After promotion to the Premier League via the Championship play-offs in May, Slavisa Jokanovic’s Fulham side will be looking to make an impression in the top flight this year.
Ahead of the 2018/19 campaign, we caught up with fan podcast Cottage Talk to get the low-down on progress made on and off the pitch…
What do you make of your club’s pre-season preparations, both on and off the pitch?
Off the pitch Fulham have done very well bringing in players we were not expecting to see.
The signing of Jean Michael Seri was quite a signing for the club with many bigger sides being linked to him throughout the summer transfer window.
Fulham play a possession-based style and that type of central, creative player is exactly who they needed to upgrade.
It is the same situation with the goalkeeper. Nothing against Marcus Bettinelli but now we have Fabri.
You also look at some of the other players who have been brought in, such as Andre Schurrle on a two-year loan deal.
He is a player who is coming back to the Premier League with a point to prove after losing Chelsea and following a poor season in Germany.
Also, with the return of Aleksandar Mitrovic, the first team now has that much-needed focal point. Meanwhile, Alfie Mawson also arrived for a good chunk of change from Swansea City.
Many of the signings the club have made have been tremendous. They are acting like a team who want to compete, rather than one that just wants to survive.
On the pitch, I consider it to be a work-in-progress. You have a team that did well in the Championship but the Premier League is a major step up.
The team is clearly growing through a period of meshing the previous squad together with those players who are known to be able to compete in the top flight.
Which of your club’s summer signing has you most excited about the new campaign?
It would have to be Seri. Forget about the price tag, it is all about what he can offer the team.
If you go back to when Fulham had Mousa Dembele, who is now at Tottenham, losing him several years ago changed how the club were going to go.
With him, I feel the club would have survived in the Premier League and what did happen wouldn’t have. He was the creative midfield player in that team, playing at a very high level.
His departure changed the path of the club. He was the piece that could have kept the ageing squad, at the time, moving forward.
For me, Seri is a player who can succeed in Jokanovic’s possession style. The club needs that. I’ve seen it already in his passing ability and his bravery/willingness to take chances on the ball.
Who’s your club’s young-player-who-could-make-a-breakthrough this season?
There are three names who are still a work-in-progress but regularly training with the first team.
Firstly, there is Ryan Sessegnon’s brother, Steven. He has been played in both full-back positions. He is a different type of player to his brother, and hasn’t progressed as quickly, but he has the ability.
Another is United States international Marlon Fossey. He played very well by all accounts against Sampdoria, at right-back. I hadn’t been expecting him to breakthrough this quickly but he is showing up in pre-season and starting to make some noise. I think he will be part of the mix in Jokanovic’s first team.
Finally, you have Luca de la Torre. Like Fossey, he started off in the academy and his worked his way up. He is very versatile and very creative. Unfortunately, there are other players ahead of him in the first team pecking order, but like Sessegnon and Fossey I expect him to be involved somehow this season.
What will be your club’s biggest factor behind achieving its targets this season?
The biggest factor will be to make Craven Cottage a fortress. One of the main reasons Fulham were able to sustain a Premier League place for so long was the club’s form at home.
They need to be able to beat the teams they are expected to and limit the draws when playing with that advantage. This is essential for progression.
Another factor will be how the players react to not have the majority share of possession like they did in the Championship – how will they set up without the ball?
I have seen a little bit of a ‘Plan B’ throughout pre-season, particularly against Lyon, and I can see them being dangerous on the counter, with the speed and quality they possess.
What will be your club’s biggest barrier to achieving its targets this season?
Defensively. Because they play an aggressive style it leaves them open to counters and getting burned badly.
The style of play will require them to defend, which has held them back in the past, based on mistakes. We saw it in the Championship and it could undoubtedly impact them at a higher level.
Which club outside yours do you think has done the best business this summer?
For me, it’s Wolves. They have added to what they’ve got and I think they’ve brought in some really good players.
I’m really impressed with what they are building generally and I’m expecting top 10 from them next season – they’re that good.
What they’re doing at the Molineux is really special.
If you had to pick a six-a-side team from your club’s current squad, who would be in it?
Finally, how do you think your team will have done come the end of the 2018/19 season?
When Fulham survived the great escape under Roy Hodgson in 2007, everyone believed they would only just manage to do the same again the year after – that didn’t happen and they actually managed to come in the top 10.
With the club and the owner’s ambition, with the clear motivation to do well in the top flight rather than just doing what’s necessary to stay up, I think Fulham will be knocking on the door of the top half come the end of the campaign.
I think they can surprise many teams in the Premier League, so I’m saying 10th.