fanatix previews Fulham’s season…
Manager’s job safety: This all depends on how trigger happy new owner Shahid Khan is! Martin Jol was much loved by Mohamed Al-Fayed, and as long he keeps Fulham above the relegation zone he’ll probably be fine for the time being…
Captain: Brede Hangeland
Last season: 12th
In: Maarten Stekelenburg (Roma, £4.76m), Sasha Riether (Cologne, £1.27m), Fernando Amorebieta (Athletic Bilbao, Free), Derek Boateng (Dnipro, Free), Ange-Freddy Plumain (Lens, Free), Adel Taarabt (QPR, Loan).
Out: Mark Schwarzer (Chelsea, Free), Alex Smith (Swindon, Free), Dan Burn (Birmingham, Loan), Ryan Williams (Oxford, Loan)
Released: Chris Baird, Simon Davies, Mahamadou Diarra, Thomas Donegan, Corey Gamiero, Giorgos Karagounis, James Musa, Richard Peniket, Mladen Petric, Csaba Somogyi.
Aims: Fulham will be hoping to push on from last season’s 12th finish, and possibly even break into the top half of the table. Taarabt, Stekelenberg and Amorebieta seem like astute signings, and if they can settle in quickly, Fulham will hope their usually impressive home record fires them way clear of the bottom three early on.
Key Player: Dimitar Berbatov – ‘The world’s best walking footballer’, Berbatov simply oozes class, and will be Fulham’s key man once again this season. Bagged 15 in the league last term, which is even more impressive considering the Bulgarian was also the side’s main creator. At 32-years-old, still has at least one more big season left in him.
Needs to improve: Steve Sidwell – The battling English midfielder let himself down last term with a poor disciplinary record, getting sent off immediately after returning from a three-match-ban. Fulham fans will hope he finds the form that encouraged Jose Mourinho to sign him from Reading way back in 2007.
Big summer signing: Maarten Stekelenburg – Roma £4.76m – For many, losing experienced Australian Mark Schwarzer on a free was a big loss for Fulham, but they’ve gone and replaced him brilliantly with the Dutch goalkeeper. Echoes Edwin Van Der Sar’s transfer back in 2001.
One to watch: Adel Taarabt – Who else? The QPR loanee possibly matches Berbatov in terms of talent, but has so far failed to fulfil his huge potential. Struggled with QPR in the Premier League last term after mesmerising the Championship the previous season. Perhaps playing in a mid-table side could benefit the mercurial Frenchman. Then again, he could equally be dire… One to keep an eye on nonetheless!
What do they need? Have never properly replaced Danny Murphy after the midfielder left in 2012. He was the creative influence in the middle of the park, and a deep-lying playmaker of similar ilk would be a welcome addition to Craven Cottage.
fanatix Prediction? 11th With Bryan Ruiz, Hugo Rodallega, Berbatov and Taarabt all capable of scoring goals, we think Fulham are too good to be pulled into a relegation battle. Expect Amorebieta to form a strong partnership with Hangeland at the back, too, and with Stekelenberg between the stick, Fulham will finish comfortably in mid-table this season. If they can pick up some wins away from home, expect them to finish even higher.