Dembele should get lots of points for assists during the coming season.http://www.cleansheetsallround.co.uk/2012/08/premier-league-preview-fulham?