array(2) { ["nofollow"]=> string(1) "1" ["id"]=> string(2) "16" }

Posts

Premier League 2022-23 preview No 9: Fulham

Premier League 2022-23 preview No 9: Fulham

Guardian writers’ predicted position 19th (NB: this is not necessarily John Brewin’s prediction but the average of our writers’ tips)

Last season’s position 1st (Championship)

Odds to win the league (via Oddschecker) 1,000-1

Prospects

Back in April, Fulham supporters invaded the pitch after promotion was secured. The celebrations were still pretty muted, and not just because the Cottagers fans’ genteel reputation precedes them. The club’s last two promotions to the Premier League were followed by immediate relegation, and so finishing 17th or higher would be viewed as a resounding success.

Ready for the Premier League 2022-23: Fulham – video

01:09

Ready for the Premier League 2022-23: Fulham – video

Craven Cottage will have a different look, the towering Riverside Stand finally open for business, though initially only the lower tier, as the owner, Shahid Khan, modernises the chintzy, beloved stadium. High ticket prices to pay for the renovations have become a battleground between fans and Khan.

The cost can climb as high as £100 for a single match ticket for the opener with Liverpool, asking a great deal of fans when Marco Silva, the manager, has admitted the label of a “yo-yo team” is a “good nickname”. Last season was enjoyable, a breeze back up, but Silva will be without Fabio Carvalho, sold to Liverpool, a main supplier of Aleksandar Mitrovic’s record haul of 43 Championship goals, though Harry Wilson remains.

It is in neither Silva nor Fulham’s makeup to play percentage football, and that high-paying public have come to expect entertainment. Khan will likely not match the ill-starred £100m of spending of the summer of 2018, and has spoken of needing to “have a different approach than one of the bigger clubs”. The hope is Silva has enough nous and his players can find enough quality to break the cycle of promotion followed by demotion.

The manager

It is only five years since Silva’s arrival at Hull caused consternation in the Sky Soccer Saturday studio, and he is set to manage his fourth Premier League club with his reputation still very much mixed. Each of his spells at Hull, Watford and Everton showed that Silva can be an innovative, organised and attacking coach, only for his team to drop away into inconsistency. Silva himself is not someone given to backslapping the media, usually choosing to keep his own, quiet counsel. Fulham having blasted their way up from the Championship, their manager has just as much to prove as his club when it comes to staying power. To meet his ambitions, he needs to gain a reputation for stability and longevity but is working under an owner in Khan who has never been shy of pressing the button.

Summer signing João Palhinha in action during the pre-season friendly against Benfica.

Summer signing João Palhinha in action during the pre-season friendly against Benfica.

Photograph: Antonio Pozo/ShutterstockTransfer coup

Fulham’s summer transfer activity has not been brisk but in signing a defensive midfielder in João Palhinha from Silva’s native Portugal, at least some of their soft underbelly may have been protected. Palhinha, as a leading light in a Sporting Lisbon team that won a first title in 19 years, has a reputation as an enforcer, with the powerful physique and classic tactical awareness of a Portuguese midfielder. A close relationship with Rúben Amorim, who had coached him on loan at Braga, revived his career at Sporting. Fulham paid £18m for a player previously linked with the Portuguese enclave at Wolves.

World Cup impact

With a squad not laden with players likely to be jetting off, the timing of the World Cup could be useful in Fulham’s expected battle for safety, though Palhinha seems set to be involved with Portugal. Tim Ream, the veteran US defender, played only one international match last season, and may miss out on Qatar. Fulham’s pre-tournament fixtures are not kind; they sign off for the break with matches against Manchester City and Manchester United.

lAlternative attractions during World Cup

Take a wintry stroll through Bishops Park, sip expensive coffee, take in Putney’s throbbing nightlife, including a few pints in the Spotted Horse, watch the rowers fly down the Thames, and various other bourgeois pursuits on offer in the comfortable surroundings of SW6.

Leading the shirt sales

In blowing away Guy Whittingham’s 29-year-old Championship scoring record, Mitrovic confirmed his cult reputation. Silva’s demand that he keep fit over last summer clearly paid high dividends. “He didn’t have any paunch on him or anything,” said an admiring Khan, who has termed Mitro a “legend”. Like his club, Mitrovic has the reputation of being too good for the Championship yet short of Premier League quality, though he seems to have a better relationship with Silva than predecessor Scott Parker, with whom he fell out during the club’s last Premier League season.

Social climber

Fulham’s players are pretty well behaved on the socials, but central defender Tosin Adarabioyo likes to share a bit of himself across Twitter and Instagram, and is making tentative steps into TikTok. He shares bespoke artwork that resembles 1990s rap album covers, including the time-honoured “Parental Guidance” label and cigars, and pays regular tribute to Nigerian megastar Burna Boy. There’s also some pointed football business retweets, including some NFT content, but he also marks himself out as a big team player, and particularly as a fan of “Mitro” at “only 27 years young”.

If Fulham were a Netflix dox …

We’d see Shahid Khan and son Tony very much to the fore, their NFL ownership teaching them the value of camera time and big-boy talk. The set pieces may include Marco Silva promising “Mitro” an extra day off if he presses harder during the vital derby battle with Brentford, and Tim Ream recording his podcast. Expect pointless cameos from Richard Osman and Hugh Grant.