Premier League revival act to be season’s surprise package? – Fulham 2018/19 Opposition Preview

7 August 2018

Newly promoted sides in recent years have largely aimed to survive in the Premier League, but Fulham certainly have loftier ambitions in 2018/19.


When we play them: November 10 (home); March 16 (away)


After four seasons away from the top flight, the west Londoners made it back to the promised land via the nerve-wracking Championship playoffs.

It was a just reward for some superb football played and an unstoppable run of form that saw Slavisa Jokanovic’s side lose just twice from mid-December onwards.

The Cottagers are going to earn new admirers this season, particularly with Jokanovic’s attractive brand of football.

In Ryan Sessegnon they possess one of English football’s brightest teenage talents—someone Liverpool have scouted in the past—and he has the ability to take the Premier League by storm.

Add to that the creative class of Tom Cairney, the goals of Alexsandar Mitrovic and the all-round quality of statement-making new signing Jean Michael Seri and it’s easy to see why many feel they will beat the drop with ease.

The step up to the Premier League is still enormous, of course, so Fulham will have their work cut out when the matches come thick and fast and legs begin to tire.

They look well-equipped to finish somewhere near mid-table and impress those who are new to watching them regularly, though.

 

Fulham

Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon in action during the championship match at Craven Cottage Stadium, London. Picture date 6th March 2018. Picture credit should read: David Klein/Sportimage via PA Images

Players in: Jean Michael Seri, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Alfie Mawson, Fabri, Maxime Le Marchand, Andre Schurrle

Players out: David Button, Ryan Fredericks, George Williams

Best XI: Bettinelli; Christie, Mawson, Ream, Le Marchand; McDonald, Seri, Schurrle, Cairney, Sessegnon; Mitrovic


We spoke to Fulham supporter Kyle Bonn (@the_bonnfire) to discuss how his side will do on their return to the Premier League, as well as dissecting Liverpool’s title chances.

How optimistic or pessimistic are you for the new season, and why?

Fulham fans are incredibly optimistic heading into this season.

This comes from a combination of how the team finished last year—the 23-game unbeaten streak was up there with the 2009/10 Europa League run for this fanbase—and how the club has done in the transfer window this summer.

The money this summer has been spent in an incredibly smart way, and the team is vastly improved thanks to the incoming transfers.

Even if we have a slow start to the season, which Jokanovic has been known to do with new players still learning his system, most fans believe this should be a successful season that ensures Premier League safety for another year.

We could maybe even see a top-10 finish with some luck.

Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic (Tim Goode/PA Wire/PA Images)

What are your aims for the season?

The goal for this season are simple: stay up.

It’s a nice change from the Championship where the club had high expectations to perform week in, week out.

The competition is much tougher in the Premier League obviously, but the expectations will be lower, and thus the weekly pressure is somewhat lifted.

The team just needs to avoid relegation in order to start building towards becoming a top-10 club.

Who’s your man to watch?

This depends on personal preference; are you attracted to goals and flair, or the behind-the-scenes dirty work?

If you prefer the former, Mitrovic is your guy. The Serbian endeared himself to Fulham fans during his loan spell last season not only for his goalscoring prowess but more importantly his passion.

Mitrovic made it clear he loved playing at Fulham, and the fans reacted accordingly. Securing him permanently was a must for the club.

He’s not a world-beater by any stretch, and he probably won’t repeat his performance from last year, but fitting this Jokanovic system goes a long way.

Jean Seri, Nice (Mike Egerton/EMPICS Sport)

If you prefer a more technical player who probably won’t get the credit he deserves due to the position he plays, new man Seri is the one to keep an eye on.

The club’s record transfer, Seri is a true central midfield wizard. His distribution is spectacular, and he is a through-ball specialist.

He will pop off the page a few times this year for sure, but he will also put in some shifts that go largely unnoticed.

Do yourself a favour and keep an eye on the Frenchman.

 

Craven Cottage

A general view of a Craven Cottage corner flag before the Championship match (Mark Kerton/PA Wire/PA Images)

Capacity: 25,700

Away fans’ pubs: It’s a friendly part of the world—go wherever you fancy.

One piece of advice for visiting fan: Make a day/weekend of it, especially if you’re visiting when the weather’s nice.

The ground is right on the River Thames—arguably the most picturesque stadium in the country—and you will never be short of pubs and bars to visit.

 

Liverpool

ANN ARBOR, USA - Saturday, July 28, 2018: Liverpool's new signing Xherdan Shaqiri during the preseason International Champions Cup match between Manchester United and Liverpool FC at the Michigan Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

How do you rate Liverpool’s chances heading into the season?

I’m a huge fan of the business Liverpool have done over the last two seasons.

They have one of the most complete teams in the Premier League, and their weakness—central defence—has been improved as well.

In my opinion, they have to be considered a favorite for a top-four spot and will challenge for the title, although if Man City have the kind of season they did last campaign it will be difficult for anyone to catch them.

Who’s going to be the Reds’ Player of the Year, and why?

It has to be Mohamed Salah, right? It is hard to pick someone other than the Egyptian, not only given his eye for goal but for his flair in doing so.

Naby Keita of Liverpool during the pre season match at Prenton Park, Birkenhead. Picture date 10th July 2018. Picture credit should read: Matt McNulty/Sportimage via PA Images

Once Naby Keita settles in he could have a shot, too. He’s a fantastic signing and someone who should fit the style of the Premier League well.

He should be a fabulous all-round midfielder for the Reds—a strong presence in the middle of the park they have been missing, with Jordan Henderson not exactly the biggest bully on the field.

I also have to give Roberto Firmino a shout here, as the Brazilian should have been starting for his country in the World Cup and is a huge asset to the team.


TIA’s Fulham Predicted Finish: 12th (Average of the TIA writers’ predictions)

Where Kyle says Fulham will finish: 12th. A rough start to unnerve the fans but a strong middle portion of the campaign that seals their safety.

Where Kyle says Liverpool will finish: 2nd. I see Liverpool as the biggest challenger to City, with Man United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham just not at the same level this season.


This is part of our club-by-club opposition previews this summer, getting the views of away fans on their club and their thoughts on LFC:

Arsenal | Bournemouth | Brighton | Burnley | Cardiff | Chelsea | Crystal Palace | Everton | Fulham | Huddersfield | Leicester | Man City | Man United | Newcastle | Southampton | Tottenham | Watford | West Ham | Wolves

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