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Fulham

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.

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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.

Championship

Fulham fans would hate it, but Chelsea should chase Slavisa Jokanovic and Ryan Sessegnon

Chelsea may need a new manager in the summer and Fulham offer a perfect solution.

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Fulham are flying this season yet again. For the second season in a row Slavisa Jokanovic is leading the club to a promotion push and Cottagers fans will no doubt be hoping the Serbian can take them all the way this time.

He is a massively important part of the reason why Fulham find themselves where they are right now, but so is left-sided phenomenon Ryan Sessegnon. The Championship star has most of Europe tracking his progress as he continues to exceed expectations at such a young age in the Championship.

Fulham are flying and excitement is high at Craven Cottage.

But, success attracts attention and plenty of teams have been linked with Sessegnon. Jokanovic, however, is also a name that is being linked with other clubs.

Fulham’s West London rivals Chelsea are looking likely to need a new manager this season. The general consensus is that Antonio Conte will be on his way out of Stamford Bridge this summer and whilst plenty of names are being linked with the job, a surprise option appears to be the Fulham boss.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Back in March, his name emerged as a surprise candidate for the position, as reported by the Daily Mail.

Whilst he has no managerial credentials in the Premier League he still has fantastic form as a head coach.

After leading Partizan Belgrade to back-to-back promotions he guided Muangthong United to an undefeated season and the Thai Premier League title.

Short-lived spells at Levski Sofia and Hercules followed before getting Watford promoted to the Premier League in 2015.

Before Fulham lured him back to England, the Serbian had guided Maccabi Tel-Aviv to the Champions League group stage, by knocking out perennial entrants FC Basel.

Jokanovic is rightly a highly rated manager. Chelsea would be making a smart move by bringing him in this summer. Of course, he is also a former player, although there are few highlights of his time at Stamford Bridge.

(28 Oct 2001: Slavisa Jokanovic of Chelsea gets away from Darryl Powell of Derby during the match between Derby County and Chelsea in the FA Barclaycard Premiership at Pride Park, Derby. Mandatory Credit: Mark Thompson/ALLSPORT

Bringing in Jokanovic could also give Chelsea the upper-hand in any fight to sign Sessegnon this summer.

The Blues are just one of many teams to have been linked with the young talent this summer. If Jokanovic was present at Stamford Bridge, they would have a massive advantage in the hunt for the impressive teenager.

Fulham fans would, of course, hate to see their excellent manager and young starlet head to their biggest rivals, but Chelsea would be making a smart move by making it happen.

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Fulham

After inconsistent Fulham season, is there a place for Sheyi Ojo at Liverpool?

The 20-year-old has failed to nail down a starting role at Fulham.

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Photo: Getty Images

Sheyi Ojo joined Fulham on loan from Liverpool back in August amid great fanfare, expecting to build on his bright appearances at Anfield.

However, the 20-year-old has endured a frustrating season in southwest London, struggling to nail down a starting spot and dividing opinion among Fulham supporters.

After failing to set Craven Cottage on fire, it looks like a return to Anfield is highly unlikely next season.

Ojo has made 22 appearances for the Whites this season, but has scored just four goals and produced two assists – disappointing returns for a player who has made eight Premier League appearances for Liverpool.

The England U21 international enjoyed a fine run of form in the latter stages of 2017, scoring all of his four goals in a one month spell from November to December.

The winger’s standout performance came in Fulham’s wild 5-4 win against Sheffield United in November, when he bagged a brilliant brace and chipped in with a wonderful assist for Ryan Sessegnon.

(Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images)

Unfortunately for the Liverpool loanee, he has struggled to recapture this promising play in recent months. Ojo’s time at Fulham has been characterised by poor decision making, ambitious dribbles, and erratic finishing.

His lack of end product was painfully on show in Ojo’s last appearance for the Whites, against Sheffield Wednesday. Ojo featured prominently in his hour on the pitch, but all of his shots in dangerous positions lacked any purpose or power.

He has not featured for the Whites since being taken off after 62 minutes at Hillsborough.

It seems Ojo has fallen down the pecking order for the coveted right wing position at the Cottage, with Lucas Piazon, Floyd Ayite, Neeskens Kebano, and even wingback Cyrus Christie preferred ahead of the 20-year-old.

With the current Liverpool loanee struggling to assert himself at Craven Cottage, a return to the first team fray at Anfield looks increasingly unlikely.

It seems Sheyi Ojo will have to settle for yet another Championship loan spell next season, as the youngster searches for first team football that is vital for his devlopment.

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Championship

Fulham should try and bring £11m Patrick Roberts back if promoted

Fulham are hoping to push toward Premier League promotion after another brilliant season.

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For the second season in a row, Fulham are having an outstanding campaign under the management of Slavisa Jokanovic. The Serbian is leading them to the Championship play-offs but is also still firmly in the battle for automatic promotion with Cardiff City and Aston Villa.

It would be a fine reward and the culmination of a brilliant season for Fulham if they could indeed secure a place back in the Premier League.

If they did manage to do just that, the Cottagers should start looking at bringing one of their former talents back to the club.

(Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

Fulham have developed some great young talent in recent years as Ryan Sessegnon’s form and stature would attest to.

Another player reared at Fulham is winger Patrick Roberts. The 21-year-old emerged as one of the Championship’s top talents in the 2014-15 season. It piqued the interest of several top clubs, including Manchester City. According to The Guardian, he arrived in a deal which could eventually be worth £11 million.

But he has spent most of his time out on loan at Celtic from City. With Manchester City crowned Premier League champions at the weekend, a first-team opportunity looks incredibly unlikely next season.

Celtic are often mentioned as having an interest in signing the player permanently but, as of yet, no deal has been formalised.

(Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Fulham would be wise to try and bring the player back to Craven Cottage. After an initial 18-month stint at Celtic, the Bhoys wanted to sign him permanently last summer, but Pep Guardiola would not allow it. A new loan deal instead was agreed.

This time around it has not been as successful, in part due to injuries, but Fulham would surely tempt Roberts back to his home club if they were in the Premier League.

Whether it be on a loan deal or permanently a return to Fulham would be excellent for the 20-year-old.

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