For the past five seasons, Fulham has been either relegated from or promoted to the Premier League, the definition of a yo-yo club. So what’s to stop this pattern continuing?
The only other club with a similar record is Norwich City, which had been bouncing for four seasons. Perhaps it is fate that the two clubs won’t be in the same division for 2022-23, but what is more likely — that they will swap places again, or end up in the same division next year? Obviously I’ve discounted the possibility that both will both retain their league places!
Looking at historical trends, it is encouraging for Fulham that the two previous times they were promoted, they came up via the play-offs, whereas this time they qualified automatically by winning the Championship title. But Norwich did that the last two times they earned promotion, and neither “jolly-up” ended well. Fulham finished 19th in the Premier League in 2018-19 and 18th in 2020-21, so maybe they can keep that secondary trend going to finish 17th this year, which they would consider a great success I am sure.
The Road to Promotion
After relegation at the end of the 2020-21 season, Fulham parted company with manager Scott Parker who had overseen their previous promotion season... but also their previous two relegations. The club appointed Marco Silva, who had previously coached in the Premier League with Hull City, Watford and Everton. He had some success at all three clubs, but his latter time at Watford (due to interest from Everton) and then Everton were not so successful. His time so far at Fulham has been spectacular, winning the Championship on 90 points with 106 goals scored and an amazing goal difference of +63.
Perhaps the most remarkable stat from the Cottagers’ promotion season was that they recorded THREE 7-0 wins, two of them away from home (at Blackburn Rovers and Reading). Their final 7-0 win came in the final home game of the season against Luton Town. That win confirmed them as league champions ahead of AFC Bournemouth, by then managed by their former boss, Scott Parker. They went on several impressive runs during the season, in particular beating Reading 7-0, Bristol City 6-2, Birmingham City 6-2 and Stoke City 3-2 in succession, a goal-scoring run rarely matched anywhere.
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, there being speed-bumps such as the 1-4 and 1-3 losses to Coventry City, and a 0-4 loss at Sheffield United on the last game of the season. Given that the Blades were striving for the play-offs and Fulham had only pride to play for, perhaps that last defeat can be excused.
While it was generally an excellent season for their attacking players, one player stood out in Aleksandar Mitrović who smashed the Championship (and Fulham) goals-record with 43.
Style of Play
Marco Silva’s record, from his early days in Portugal through his Premier League time and last season at Fulham, shows an attack-oriented philosophy. He engineered a turnaround even at Hull City, who he joined when they were rock-bottom of the table, having lost 13 of their 20 league matches and scoring just 17 goals. During his spell there, only 10 Premier League teams won more matches and only 12 teams scored more goals.
It’s often the case with successful teams that they have consistent team selection (Man City being a notable outlier here!), and Fulham’s Championship winning season shows a high degree of selection consistency, with 10 players making 30 or more appearances.
The team was generally set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, and Tim Ream was ever-present in central defense, with fellow defensive partner Tosin Adarabioyo making 41 appearances. Up front, target man Mitrović made 44 appearances.
Fulham has spent money on only three transfer fees so far this summer:
Harry Wilson has made his loan from Liverpool permanent for £12 million. The winger was a key player last season, appearing 41 times, scoring 10 league goals and providing 19 assists.
João Palhinha has joined from one of Marco Silva’s previous clubs, Sporting Lisbon, for £17 million. He’s a Portuguese international, a midfielder who has already scored for Fulham in a friendly this week.
Andreas Pereira has joined from Man United for £8 million to further bolster the midfield.
In addition, Fulham have become the first Premier League club to take advantage of FIFA’s decision to permit foreign footballers to suspend their contracts with Ukrainian clubs as a result of the Russian invasion, signing Shakhtar Dontetsk’s 23 year-old Israeli winger Manor Solomon to a one-year deal effective August 1.
There have been two notable transfers away from Craven Cottage:
André-Frank Zambo Anguissa joined Napoli for £14.7 million, having spent the previous season there on loan, thus neatly offsetting the cost of making Wilson a Fulham player.
The only regular member of last season’s team to leave is Fábio Carvalho who has joined Liverpool for £5 million plus add-ons (see our Spotlight article). He is only 19 and had come through Fulham’s junior ranks. His break-through season last year saw him score ten goals and provide eight assists in 36 league games.
While Carvalho will clearly be a loss, Fulham will be hoping that the addition of Palhinha and Pereira more than makes up for his loss. Indeed in a friendly against Estoril Praia this week, not only did Palhinha score in a 3-1 win, but the other two goals (both scored by Mitrović) were assisted by Wilson and Pereira.
Best Fantasy Assets
Fulham’s opening schedule could be a roller-coaster ride, with games against Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham, but also Wolves, Brentford and Brighton.
Current FPL ownership unsurprisingly shows most Fulham players below the 1% mark, but three have significant levels:
Goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga is at 12.1% ownership, but this is almost certainly because of his £4.0m price tag, which makes him cheap FPL bench fodder. He did make some appearances last season, but he was very much the #2 keeper, which is likely to continue, with Marek Rodák remaining #1.
New midfielder Andreas Pereira (‘Andreas’ in FPL) is at a pretty high 23.8% ownership, and while this too is largely down to price, at £4.5m he offers some potential attacking returns and plenty of playing time for his minimum price. He is definitely someone to consider for your 5th midfielder spot.
Forward Aleksandar Mitrović (£6.5m) is at 8.1% ownership, many no doubt remembering his 2018-19 FPL performances where he scored 11 goals and totaled 134 points. He was not so effective in the 2020-21 EPL campaign, but he is coming off a season where he scored a mind-bending 43 goals, and he is bound to be Fulham’s main attacking outlet. He’s not so cheap that he’s under immediate consideration for me, but he is definitely one to watch.
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Will Fulham survive in the Premier League this season?
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Stats from www.transfermarkt.co.uk, fulham.fandom.com, www.sofascore.com, theanalyst.com