Published on 26 Nov 2022 12:35 am (UK Time)
Over the last five seasons, Fulham has become a yoyo team of sorts, as while they would win promotion to the top flight, they wouldn’t be able to stay up after one season and would be relegated back to the Championship immediately. But this season, with the side 9th in the table during the World Cup break, manager Marco Silva seems to have what it takes to keep the West Londoners in the Premier League.
There are a few factors as to why Fulham have done quite well this season, all of which have contributed to a good season back in the top flight, a place which they could finally take a permanent residency in the years to come.
After failing to keep Hull City up and getting sacked by Watford and Everton, Silva’s appointment at Fulham in the summer of 2021 was seen as the Portuguese’s last chance in English football. This time, he would really show what he was about.
Playing with a brave and attack-minded brand of football, as he’d shown during his days with the Hornets, the Fulham players quickly bought into his philosophy and became one of the highest goalscorers in second-division history with 106 goals. A number of their victories last season included 7-0, 5-1 and 6-2 scorelines, displaying sheer ruthlessness in front of goal.
The West London side has always had great players but was never consistent in the Premier League. With the experience of Aleksandar Mitrović, Willian and Andreas Pereira, with the latter two brought by Silva in the summer, the side has finally got the experience they need to put up a real fight in the top flight, something the Cottedgers have lacked during their last two seasons in the league.
So far this season, Silva and his players managed to get an impressive 2-2 draw at home to Liverpool on game one of the season and have played quite decently against Arsenal and Manchester City, being narrowly defeated 2-1 on both occasions. But in all of those games against the top six teams, they showed no fear and were willing to go toe-to-toe against the best in the division.
With reasonable expectations and the correct levels of recruitment to fit Silva’s image for his Fulham team, there’s every reason to believe that the former Olympiacos manager is the right man to keep the West Londoners in the Premier League and maybe get them competing towards the top end of the table once he gets them stabled as a top division side.
A Solid Transfer Policy
In seasons gone by, Fulham’s wild transfer policy has led to the club purchasing players with little to no Premier League experience and/or not fitting the system of their managers. This time, however, it seems like the club have finally settled on a more reasonable transfer policy.
Along with Pereria and Willian joining in the summer, as mentioned earlier, Fulham also signed other experienced Premier League players, such as winger Dan James from Leeds United, goalkeeper Bernd Leno from Arsenal and defenders Issa Diop and Shane Duffy from West Ham United and Brighton & Hove Albion respectively.
On top of adding experience to their ranks, Silva has also brought in quality players, such as Portuguese midfielder João Palhinha from Sporting Lisbon, Swiss defender Kevin Mbabu from Wolfsburg, striker Carlos Vinícius from Benfica, Israeli Winger Manor Solomon from Shakhtar Donetsk and defender Layvin Kurzawa from PSG.
Palhinha, in particular, has looked quite impressive in the middle of Fulham’s midfield, slotting into the team seamlessly and being the ideal midfield partner for the likes of Nathaniel Chalobah, Harrison Reed or Tom Cairney. The former Sporting Lisbon player has 4.6 tackles per game so far this season, the most of anyone in the team, demonstrating his ability to dispossess the opposition and win the ball back for his side to start a counter-attack.
Leno is another who has fitted quite well between the sticks at Craven Cottage. His experience at Arsenal and as a German international brings a significant amount of solidity and confidence to the Fulham defence, which has helped them to earn three clean sheets this campaign.
If the new signings continue to perform well throughout the rest of the season, Silva’s team has a real chance of not only staying up this season but also finishing in a comfortable midtable place, something which the Cottage faithful would’ve more than taken when the campaign started.
Since joining the West London side from Newcastle United in January 2018, the Serbian international has been prolific in the Championship, with last season’s 43 goals in 44 games breaking the record for the most amount of goals scored by a player in a single season in the second division. This was previously set by Ivan Toney with 31 goals during Brentford’s 2020/21 promotion season.
However, before this season, he hasn’t shown a similar level of goalscoring in the Premier League. 11 goals for Fulham during their 2018/19 season was his highest tally in the top flight due to a variety of reasons ranging from poor service to a simple lack of threat from Mitrovic in years gone by.
This season the striker already has 9 goals in 12 games so far this season, including two against Liverpool and one against Arsenal, as the former Newcastle man seems to have at last found his scoring touch and proving the doubters wrong about whether he can cut it in England’s top division. But this time around, he seems to have upped his game and is starting to give Premiership defenders a sense of dread and fear when defending against him.
Another thing which has helped Mitrovic is the contributions other attacking players have brought. Willian, Harry Wilson, Bobby Ried, and Neeskens Kebano, among others, have all delivered in some capacity which has lifted some of the burdens of the Serbian to score all of the goals for Fulham and keep the club away from relegation.
If Mitrovic can keep up his form after the World Cup and keep himself fit for the rest of the season, then there’s a very good chance the striker can keep up his goalscoring form and get himself amongst the league’s top scorers list. This would provide Fulham with the victories they need to steer clear of relegation and finish in a more comfortable position in the table.