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Has Slaviša Jokanovic assembled the Fulham team of the century at just the right moment?

The Serbian’s side are flying in the Championship and look on course for promotion.

Max Cohen

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Photo: Getty Images

Times like this rarely come around for clubs like Fulham. Not since 2010’s spellbinding Europa League final run have the Whites conjured up such optimism, goodwill, and footballing joy.

The current 13-match (and counting) unbeaten run is truly historic and has provided the long-suffering Fulham faithful with moments to savor for years to come. And there is a feeling around the club of unfinished business- that this year the team Slaviša Jokanovic has assembled can go one step further than last year and achieve promotion to the Premier League.

Fulham’s weekend win over Derby County marked their tenth win in their last 13 games. 33 points from a possible 39. 32 goals scored and just ten conceded. Five clean sheets in the process. It is no understatement to say that this is the best form Fulham have seen in decades; not since the jubilant campaign of 2000/01 have the Cottagers hit such heights.

The last four matches have been ever the more impressive considering the high-quality opposition Fulham have faced. Following a draw with Bolton in mid-February, the Whites embarked on a run of fixtures against six out of top nine, including all other teams in the top six.

(Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

On paper, it appeared a brutal stretch that would test the club to their limits. Common knowledge was that the Whites would be clinging on to their spot in the play-offs by March.

Yet this Fulham side pays little attention to common knowledge. The supposed heavyweight clubs in the Championship, Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers, both left Craven Cottage empty-handed after being swatted away and held goalless.

Fulham beat  Derby County away for the first time in 16 years, while they held Bristol City to an entertaining 1-1 draw. Four matches against four of the best in the division have resulted in three wins and a draw.

What’s perhaps most remarkable about the magnificent run is that it has not been propelled by a single standout player, but rather by the entire squad.

The return of Marcus Bettinelli has been a revelation, and just like last season, he has brought newfound form to side. Tomas Kalas, and Tim Ream in particular, have been stalwarts at the back. Ryan Fredericks, who recently marked a century of appearances for Fulham, has terrorised opposition defenses all season with his searing pace. Matt Targett has added class and composure, despite his tender age, proving to be an astute loan signing.

And that’s just the back five. The midfield three has truly reestablished itself after early season struggles. Tom Cairney is back to his rampaging best after an injury-hit first half of the year, Stefan Johansen has recaptured his 2016/17 form, and Kevin McDonald is imperious as always in the centre of the park.

(Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

Aleksandr Mitrovic truly seems to be the final piece in Slavisa Jokanovic’s jigsaw. The Serbian striker has fired home three goals in his last three matches, providing strong hold-up play, powerful driving runs, and lethal finishing. Finally Fulham have the striker they deserve.

Then there is Ryan Sessegnon. At this point, superlatives can no longer do him justice. There are simply no words for the season he is having. At the age of 17, having played the majority of his matches as a full-back, the Englishman has bagged an outstanding 14 goals.

Sessegnon’s passion and love for the club makes each goal ever the more enjoyable; he is a dream come true for Fulham fans. Suddenly, talk of a spot on the plane to Russia no longer seems so outlandish.

After the next two matches against Sheffield United and Preston, 8th and 9th in the table respectively, the Whites have a run-in of dreams. In their remaining nine fixtures, they play just one team in the top ten. It is not totally radical to dream of an unbeaten finish to the campaign.

But times weren’t always this good on the bank of the Thames. Remarkably, some supporters were calling for Slavisa’s sacking after a rough October that left the Whites languishing in 17th.

Such rash judgements seem foolish now, and credit is due for the level-headed management that trusted in the Serb’s judgement. Come May, that patience could very well be richly rewarded.

Max is a journalist studying at the University of Pennsylvania. Max specialises in English football and co-hosts a weekly podcast. He is also a politics reporter and deputy news editor for The Daily Pennsylvanian.

Brighton and Hove Albion

Fulham’s sale of David Button to Brighton is a brilliant deal

The back-up goalkeeper was recently offloaded to Brighton.

Max Cohen

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David Button
Photo: Getty Images

On Monday, Fulham announced goalkeeper David Button was leaving Craven Cottage for an undisclosed fee to move to Brighton and Hove Albion.

The offloading of the club’s backup goalkeeper for any fee represents good business, as Button was very clearly second choice and, ultimately, supporters will be surprised that a Premier League club were willing to spend any money on the player.

Button joined the Whites in July 2016 and slotted in as first choice goalkeeper ahead of Marcus Bettinelli. Yet the Englishman lost his starting spot in embarrassing fashion after a horror show performance against Derby County the following April.

Button’s distribution, passing ability, and shot-stopping were abject that midweek night, allowing David Nugent to score some laughably easy goals en route to a harmful 4-2 loss.

After that match, Bettinelli took over and never looked back, leading Fulham on a sparkling end-of-season run to the play-offs that narrowly ended in heartbreak.

However, the following season Button again reclaimed the first choice role after Bettinelli was injured in pre-season. The ex-Brentford man started the season brightly, earning numerous plaudits and man-of-the-match votes during the early stages of the season.

But, his high-profile mistakes came back to haunt him, and after a poor showing against Brentford in December he was again benched for Bettinelli.

Fulham truly never looked back this time. Bettinelli’s arrival coincided with another sparkling run of form, this time one that took the Whites to third position and promotion through the play-offs.

It was clear Bettinelli was preferred to Button, and it made sense to see the elder goalkeeper depart this summer.

The sale of David Button to Premier League rivals Brighton is another intelligent piece of business by Tony Khan and Fulham, getting rid of benchwarmers and raising funds for further transfer targets.

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Fulham

Malcom should consider Fulham move despite Champions League interest

Jake Jackman

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Fulham are set to enter the race to sign Bordeaux winger Malcom and offer competition to Inter Milan according to The Sun. The Serie A team had been leading the race after submitting an initial loan bid with an option to buy next year with the total package totalling £35.3 million.

However, the Cottagers have shown impressive ambition already this summer and could be prepared to buy the Brazilian permanently this summer.

The report goes on to say that Slavisa Jokanovic wants to add another pacy forward to his squad before the start of the season and Malcom is one of the players being looked at.

Bordeaux know that they are in a strong selling position and want at least £45 million for the talented Brazilian forward. He has previously been linked with Tottenham, Arsenal and Bayern Munich, but Fulham have previously shown they can pull off a deal such as this one.

(Photo credit should read MEHDI FEDOUACH/AFP/Getty Images)

The highly-rated Jean Michael Seri joined the newly-promoted club earlier this week and if they managed to sign Malcom, it would represent another coup. Fulham have been out of the Premier League for four seasons, but they don’t plan to make up the numbers now they have returned.

That is why Malcom should consider the club if the reported interest is genuine. Fulham are located in London and will be playing in one of the best leagues in the world. Although he will be looking for a Champions League move, the Cottagers would still represent a step up.

The Brazilian would have the opportunity to play regularly in the Premier League and that would make him a more rounded player, especially in terms of physicality. At the age of 21, he has plenty of years ahead of him. Fulham would provide a good environment in which to develop further before making the jump to the Champions League.

In addition to their location and division, Fulham play an exciting style of football under Jokanovic. They are encouraged to pass the ball and take risks in the final third. Malcom would thrive under such instruction and have a platform to attract concrete interest from bigger clubs.

(Photo credit should read NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP/Getty Images)

Last season, the 21-year-old caught the eye in Ligue 1 and emerged as one of the best players outside of PSG. He scored 12 goals and contributed seven assists, while his ball retention in the final third was impressive. Malcom ended the season with a pass success rate of 82.1%, while he averaged 2.5 key passes and 2.7 dribbles per game.

Fulham will know that there is no harm in selling themselves as a stepping-stone club in the interim period. It is an effective business model if done correctly and allows them to grow organically into a team that can challenge the top six. Given the resources of the Khan family, that seems to be the objective.

After the arrival of Jean Michael Seri, Fulham have sent a message to the rest of Europe that they have ambition and they want to continue progressing as a football club. Agents and players across the continent will have taken note.

Craven Cottage will now be a more attractive destination and reports linking them with players like Malcom shouldn’t be written off. This would be a good move for the Brazilian and if they can agree on a fee, they should be confident of pulling it off.

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Fulham

Fulham’s signing of Jean Michael Seri will be coup of the summer

Jake Jackman

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Photo: Getty Images

Fulham have pulled off one of the shock signings of the summer, as Nice midfielder Jean Michael Seri has joined the club for a record fee. The Guardian report that the fee is in the region of £25 million and that he has signed a four-year contract at Craven Cottage.

Over the past 12 months, the 26-year-old has been linked with Chelsea, Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal to name but three other interested clubs. Meanwhile, he came close to signing for Barcelona last summer.

It is a major coup for Fulham to sign the Ivorian, as they are a recently promoted club who haven’t been in the Premier League since 2014.

However, there is clear ambition among the ownership and this could be the first of several ambitious arrivals, as they attempt to establish themselves as a top division force once more.

Their location and style of play make them an appealing option for players, as shown by Seri’s decision to move to Craven Cottage.

(Photo by Anne-Christine Poujoulat/Getty Images)

Nice have been one of the most exciting teams in watch in Ligue 1 during recent seasons and they have managed to develop a host of exciting players.

Seri is regarded as one of the best to play in red and blue, as he has been at the heart of a team that has played attacking football and qualified for the Champions League. Although they didn’t reach the group stages, it was a huge achievement to get to the play-off round.

The 26-year-old is very much a modern-day central midfielder capable of excelling at a number of roles. He covers a lot of ground for his team and is always looking to improve himself as a player.

 “Jean Michael arrives with Premier League qualities as well as great promise for the future, which is why he has been at the very top of our target list for a long time.”

Tony Khan, on Jean Michael Seri.

Although he is primarily used as a box-to-box midfielder, he can be used in both deeper and more advanced positions. His pass accuracy rarely dips beneath 90% as he is comfortable on the ball in tight spaces. That said, he isn’t conservative in possession as he looks to break down opposition defences.

Last season, he averaged 2.1 key passes and 1.2 dribbles per game, which underline the quality he has in the transition phase. During the last three seasons, he has contributed 12 goals and 20 assists in Ligue 1.

(Photo by Yann Coatsaliou/Getty Images)

There have been few better midfielders during that period and he is now ready to test himself in a better division. He was perhaps less impressive during the 2017/18 campaign, but he may have remained with Nice for one year too many.

This is a marquee signing that sends a signal of intent to the rest of the division. Fulham are not in the Premier League to make up the numbers and they are prepared to spend big to establish themselves as a force. Seri is a player that is good enough to play in the Champions League and he will be the star attraction at Craven Cottage next season.

Slavisa Jokanovic and Tony Khan must now make further additions to provide the team with more quality players. It is worth noting that Fulham came up through the play-offs and one player, regardless of his quality, isn’t enough to transform them into a Premier League team.

The club will realise that and Seri could be the first of many eye-catching signings made this summer.

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