If you fall down, get back up and come back better. That statement also applies to soccer teams as Fulham are back in the Premier League after one year in the Championship following their relegation in the 2018/19 season. It wasn’t an expected promotion as Brentford was the hotter team until the final few weeks but at the end of the day Fulham’s experience won out. While the Cottagers are back in the league, things are a little different than their last go around, but only a little. Unlike the other promoted teams, Fulham is led by Scott Parker who is relatively unknown in management but whose managerial star is rising by the day. Appointed as the third manager of the season for Fulham’s last Premier League campaign, the team came together under Parker and that growth continued in the Championship.
Lining up in either a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1, Fulham’s patient attack wore down Championship teams and that continued in the Promotion Playoffs where they imposed their will onto teams. The game was simple for the Cottagers as it boiled down to getting the ball to Alexsander Mitrovic. Attacks that simple usually don’t work but it led to Mitrovic pacing the Championship in scoring with 26 goals to his name. Captain Tom Cairney was also involved in 11 goals while winger Ivan Cavaleiro was involved in 13 and that’s it for double-digit goal contributions. But while Fulham was reliant on Mitrovic, it’s a credit to their squad resolve and Scott Parker that they didn’t crumble when he was out near the end of the season.
Neeskens Kebano, Aboubakar Kamara, and Bobby De Cordova-Reid all chipped in to ensure that things kept ticking with Mitrovic out but in the Promotion final, it was the Joe Bryan show. An unlikely brace from the fullback is what sealed Fulham’s return to the top flight. But now that they’re back, what has Fulham done in the transfer market to ensure that they won’t crash out of the Premier League with a historically bad defense again?
In a Southampton double-dip, the Cottagers have made Harrison Reed’s (4.5m) loan stay a permanent one while also adding Mario Lemina on loan. Reed was ever-present for Fulham but he has yet to get a run of games in the Premier League after three straight loan trips to the Championship. Following two promotions in a row with Norwich and Fulham, maybe it is finally Reed’s time?
The addition of Lemina is an interesting one as the defensive midfielder spent last season on loan with Galatasaray. He’s been a valuable contributor when healthy during his time with Southampton but the issue is that Lemina was injured more often than not. Getting a defensive midfielder with a pedigree who’s not André-Frank Zambo Anguissa on a no-risk loan can help Fulham’s prospects if it works out. Fulham’s final signing so far has been a continuation of Fulhamerica with Antonee Robinson joining from Wigan with the Latics going into administration. Robinson may play a small role and he offers some injury insurance if Joe Bryan goes down but overall he’s no more than one for the future.
In the rumor mill, there isn’t much churning but Fulham has been linked with a move for right back Ola Aina from Torino. That would likely be a loan with an option to buy and also lines up with Alfie Mawson and Steven Sessengon’s loans to Bristol City line up with. Aina is an active defender with some experience in England with Chelsea and Hull City but that move alone won’t be enough to improve a defense that conceded 81 goals. Words can’t descrIbe how bad that Fulham defense was and looking around, it’s mostly the same guys who will be starting again this year. Martin Hinteregger has been loosely linked with a swap from Germany to join the center back corps but again, I’m not sure that it’s enough.
When it comes to fantasy-relevant assets, there isn’t much to go off of in this squad. Attacking-wise, Fulham aren’t a bad side but Mitrovic (6.0m) is the only standout option. Joe Bryan (5.0m) may have some attacking appeal but play him at your own risk and don’t get carried away by the promotion playoff final. Remember that every two goals conceded count as a -1 in FPL so the likelihood that Bryan gets you negative points is pretty high. Cavaleiro is under consideration for me in draft leagues as is Anthony Knockaert but that’s about it for asset depth at Fulham.
That’s how bleak this picture is. Sugarcoat things as you will but this team is bad and Mitrovic deserves better.
When it comes to a season outlook, with the squad as is, I can’t see any other finish above 20th place. While things are a little different for Fulham as they have a new manager and didn’t spend 100 million-plus to buy a whole new starting XI after promotion, they’re also still more of the same. Tim Ream is expected to start against Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Arsenal on week one, and that should be quite the welcome back for the Cottagers. Maybe Mitrovic can score 30 but that’s the only way that I can see Fulham not doing the Crystal Palace yo-yo.