Premier League Preview: Fulham

My Premier League previews continue with Fulham focused on this time. After Roy Hodgson’s departure for Liverpool new manager Mark Hughes will be looking to push on from where Hodgson left off.

Having only just been given the job as manager Hughes hasn’t really put his stamp on the team. Players were added, though, before Hughes’ appointment. Philippe Senderos was plucked from Arsenal after the Swiss defender was released by the club, with Jonathan Greening also signing on a free transfer from West Brom. Senderos has been the butt of jokes from many fans for the last few seasons and the defender will be looking to re-build his career at Craven Cottage. Fulham have managed to keep the majority of their squad together, with Erik Nevland and Chris Smalling the only departures of note. The current stability at the club, in terms of finances and squad establishment, could see Fulham reach Hughes’ target of a top ten finish this season in the Premier League.
            The team are relatively solid at the back with Mark Schwarzer in goal, as well as Brede Hangeland and Senderos, who could build a central-defensive partnership in the new season. John Pantsil, Stephen Kelly and Paul Konchesky are all experienced at Premier League level and should be no cause for concern for Hughes.
            The midfield of the team is also impressive. Zoltan Gera and Damian Duff push forward and attack at will while Dickson Etuhu sits back. The USA international Clint Dempsey can also be given a free role to roam and the midfielder can look forward to chances coming his way if he can get himself in the right positions. It is Danny Murphy, though, who holds it altogether. The former Liverpool midfielder captains the Cottagers with pride and never fails to give 100%. A true craftsman at what he does, Murphy can carve open defences with his passing, whilst also working as a connection between defence and attack. Murphy is essential to Fulham’s success next season.
                On paper, Fulham have some good strikers. Andrew Johnson should be back from the injury that kept him out for the majority of last season and Diomansy Kamara can be called upon for a goal here and there. Neither, though, have been high-scoring strikers in the last few seasons and, with the club being linked with Manchester City forward Craig Bellamy, could find it difficult to get into the starting eleven. One player who is certain to play a big part in Hughes’ side this season, though, is Bobby Zamora. The English striker has received the backing of his new manager this week, with Hughes stating his desire to get Zamora into the England squad. Zamora scored twenty-one goals in forty-four games last season and is another vital player for Fulham.
            A player to look out for next season is defender Matthew Briggs. The 19-year-old has played a major part in the England under-19 and under-20 set-up, playing a total of fifteen games for his country at youth level. The defender has come up through the youth development at Craven Cottage and made history in the 2006/07 season when he came on as a 77th minute substitute to become the youngest player to appear in the Premier League, making his senior debut at the age of sixteen years and sixty-five days. The youngster went on loan to Leyton Orient last season only managing to make one appearance for the club. Briggs, though, will be looking to further his development at the club this season.
            The fact that Fulham have to adjust themselves to a new manager may prove difficult this season. Hughes has stated his goal of a top ten finish, which is more than achievable, but he may need to bring in a few more quality players. Another right-back wouldn’t go a miss as current defender John Pantsil maybe doesn’t warrant a start in a top ten Premier League side. The London club may also want to dip into the market for a striker, or a fast winger if Zamora is to be played up front on his own. Fulham will need goals from midfield if they are to fulfil their potential this season.
Where will they finish?: 9th
Official top ten finish odds: 2/1 (William Hill)
Star man: Danny Murphy/Bobby Zamora
One to watch: Matthew Briggs
Main weakness: Could lack real quality of key players go missing. Bellamy would be a great signing.

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