Fulham stunned the Championship en route to their promotion in 2017/18, playing some dream football under Slaviša Jokanović that was spearheaded by the loan signing of Aleksandar Mitrovic. Their Premier League return, though, could not have been more of a nightmare. In the relegation zone since October, conceding 81 goals, the Cottagers ultimately finished 19th. Despite no defensive reinforcements to rectify this, will Fulham be able to bounce back at the first time of asking in the 2019/20 season? Labelled by many as favourites for promotion, we look at what lies ahead of them in the new season.
Aleksandar Mitrovic and Fulham’s Attackers Key to Promotion Push
What’s New at Craven Cottage?
At the helm, Fulham have a new man with Scott Parker, who makes his first foray into management. The West London side have lost sic players who were on loan last season, as well as a number of permanent signings. Jean Michaël Seri and Ryan Babel are among the significant outgoings, both having left for Galatasaray.
Newcomers have been scant, given Fulham’s spending spree last summer. However, they have secured two brilliant loan signings for this level; Anthony Knockaert, player-of-the-season for 2016-17, joins on loan from Brighton & Hove Albion. Ivan Cavaleiro also joins temporarily from Wolverhampton Wanderers, adding to the promotion experience already at Fulham’s disposal.
Players to Watch
Knockaert was electric for Brighton in their promotion campaign, scoring 15 goals and providing nine assists. He was a step above the Championship, terrifying defences for the Seagulls, but couldn’t find form in the Premier League. Fulham fans will hope he can replicate his best to propel them this season.
After Fulham’s relegation, clubs began to circle for many of their more talented players, Aleksandar Mitrovic fitting firmly in that bracket. He was the club’s top-scorer last season, scoring 11 goals. During his initial loan stint in London, he managed 12 goals in 20 appearances in the second division. Cottagers fans will be wagging their tongues at the thought of what he could do with a full season at this level.
This could be a questionable pick, since Sessegnon’s future remains unclear at the moment. Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United are still keen on the 19-year-old winger. If he does stay, he could be important for Fulham; he scored 16 goals and created eight assists during Fulham’s promotion campaign, winning Player and Young Player of the Year. If he stays and develops further under Scott Parker, he could star again. That is a big ‘if’, though.
Do Fulham Have Enough to Bounce Back?
With much of the same squad that won promotion still intact, Fulham have a lot of Championship-winning experience at their disposal. Players like Tom Cairney, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Anthony Knockaert will be crucial going forward. However, questions still remain over their defence, with no new recruits. Scott Parker did fix some problems in that area though, managing three wins and three clean sheets in the final five games of the season. It is worth pointing out that, despite it only being pre-season, they have not kept a clean sheet in any games preparing for this season.
If he can fix that glaring defect in their squad, they should ease to automatic promotion with such attacking talent. Though, overconfidence is another threat that Fulham must avoid this season. Stoke City should serve as an example as to how teams can under-perform at this level.