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Thursday Fulham Stuff - 10/09/20...

Started by WhiteJC, September 09, 2020, 11:37:57 AM

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Arsenal defender David Luiz 'a major injury concern with a neck problem and could miss the Premier League season opener against Fulham'

    David Luiz's availability for Arsenal's match at Fulham on Saturday is in doubt
    He has a neck problem and there are fears that he could be absent for a while
    The injury could cement Rob Holding's part in Arsenal's plans for the season

Mikel Arteta is sweating over the fitness of key defender David Luiz after the Brazilian sustained a neck injury.

According to The Athletic, Luiz's issue requires particular caution and he could face an extended period of time on the sidelines.

As a result, Rob Holding is expected to remain at Arsenal rather than join Newcastle on loan.

David Luiz has sustained a neck injury and is a doubt for Arsenal's season opener at Fulham

Arsenal are fearful that Luiz could face an extended period of absence with the neck problem

Luiz is expected to miss Arsenal's Premier League opener against Fulham on Saturday in the early kick-off at Craven Cottage.

If the Brazilian Luiz, 33, is set for a prolonged absence it would be a major blow for Gunners boss Arteta ahead of his first full season at the Emirates Stadium.

Shkodran Mustafi, Calum Chambers and Pablo Mari are all returning to fitness after their own injury issues while new arrivals William Saliba and Gabriel are untested in the Premier League.

Sokratis Papastathopoulos has been unfancied by Arteta ever since he arrived as manager but the Spaniard might be forced to turn to him in the coming weeks.

Luiz penned a new one-year deal at Arsenal back in June, despite a difficult start to Arteta's tenure.

Holding, meanwhile, was expected to depart for Newcastle for the duration of the 2020-21 campaign but impressed in Arsenal's Community Shield triumph over Liverpool.

He is now a frontrunner to start against newly-promoted Fulham, but Arteta faces an anxious wait before choosing his partner in the centre of defence,


Scout Gaming lands Premier League sponsorship deal

Through its B2C brand FanTeam, Scout Gaming has become Fulham FC's new fantasy sports partner for the next two seasons.

FanTeam offers what it says is Europe's largest prize pools on fantasy football, including the season-long Fantasy Premier League game, with a €1m guaranteed fund and a minimum €200,000 going to the winner.

As part of the partnership with the club, FanTeam will offer games specifically tied to Fulham, such as player duels, against different opponents during the season, as well as the traditional season-long game played across the full Premier League season.

Fulham's rich heritage and global reputation were key factors in FanTeam's decision to partner with the club.

Andreas Ternström, CEO of Scout Gaming, said: "We're extremely proud and excited to partner with Fulham FC in connection to their return to where they belong, the Premier League. We were impressed by how the club handled the relegation in 2019 and the measures taken to win back promotion. In many ways we see a lot of similarities between FanTeam/Scout Gaming and Fulham FC, where focus on building a winning culture and passion stands out."


Rob Holding set to start Arsenal's clash vs Fulham after David Luiz injury

Rob Holding is set to start in Arsenal's Premier League opener against Fulham as David Luiz is a major doubt due to a neck injury, according to reports.

Holding was expected to be allowed to join Newcastle United on loan this summer but Mikel Arteta has reversed that decision and is keen to keep the 24-year-old in his squad. It's understood that Arteta has been impressed by Holding during Arsenal's pre-season preparations and the defender will be given the chance to challenge for a regular role. And according to The Athletic, Holding is now in line start Arsenal's first game of the new Premier League season as David Luiz is struggled to overcome a neck injury.

The report claims that the Brazilian suffered the injury in Arsenal's victory over Liverpool in the Community Shield and the problem has been aggravated in training since the Gunners' win at Wembley. The report also suggests that David Luiz could be sidelined for up to six weeks and Arsenal's medical staff want to treat the injury with 'particular caution'.

The Brazilian's injury also opens the door for William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes to make their Premier League debuts. Saliba has taken part in a full pre-season camp with Arsenal but the 19-year-old did not start in the match against Liverpool on August 29.

Gabriel, meanwhile, hasn't played a competitive game since early March as Lille's Ligue 1 campaign was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. Shkodran Mustafi, Pablo Mari and Calum Chambers are all unavailable due to injuries. Arteta's side will begin their Premier League campaign against Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday.

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Scottish Giants Celtic, Rangers Interested In Signing Fulham, Brighton, Leicester-

English Premier League clubs face competition as they bid to sign Nigerian-born winger Bright Osayi-Samuel, according to reports.

Football Insider claims that the Queens Park Rangers Young Player of the Year is attracting interest from Scottish Premiership giants Glasgow Celtic and Rangers.

Fresh from a campaign that saw him involved in 15 goals (5 goals, 9 assists) from 40 matches across all competitions, Osayi-Samuel has also been linked with possible moves to Leicester City, Fulham and Brighton & Hove.

The cost of signing the winger this summer is believed to be in the region of five million pounds, with Queens Park Rangers accepting that fee from Club Brugge, only for the player to eventually turn down a move to the Belgian champions.

The 22-year-old has entered the final nine months of his contract with the Hoops and can sign a pre-contract with a foreign club in January 2021, and this is something which Glasgow Rangers are working on.

Osayi-Samuel is expected to be in action for Queens Park Rangers when they face Nottingham Forest in their Championship opener on Saturday, September 12.

Igho Kingsley


Mitro & Joe in PFA Team of the Year

Aleksandar Mitrović and Joe Bryan have been named in the PFA Championship Team of the Year.

Mitro's 26 goals throughout 2019/20 saw him win the divisional Golden Boot, while Bryan's seven league assists was the most by a defender.

The team is also comprised of Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Brice Samba, Leeds United's defensive trio of Luke Ayling, Ben White and Liam Cooper, a midfield trio of Eberechi Eze (formerly Queens Park Rangers), Kalvin Phillips (Leeds) and Romaine Sawyers (West Bromwich Albion), while Mitro was accompanied up top by Brentford forwards Said Benrahma and Ollie Watkins.

It is the fourth successive Championship season in which Fulham has been represented in the Team of the Year: Ross McCormack (2016); Ryan Sessegnon and Tom Cairney (2017); Sessegnon, Cairney and Ryan Fredericks (2018).


Report: Middlesbrough set to sign Fulham stopper Marcus Bettinelli

The Cottagers deputy stopper looks set to head out in search of first-team football.

Middlesbrough are close to completing the signing of Fulham goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli, according to a report by the Northern Echo.

The 28-year-old's departure from Fulham is likely to see another goalkeeper arrive at Craven Cottage to bolster Scott Parker's ranks.

PSG custodian Alphonse Areola has been linked with a move and it remains to be seen whether Bettinelli heading north will give Fulham the green light to pull off the deal.

Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock has been frustrated in his attempts to add to his squad this summer but in Bettinelli he's pulling off a decent deal.

The goalkeeper has played 120 times for Fulham and has also tasted further Football League action during a loan spell at Accrington earlier in his career.

Bettinelli played 14 times last season but was largely kept on the fringes by the impressive Marek Rodak as the club won promotion to the Premier League.

Boro will pay the Cottagers a six-figure fee to take Bettinelli on loan for the 2020/21 campaign and it seems likely one of their goalkeepers will leave.

Ainsley Pears seems the most likely to make way, with Dejan Stojanovic a regular under Warnock during the closing stages of last season.

TBR View – Fulham's loss is Boro's gain

Bettinelli is a capable pair of hands and he might have fancied staking his claim for a place ahead of the Cottagers' first season back in the top-flight.

That doesn't look to be the case though, with Scott Parker almost certainly set to target a new goalkeeper following Bettinelli's departure.

Boro are getting a decent player though, one who boasts agility, strong distribution and a good level of composure between the posts.

It will now be interesting to see who Parker has identified to bolster his own goalkeeping ranks ahead of the new campaign.


Fans return to competitive football as Cambridge beat Fulham Under-21s

Cambridge beat Fulham Under-21s 2-0 in the EFL Trophy at the Abbey Stadium as fans were allowed to attend a competitive fixture in England for the first time in six months.

Tom Knowles' first-half free-kick and Paul Mullin's late effort sealed victory for Cambridge against their Southern Group H rivals in front of 862 supporters.

Cambridge had been chosen to host two games as part of the government and EFL's pilot scheme, with 2,500 fans allowed for Saturday's opening Sky Bet League Two game against Carlisle.

Knowles fired home direct from a 24th-minute free-kick, low into the bottom corner.

Cambridge should have doubled their lead just before half-time when Ryan De Havilland was caught on the ball, leaving Andrew Dallas clear on goal, but his shot was cleared off the line after he had gone round the goalkeeper.

The home side put the result beyond doubt in the closing stages when substitute Mullin applied an emphatic low finish from 18 yards.

Cambridge have previously been part of a joint project by the EFL and the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) that looked at the safe application of social distancing at football grounds.

A crowd of 2,500 attended Brighton's 1-1 friendly draw against Chelsea at the Amex Stadium last month in a game which was also used as a test event by the SGSA and Department of Culture, Media and Sport.


Fulham Pushing To Complete Signing Before Sanctioning Loan Exit

Fulham are looking to seal the signature of Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Alphonse Areola before letting Marcus Bettinelli join Middlesbrough on loan, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Scott Parker is bolstering his squad ahead of the Cottagers' return to the Premier League and he has already signed the likes of Mario Lemina, Harrison Reed and Antonee Robinson.

Next on Fulham's agenda is strengthening the goalkeeping department, where movement is expected to take place soon.

Englishman Bettinelli is claimed to be having his medical with Middlesbrough ahead of a loan move, but the transfer will not go through before the Cottagers have sealed a replacement.

Parker's side are pushing to bring in PSG goalkeeper Areola on a loan deal this summer and want to confirm the signing of the Frenchman before they let Bettinelli move away on loan.

North London outfit Arsenal have been offered the chance to sign Areola as a short-term replacement for Aston Villa target Emiliano Martinez, but Fulham are leading the race for the custodian.

Moving to Craven Cottage would see Areola take on the number 1 jersey at the club, but he would be brought in as cover for Bernd Leno at Arsenal.

The 27-year-old spent last season on loan at Real Madrid in Spain and appears to be heading to the Premier League in the current transfer window.


 Fulham 2020/21: Will Scott Parker learn from Cottagers' previous Premier League mistakes?
Ahead of the new season, we look at Fulham's strengths, weaknesses and what the targets will be for boss Scott Parker...

Scott Parker has already had a small taste of management at the highest level, but this time around he'll be looking to learn from the mistakes of the past and keep Fulham in the Premier League.

The Cottagers spent over £100m on new signings after beating Aston Villa in the 2018 play-off final, but they under-performed throughout their last season in the Premier League, winning just seven games and mustering only 26 points as they were relegated with five games left to play.

Fulham celebrate their play-off victory at Wembley

Slavisa Jokanovic, Claudio Ranieri and Parker - who had 10 games as caretaker boss - all had spells in the top job at Craven Cottage but they could not save Fulham, who finished 19th, from relegation. However, Parker, who led Fulham back to the Premier League at the first time of asking, will have learnt some valuable lessons from that experience as he looks to improve on that season.

Where they stand
There were not many tipping Fulham for a return to the top flight at the beginning of last season, but Parker's side produced the goods when it mattered, and after almost securing automatic promotion, they finished fourth, sealing their Premier League return with victory over Brentford in the play-off final.

With their Premier League status confirmed, memories of their disastrous 2018/19 campaign quickly surfaced, but Parker, who had a brief spell as caretaker boss the last time Fulham were in the top flight, was quick acknowledge the mistakes of the past and the challenge that lies ahead for his side.

Parker lost his first five games in the Premier League as Fulham's caretaker boss, and while he could not help the club secure its top-flight status, he did see an upturn in form towards the end of that season that saw the team win three of the next four matches, which is something for the 39-year-old coach to build on this time around.

Where they're strong
Fulham really were the pass masters last season with a league-topping 21,844 completed - and nearly a quarter of those were achieved in the attacking third.

Parker will be satisfied with his side's 18 clean sheets - only Leeds kept more - but there are still warning signs with 48 goals conceded (three teams shipped fewer) and 182 shots on target faced (11 teams faced fewer).

Indeed, defensive frailties were at the heart of the Cottagers' relegation from the Premier League two years ago when they leaked 81 goals.

Where they need to improve
While additional tightening at the back might be required, the key issue to address for Fulham will be creating chances and easing the goalscoring burden on Aleksandar Mitrovic.

The Cottagers scored fewer goals than promoted sides Leeds and West Brom, in addition to play-off challengers Brentford and Cardiff - while five teams created a higher number of clear-cut opportunities.

The club also faces an uphill struggle to buck the historic trend for clubs promoted to the Premier League via the play-offs: only 44 per cent have survived the first season since 1995/96.

What has the manager said?
peaking after Fulham's play-off victory, Scott Parker said:

"You can't build teams with drastic changes, drastic swings of players [coming in]. This team has been around myself now for the best part of 15 months and they have improved and improved and improved. I'm happy with where we are. We are going to need additions - we are going into the biggest league there is - but no real drastic changes.

"Some clear errors were made last time and we will learn from that, we need to learn from that. We are going into the best league in the world, the best players, it's a brutal league and I realise the challenge ahead. I want to try and enjoy what we have done so far but we need to learn from those mistakes."

Key man

Aleksandar Mitrovic will be a key figure for Fulham in the top-flight

Aleksandar Mitrovic will once again be a crucial figure for Fulham as the Serbia striker looks to make an impact in the Premier League.

The 25-year-old finished last season as the top goalscorer in the Championship with 26 goals and he already has Premier League experience with Newcastle and Fulham, playing all but one game and scoring 11 goals two season ago.

In 77 top-flight appearances, he's scored 21 goals and has seven assists and his combative style and physical presence will be key to Fulham's survival chances.

One to watch

Josh Onomah celebrates scoring for Fulham

Josh Onomah, who played a starring role for Fulham in the Championship play-offs, will have a point to prove as he returns to the top-flight.

He has already had a taste of the Premier League with Tottenham, but having made just 13 appearances for Spurs, all of which came as a substitute, the 23-year-old has a chance to make a big impact for the newly promoted side.

Speaking to the club's official website, Onomah said: "At Spurs I made just over 10 appearances but they were off the bench, so this time around I'm looking forward to showing everyone what I can do in the Premier League. I've got a point to prove and I look forward to the challenge."

What is success for Fulham in 2020/21?
As with every newly-promoted club, the goal for Fulham will be staying in the Premier League. It's as simple as that.

Parker's experience of Fulham's disastrous 2018/19 campaign could well prove crucial because with games coming thick and fast this season, the Cottagers' squad will be stretched to the limit.

Defensive recruitments are still a necessity for the Cottagers before the season gets underway. Wigan left-back Antonee Robinson has already joined for an undisclosed fee but Parker will be hoping a centre-back and a right-back quickly follow as he looks to secure Fulham's top-flight status.


GUNNING FOR IT Wonderkid William Saliba set for debut but no Gabriel? How Arsenal should line up against Fulham in their Premier League opener

Two trophies in two months have got Arsenal fans salivating at the prospect of the 2020/21 Premier League season.

New signings have also helped, with three major transfers confirmed and more possibly on the way – but can they make an immediate impact in the Premier League opener against Fulham?

You can hear that match and more live on talkSPORT this Saturday.

Two of the new boys are already familiar to fans with Willian a Chelsea star since 2013, while Dani Ceballos arrives for a second loan spell at the Emirates.

The Spaniard was exceptional at the end of last term, while the Brazilian gives plenty of creativity and experience after joining on a free transfer.

Another man from Brazil signing for the club is centre-back Gabriel, who moves to north London from Lille, highly-rated after his spell in Ligue 1. Arteta will hope he can toughen up his backline.

Meanwhile, we'll also get our first glimpse of William Saliba in a red and white shirt, which is exciting given his huge potential.

But how will these new additions alter Arteta's team for the new Premier League campaign? takes a look.

How Arsenal should look against Fulham
International duty and new signings mean Arteta won't quite be able to field his ideal line-up at first.

Indeed, Gabriel is yet to feature since his signing for the club while Willian hasn't had much game time with his peers either.

It might be the case for the first few matches we see the 3-4-3 formation continue, as the new boys get up to speed. But don't be surprised

A debut though, might be on the cards for wonderkid Saliba on the right of the back-three, while Ceballos should start ahead of Elneny, a full 90 minutes would be unlikely so the Egyptian might get a role off the bench.

David Luiz is a doubt due to a neck injury and Rob Holding is set to deputise.

The forward line should be the one which ended the season but don't be too surprised if Eddie Nketiah or Bukayo Saka gatecrash the XI.

Meanwhile, the major selection headache will be whether Emiliano Martinez or Bernd Leno gets the nod in goal. It appears the former has it for now.


Fulham set for triple signing

Fulham are close to completing three deals, according to Sky Sports News this morning.

The Londoners are finalising the paperwork with Paris Saint-Germain to bring in goalkeeper Alphonse Areola. Fulham know that they are several other Premier League clubs interested in signing the French international and are looking to conclude this deal as soon as possible. Marcus Bettinelli, who spent the second half of last season as understudy to Marek Rodak, has travelled to Teesside to undergo a medical ahead of a proposed season-long loan to Middlesbrough.

Fulham have also agreed a fee with Lyon for Dutch international right back Kenny Tete. The former Ajax defender passed a medical yesterday, according to reports in both France and Holland, and the deal is close to completion. The Whites are still set to sign former Chelsea defender Ola Aina on loan from Torino and that deal will include an option to buy, rumoured to be in the region of £11m.

Sky Sports suggests that Fulham are confident of finalising all three incoming transfers before the start of the new season against Arsenal on Saturday.


Fulham in talks with PSG keeper, opening door for Marcus Bettinelli to complete Middlesbrough move

Bettinelli lost his place at Fulham and Scott Parker is set to sign another keeper

Marcus Bettinelli (Image: PA)

Fulham are looking to complete the loan signing of Paris Saint-Germain's Alphonse Areola, opening the door for Marcus Bettinelli to complete his switch to Middlesbrough.

Bettinelli is reportedly set for a medical with Boro today and providing there are no late hitches will join the club on a season long loan deal.

The capture of Bettinelli will be a big boost for Warnock ahead of Friday's opener at Watford.

At the start of the summer the Boro boss identified the need for more experience between the posts and drew up a shortlist of targets.

And Bettinelli ticks all the boxes.

He has twice won promotion from the Championship, played more than 100 games for Fulham and was called into the England squad two years ago.

But he lost the gloves at Craven Cottage last season, with Scott Parker preferring Marek Rodák.

And the Fulham boss is looking to bolster his keeper department with the capture of Areola.

The French keeper spent last season on loan at Real Madrid as part of the deal which took Keylor Navas to PSG. He's now returned to Paris but is third in the pecking order.

Areola is said to be keen on a switch to England and was offered to Arsenal, but Fulham have reportedly made a concrete move.

Bettinelli wants to play more games after spending much of last season on the bench at Fulham.

It could be one keeper in and one out at Boro, with strong reports in Romania claiming Tomas Mejias is on the verge of joining Dinamo Bucharest.

Mejias is surplus to requirements at the Riverside and hasn't been allocated a squad number for the coming season.

Another player set to leave is Sam Stubbs, who is joining up with League One Fleetwood Town on a permanent deal.


Fulham close in on Ola Aina and Kenny Tete transfer deals and lead race for Alphonse Areola

Fulham are close to sealing deals for two right-backs as they move in on former Chelsea man Ola Aina and Lyon's Kenny Tete.

Scott Parker is keen to bolster his squad ahead of their return to the Premier League, but is wary of repeating the spending spree of two years ago which contributed to their relegation.

Former Ajax man Tete, who was part of the Netherlands squad for their Nations League games this month, has reportedly completed a medical in west London, while the Whites want to bring in Aina, who rose through the ranks at Chelsea before joining Torino, on loan with an option to buy.

Fulham have already completed deals for young full-back Antonee Robinson from Wigan and midfield duo Harrison Reed and Mario Lemina, both from Southampton.

Parker's side are also favourites to complete a deal for Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, who has also been offered to Arsenal should Emiliano Martinez be sold.

Should Parker bring in another, more experienced goalkeeper, it is thought Marcus Bettinelli, who started their last Premier League season as first choice before quickly falling down the pecking order, will join Middlesbrough on a season-long loan.


Report: Fulham plot club-record £25m move for 'exceptional' player compared to Casemiro

Fulham have made an increased offer for Benfica midfielder Florentino Luis with an option-to-buy clause worth £25 million, according to Record.

While Leeds United and West Brom have broken their transfer records already this summer, the third and final Premier League newcomer could soon do the same.

Portugal U21 international Florentino Luis may become the most expensive signing in Fulham's history if Benfica are willing to shake hands, overtaking Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Jean-Michel Seri.

It is fair to say Fulham will be hoping the 21-year-old fares rather better at Craven Cottage than a pair of big-money midfielders who spent last season out on loan and appear to have no future in West London.

Record claims that Florentino, who has been linked with AC Milan and compared to Real Madrid enforcer Casemiro, has been the subject of a new bid from Scott Parker's side.

Fulham want him on loan, with an option to buy next year for £25 million.

The 2019 Primeira Liga champion is a deep-lying 'number six' and, as you might have guessed given those Casemiro comparisons, is at his best when snapping into challenges and breaking up attacks.

Florentino averaged ten tackles per game and five interceptions in the Europa League last season after all, and could forge a formidable midfield partnership with the energetic Harrison Reed.

"Florentino is a young player who has exceptional talent. From very early on, we realized that Florentino was on the road to becoming an elite player," former Benfica coach Joao Tralhao told Bernabeu Digital.

"I see Florentino as a logical option (for Real Madrid). He has a profile very similar to that of Casemiro and in Europe he is, without a doubt, one of the best in his position."


 Hammersmith Bridge: Government taskforce formed to get crossing opened 'as speedily as possible'

The intervention, by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, was said to be an acceptance that Londoners had "waited too long" for the 133-year-old bridge to be repaired.

Relatable: Hammersmith Bridge (Photo: Richard Baker / In Pictures via Gety Images) ( In Pictures via Getty Images )

The Government today set up a taskforce to get Hammersmith Bridge reopened "as speedily as possible".

The intervention, by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, was said to be an acceptance that Londoners had "waited too long" for the 133-year-old bridge to be repaired.

Mr Shapps was said by sources to have "lost patience" with Labour-run Hammersmith and Fulham council, which owns the bridge.

The "minimum" aim was to get it swiftly reopened to pedestrians and cyclists – but to traffic in the longer term, the Government said.

However there was no mention in today's announcement of funding – with interim safety measures to enable its partial reopening estimated at £46m and full repairs costing as much as £141m.

The bridge, which links Hammersmith and Barnes, first closed in April last year to vehicles – but was kept open to cyclists and pedestrians - after cracks were found in its cast iron structure.

But the situation worsened last month when the cracks widened during the summer heatwave, forcing it to be fully closed due to the fear of a "catastrophic failure".

This has forced pedestrians and cyclists – including hundreds of schoolchildren — to divert via Barnes bridge and traffic to go via Putney and Chiswick bridges.

River traffic under Hammersmith bridge has also been suspended and the towpath closed.

Mr Shapps said today: "When it comes to the Hammersmith Bridge there has been a lack of leadership in London on re-opening this vital bridge. It's stopped Londoners moving about easily and caused huge inconvenience to everyone, adding extra time to their commute or journeys.

"We won't let hard-working Londoners suffer any longer – the Government is setting up a taskforce establish the next steps in opening the bridge as speedily as possible. We'll be decisive and quick to make sure we can take steps that'll be good for commuters, good for residents and good for business."

The taskforce will be led by Transport Minister Baroness Vere and will include representatives from Network Rail. Though it is a road bridge not a rail bridge, Network Rail has experts familiar with similar cast-iron structures.

Hammersmith and Fulham council had been working with Transport for London, which provided £25m for expert investigations into the state of the bridge.

Government sources said that the Government felt compelled to intervene in what it considers a local matter due to the scale of disruption being suffered by Londoners, but hoped to work constructively with the council and TfL.

The priority would be to make the bridge safe as quickly as possible to enable river traffic to pass underneath and for cyclists and pedestrians to be able to cross the Thames.

If this cannot be done, options for temporary crossings will be considered.

Attention will then turn to the long-term future of the bridge and whether it can be fully reopened.

Any funding is likely to be wrapped up in negotiations with TfL over its request for a second bail-out, this time in the region of £2billion, to keep the bus and Tube network running in the wake of its income collapsing due to Covid.

Transport Minister Baroness Vere tweeted today: "#HammersmithBridge is a key transport route for Londoners. They shouldn't have to wait this long for it to be fixed. I am leading a Taskforce to bring together the councils plus TfL urgently to develop a solution and agree how to fund it."

Today's announcement is likely to spark anger, frustration and even bemusement within TfL and City Hall.

Mayor Sadiq Khan first asked Mr Shapps in August last year to ask him to convene a summit on the bridge – but this did not happen until March.

Heidi Alexander, the Deputy Mayor for Transport, who has been leading negotiations on behalf of Mr Khan, tweeted on September 5: "@tfl and City Hall have now submitted 3 bids to Government over the last year to secure funding. No funding bids have been approved.

"I will continue to do all that I can to find a way to get the bridge re-opened for pedestrians and cyclists in the short term, and to agree a long term funding solution with Government as part of the wider funding negotiations that will be happening this month.

"There is no way forward on this without financial help from Government though. @tfl don't have the money to do it and nor do the council. I am willing to think creatively about all options but this is going to have to be a joint effort."

Last week residents held a mass demonstration to highlight how the full closure of the bridge was having a "catastrophic" impact on their lives.

This came as delayed plans to build a £27.3m temporary crossing were effectively ditched by Hammersmith and Fulham council – with council leaders instead seeking £46m from the Government to make the main bridge safe enough to reopen to cyclists and pedestrians.

More than 16,000 people a day crossed the river by foot or by bike before the bridge was completely closed on August 13. Prior to its closure to vehicles in April last year, it was used by 22,000 cars, vans and buses.

A letter was sent to the Government from the leaders of Hammersmith and Fulham and Richmond councils, pleading for £46m "as a matter of urgency" to allow the main bridge to be made safe for walkers and cyclists.

Tony Devenish, the Conservative member of the London Assembly for the area, said today: "I welcome the Government's intervention to fix Hammersmith Bridge. After 17 months of Hammersmith and Fulham council and the Mayor of London dithering, delaying and failing to fix the bridge, we desperately needed someone to step in and sort it out.

"It's vital that we get a temporary crossing in place as swiftly as possible to get London moving again, reduce congestion and free elderly and disabled residents who have been trapped by its closure.

"Fixing Hammersmith Bridge is rightly the responsibility of the council, but the Mayor shares responsibility given his buses have caused so much of the damage and he is responsible for London's strategic roads. Both the council and Sadiq Khan have failed, which is why this intervention was necessary."


Player 'close to committing' to Fulham – Signing 'ticks all the boxes' for Cottagers

On September 8th, L'Equipe reported Fulham hope to 'seduce' Alphonse Areola and had initiated contact with the agent of the Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper.

It was also explained Rennes are interested in the 27-year-old, and he will have an opportunity to the play in the Champions League, if he decides to join them.

In 'recent hours', there has been a new development which could see the France international move to Craven Cottage.

That's what Foot Mercato are reporting, and it's stated the keeper is 'close to committing' to the Cottagers.

Fulham have returned to the Premier League and Scott Parker wants to bring in a new keeper with international experience, who's below the age of 28.

Areola 'ticks all the boxes' and also loves the English capital, where he recently purchased a house.

According to the report, Areola has decided to pick Fulham over Rennes because he feels there would be more chance for him to feature regularly with the London based club.

He's about to leave PSG, and will not be included in Thomas Tuchel's squad to face RC Lens on Thursday.

Foot Mercato end their report stating the Areola 'case' could be 'closed in the next few hours'. However, there's no mention whether Fulham will take the stopper on a loan deal or a permanent transfer.


William Saliba's debut as Mikel Arteta makes transfer choice - Arsenal predicted XI vs Fulham

How we expect Mikel Arteta's side to line-up for their first Premier League match of the season, away to Fulham

Mikel Arteta begins his first full season in charge of Arsenal with a squad that has undoubtedly been strengthened since its last competitive game but one where there is still work to be done.

Arteta's matchday squad to take on Fulham at Craven Cottage will likely be bolstered by two new signings: former Lille centre-back Gabriel Magalhaes and Willian. However there is a possibility that neither will feature from the off when the Premier League curtain is raised.

Gabriel's chances are perhaps, certainly with a growing number of central defenders out of contention for the season opener. Calum Chambers (knee ligament), Shkodran Mustafi (hamstring) and Pablo Mari (ankle) are all yet to return to training whilst the Gunners were handed a further blow this morning when news emerged that David Luiz was struggling with a neck problem.

Sokratis Papastathopoulos could enter into contention but the Greek centre-back is a transfer target from Napoli and does not feature in Arsenal's plan for the coming season.

Arteta can still call on another addition to the squad in William Saliba, who spent last season on loan at Saint-Etienne. The 19-year-old might just edge out Gabriel for a starting berth by virtue of having had more time to work alongside his team-mates.

Perhaps the most significant decision that Arteta could make will come behind his back three with Bernd Leno and Emiliano Martinez. As revealed on Sunday, Aston Villa are leading the chase for the latter's signature and pushing hard for an agreement.

Martinez has made no secret of his desire to be No.1 for Arsenal and Argentina. If his club side do not give him that opportunity he will look to leave so as to secure his role in the next summer's Copa America. Sources close to the player insist this week will be decisive in terms of his future.

Much of the midfield and wing-backs pick themselves. With no progress for Hector Bellerin in his move to Paris Saint-Germain he could start at right wing-back with Ainsley Maitland-Niles to the left of the Dani Ceballos-Granit Xhaka pairing.

Ceballos' return is no small boost to Arteta even as he works to add another midfielder to his squad. Thomas Partey and Houssem Aouar are prominent targets but there is a strong bond building between the two Spaniards.

After completing his second loan move from Real Madrid to Arsenal, Ceballos explained: "I ended up performing well and repaying the faith he'd shown in me before the Newcastle game [in February where he excelled].

"From that moment onwards, we started to build a good coach/player bond and things went well for me personally. I think he's made me a much better player in the last six months."

Further forward Eddie Nketiah and Alexandre Lacazette will be vying for opportunities this season.

Nketiah has featured frequently in pre-season and was in fine form for England Under-21s during the international break, something which could yet boost his chances of leading the line at Craven Cottage.

Meanwhile a surprising return to contention could be on the cards for Matteo Guendouzi, who has been restored to first-team training after a lengthy exile following his conduct in the 2-1 defeat to Brighton in June.

Arsenal predicted XI: Leno; Saliba, Holding, Tierney; Bellerin, Ceballos, Xhaka, Maitland-Niles; Pepe, Nketiah, Aubameyang


What David Luiz's injury means for Gabriel Magalhaes and William Saliba in Mikel Arteta's plans

The Gunners are expected to be without David Luiz at Fulham which could serve as a major boost for Gabriel Magalhaes and William Saliba

Arsenal have been dealt a major blow heading into the upcoming Premier League season as David Luiz is likely to miss the club's opening day fixture at Fulham with a neck injury. understand the extent of the injury is still being assessed by the club. As first reported by The Athletic, the neck problem was sustained during the Community Shield win over Liverpool on August 29.

On top of this, a video feed of Arsenal training also revealed that Luiz was not among the training squad ahead of the trip to Craven Cottage.

Now, Mikel Arteta is down to four available centre-backs [William Saliba, Gabriel Magalhaes, Rob Holding and Sokratis] to choose from, with three of those part of his plans. revealed on July 27 that Sokratis is not part of the head coach's plans for the 2020/21 season.

Anticipation surrounding a potential Saliba and Gabriel partnership was at fever pitch even before the Brazilian's move to Arsenal was confirmed, but now, expectations of the pair playing together have grown rapidly. Although this may be the ideal scenario for fans at the start of the season, it may take time before Arteta feels confident enough to field them together in the Premier League.

While both possess clear talent, the Spaniard will be conscious of both the balance of his team and the readiness of each player.

As things stand, Saliba has already had a fair amount of exposure. Deciding to stay in London during the off-season, he impressed Arteta with his attitude as well as the natural on-pitch qualities which excited fans so much about his arrival. In pre-season, they were able to see this up close for the first time at MK Dons as the 19-year-old was a calming yet purposeful player in possession, and quick to act in defence.

Not used in the Community Shield, but played in the friendly against Aston Villa, he has two games under his belt which will help his case to emerge as an immediate starter for Arteta.

Having arrived just this month, Gabriel may have faced a tougher task to break into the starting XI than Saliba. The Brazilian wasn't pictured in the Aston Villa friendly, so a start at Fulham could be his very first in Arsenal colours, which may give Arteta reason for caution.

With such a shortage of defenders, however, the 22-year-old could be thrown in at Craven Cottage and what makes that more likely is Arteta's willingness to stick to a back three in pre-season. In doing so, he has continued to use Kieran Tierney as a left-sided centre-back - a role Gabriel appears destined to take over before long as the club were specifically in the market for a left-footed centre-back.

"He's [Gabriel] a player that we've followed and we're very determined that it was the right profile for us to improve our squad." Arteta admitted on August 27.

Considering the Gunners play just one midweek game until October 22 [the start of the Europa League group stages] against Leicester City in the Carabao Cup, the best way for Arteta to build Gabriel's sharpness may be to throw him in at the deep end and have him learn on the job.

Seeing as Arsenal have looked much more comfortable defensively with a back three, this could play a major factor as the 22-year-old would have more support than if he was played in a back four. Alongside this, despite a sound performance on the right of the defence in the Community Shield, Rob Holding has looked best as the middle man in a back three, which could result in a Gabriel - Holding - Saliba setup.

Following Luiz's injury, however, Arteta will be aware that the same can happen to any of his centre-backs. Not too keen on having to depend on Sokratis, running the risk of injuring another one of his few options may lessen the appeal of using Gabriel immediately.

With Tierney a consistent performer in his centre-back role and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Bukayo Saka and Sead Kolasinac options at left wing-back, the Spaniard will have licence to hold off on a Gabriel debut until he feels ready, but there's no escaping the fact both himself and Saliba have been provided even greater chances of breaking into the starting XI for the 2020/21 season.


Fulham season preview - predictions, fixtures, summer signings, starting XI

Fulham are gearing up for a return to the Premier League ahead of the 2020-21 season following their promotion from the Championship last term.

The Cottagers have won two promotions and suffered one relegation in the past three seasons and, after needing the playoffs to go up last season, are among the favourites to go down again.

Here, Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at Scott Parker's side ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.

How did they fare last season?
Well enough to earn promotion.

In what was a topsy-turvy Championship season, Fulham fell short of automatic promotion but ended the campaign well after recovering from back-to-back losses at the hands of promotion rivals Brentford and Leeds United in their first two games after lockdown.

Relegated from the Premier League in 2018-19, the season began in worrying fashion with defeat away to Barnsley, but three successive wins after that got them on track for a campaign which would end one year and one day later in the playoff final.

Seventeen points from the last 21 on offer saw them clinch fourth in the final standings, finishing two points off second-placed West Bromwich Albion courtesy of a final-day draw at Wigan Athletic.

A 2-0 win away to Cardiff City in the first leg of their playoff semi-final paved the way for an aggregate triumph despite losing the second leg 2-1 at home, setting up a final against local rivals Brentford at Wembley.

The most lucrative match in football was goalless after 90 minutes as it went into extra time, when a brace for unlikely hero Joe Bryan fired Fulham into the Premier League - undoubtedly the high point of an arduous campaign.

Biggest improvement needed
Away form.

Only Leeds United picked up more home points in the Championship last season, but it was a different story on the road as Scott Parker's side drew 10 matches and won only eight - the same number as 16th-placed Sheffield Wednesday.

While that was by no means the worst record in the second tier, in the Premier League it may not be good enough, and Fulham know that from experience having won just one and lost 18 of their last 21 away games in the top flight.

Fulham will also likely need to become less reliant on Championship top scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic, with a league-low 11 different players getting on the scoresheet for them last season.

Manager: Scott Parker
After cutting his teeth as a coach at Craven Cottage, Scott Parker was initially handed the reins on a temporary basis in February last year.

The former midfielder, who played 119 times for the Cottagers before hanging up his boots, was unable to save Fulham from relegation from the Premier League, but had shown the board enough to appoint him on a full-time basis last summer.

So far, it looks as though that was the right decision with Parker leading Fulham back into the big time at the first time of asking.

Key player: Aleksandar Mitrovic
Mitrovic is heading into his fourth season at Craven Cottage, and two of the previous three have been spent in the Championship - a level arguably below what Mitrovic's talent deserves.

The 25-year-old was the Championship's top scorer last season with 26 in 40 appearances, and overall he averages a goal every other game for the Cottagers.

Parker will want others to help share the goalscoring burden more, but in Mitrovic they have a striker perfectly capable of playing at this level.

Summer transfer business
Anthony Knockaert (£10.5m, Brighton & Hove Albion)
Antonee Robinson (£1.9m, Wigan Athletic)
Mario Lemina (loan, Southampton)
Harrison Reed (£8.1m, Southampton)

Magnus Norman (free, Carlisle United)
Luca de la Torre (undisclosed, Heracles)
Cody Drameh (£400,000, Leeds United)
Marlon Fossey (loan, Shrewsbury Town)
Martell Taylor-Crossdale (loan, Colchester United)
Alfie Mawson (loan, Bristol City)
Steven Sessegnon (loan, Bristol City)

Fulham total spent to date: £22.5m
Fulham total received to date: £400,000

Fulham net transfer balance: -£22.1m


1. Marcus Bettinelli (GK)
3. Michael Hector (DF)
4. Denis Odoi (DF)
6. Kevin McDonald (MF)
7. Neeskens Kebano (MF)
8. Stefan Johansen (MF)
9. Aleksandar Mitrovic (FW)
10. Tom Cairney (MF)
11. Anthony Knockaert (FW)
12. Marek Rodak (GK)
13. Tim Ream (DF)
14. Bobby Decordova-Reid (FW)
19. Ivan Cavaleiro (FW)
20. Maxime Le Marchand (DF)
21. Harrison Reed (MF)
22. Cyrus Christie (DF)
23. Joe Bryan (DF)
24. Jean Michael Seri (MF)
25. Josh Onomah (MF)
29. Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa (MF)
31. Fabri (GK)
33. Antonee Robinson (DF)
47. Aboubakar Kamara (FW)
- Mario Lemina

Possible starting XI

Fixture list
Fulham's return to the Premier League gets off to a difficult start with a London derby at home to Arsenal in their opening match, before a trip to face fellow newly-promoted side Leeds United in what will be their opponents' first home top-flight game in 16 years.

Arsenal are the only member of the 'big six' that they face before December, but the festive period could not get off to a much tougher start with Manchester City away followed by Liverpool at home.

The Cottagers host Chelsea in the West London derby in January and then make the short trip to Stamford Bridge at the start of May - the last of three consecutive derbies which also see Fulham take on Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.


12: Arsenal (h)

19: Leeds (a)

26: Aston Villa (h)


3: Wolves (a)

17: Sheff Utd (a)

24: Crystal Palace (h)

31: West Brom (h)


7: West Ham (a)

21: Everton (h)

28: Leicester (a)


5: Man City (a)

12: Liverpool (h)

15: Brighton (h)

19: Newcastle (a)

26: Southampton (h)

28: Tottenham (a)


2: Burnley (a)

12: Man Utd (h)

16: Chelsea (h)

26: Brighton (a)

30: West Brom (a)


2: Leicester (h)

6: West Ham (h)

13: Everton (a)

20: Sheff Utd (h)

27: Crystal Palace (a)


6: Liverpool (a)

13: Man City (h)

20: Leeds (h)


3: Aston Villa (a)

10: Wolves (h)

17: Arsenal (a)

24: Tottenham (h)


1: Chelsea (a)

8: Burnley (h)

12: Southampton (a)

15: Man Utd (a)

23: Newcastle (h)

Prediction: 20th
Fulham have had the makings of a yo-yo club in recent seasons - too good for the Championship but not quite good enough for the Premier League - and we can see that trend continuing this season.

Their two most expensive signings have been turning loans into permanent deals, leaving them to rely on largely the same squad that finished fourth in the Championship last year, plus loanee Mario Lemina and Antonee Robinson.

Parker's side do have quality and in Mitrovic have someone capable of getting the goals they need to stay up, but he will need much more help from those around him and that will only be more difficult in the top flight.


Report: £3.6m man undergoes medical at Fulham, will be Parker's latest signing

Kenny Tete has undergone a medical at Fulham as the Lyon defender closes in on a move to Craven Cottage, according to Voetbal International.

After three years in France, the 13-time Dutch international is heading across the Channel as Scott Parker's Cottagers look to strengthen a problematic right-back spot.

Cyrus Christie and Denis Odoi have had their fair share of doubters, even among the Fulham fanbase.

And Tete, a proven European performer who reached the Europa League final with Ajax in 2017, should represent an immediate upgrade.

Sky claimed on Tuesday the Amsterdam-born 24-year-old was closing in on a move to England. And, according to reports in his native Holland, Tete has undergone medical checks already.

It remains to be seen how much the Londoners will pay for a man who graduated with flying colours from Ajax's famed academy.

Lyon spent £3.6 million to bring Tete to France in summer 2017.

Fulham have already strengthened on the opposite flank, with left-back Antonee Robinson (below) arriving from Wigan, while Mario Lemina, Harrison Reed and Anthony Knockaert have also signed permanent contracts at Craven Cottage.