Fulham U23s draw opener with Manchester United

Fulham’s Under 23s began their Premier League 2 season with an encouraging display and an entertaining draw against Manchester United at Motspur Park last night.

Peter Grant’s side commendable resilience to come from behind twice to claim a point against the Red Devils after conceding goals to  Angel Gomes and Tahith Chong. The young Whites were indebted to their centre back partnership with set piece equalisers arriving courtesy of Arron Davies and Rob Atkinson. The draw was the least the home side deserved for an enterprising display full of ambition and creativity, sparked by the energy and drive of Tyrese Francois in central midfield.

Cameron Thompson, deployed on the left wing in a fluid 4-3-3 that mirrored Slavisa Jokanovic’s preferred system, had Fulham’s first sight of goal but couldn’t connect with Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson’s dangerous cross before Cauley Woodrow, who endured a frustrating evening in front of goal, wasted a good opportunity after a fine through ball from Matt O’Riley. United had dominated possession and gradually began to create chances of their own with Magnus Norman saving stubbornly from George Tanner at his near post.

Thompson did saw a shot well blocked by united’s Ro-Shaun Williams before the visitors broke swiftly, but James Wilson’s low cross didn’t find a team-mate. Estonian international midfielder Mathias Kait then drilled a shot fractionally wide of far post midway through the first period, but it was United who broke the deadlock. A neat passing move found Tanner out in space on the right flank and the full-back was afforded far too much time to cross. Angel Gomes drifted between Atkinson and Davies to direct a firm header past the helpless Norman.

The visitors, who despite their ample resources were surprisingly relegated last season, then had chances to double their lead before half-time. Former Fulham forward DJ Buffonge saw his effort bravely blocked by Atkinson and Davies then bravely threw himself in front of a Gomes effort to thwart further danger. United were to pay for those misses four minutes before the break when O’Riley’s deep free kick was turned home at the far post by Davies.

The equaliser gave Fulham a boost at the start of the second half. United keeper Kieran O’Hara pulled off a brilliant save from Woodrow’s improvised flick at his near post and Thornsteinsson then saw a strong penalty shout waved away by the referee. Instead, it was the Red Devils who went ahead again – hitting Fulham on the break. A lovely move involving Buffonge and Gomes finished with Belgian winger Chong drilling an excellent finish past Norman.

Defeat would have been harsh on the hosts and, to their credit, Fulham never gave up. They grabbed a deserved second equaliser from another O’Riley set play with Atkinson able to punish a poor clearance from Williams with a fine header. The Whites pushed hard for a third in the closing stages of an intriguing contest, but both sides ultimately had to be content with a point.

FULHAM U23s (4-3-3): Norman; Jenz, Mundle-Smith, Atkinson, Davies; Kait, Francois, O’Riley; Thornsteinsson, Thompson (Harris 73), Woodrow. Subs (not used): Stahl, Opoku, Drameh, Carvalho.

GOALS: Davies (41), Atkinson (80).

MANCHESTER UNITED U23s (4-2-3-1): O’Hara; Tanner, O’Connor, Williams, Garner; Poole, Hamilton; Chong, Gomes (Dearnley 88), Buffonge (Whelan 88); Wilson (Bohul 45). Subs (not used): Warren, Forstieck.

GOALS: Gomes (28), Chong (61).

Ream to miss Fulham’s Premier League return

Tim Ream will miss out on Fulham’s first Premier League game for four years tomorrow after picking up an injury in training.

The absence of the American, who was voted the club’s player of the season during last year’s promotion-winning campaign, will be keenly felt at Craven Cottage with Denis Odoi, his regular central defensive partner in the second half of the season, suspended and new signing Alfie Mawson still recovering from injury. It could see England international Calum Chambers partnering French defender Maxime Le Marchand, a summer arrival from Nice, at the heart of Slavisa Jokanovic’s defence.

Jokanovic revealed a number of his first-team squad will be unavailable for the opening game of the season against Crystal Palace during his press conference this afternoon:

Tomorrow first of all I cannot use Denis Odoi, he is suspended. Alfie Mawson still hasn’t started working with us, and probably Tim Ream is injured too, so I can’t use him either. Floyd Ayite is injured as well.

The Serbian head coach insisted he is not expecting to have any problems when it comes to selecting his starting line-up given the number of options at his disposal. He has already made clear to his players that hard work at Motspur Park will be crucial in ensuring they force their way into his plans.

I will give them the chance to compete to play in the Premier League. My job stops at 11 [players] and the bench, this is my job, people pay me to make these decisions. I am not Santa Claus, I don’t need to make anybody happy. I try to make it hard, with great competition between my players. This is one of the most competitive leagues in the world and presents don’t exist, they need to fight in training.

Jokanovic is certainly not underestimating the challenge that Fulham will face tomorrow from Crystal Palace, led by the former Whites’ boss Roy Hodgson.

Crystal Palace is a Premier League ready team, definitely with more experience than us at this level. They know they are dangerous in this offensive side, between [Christian] Benteke, [Wilfried] Zaha and [Andros] Townsend. On the other side, we must care about [Luka] Milivojevic too, who is a good player. Many things depend on this guy, we did analysis of this team and I hope that we are ready.

We must be clever and modify a few things, we are going to play against different qualities, different pace, different power. We don’t need to change too much, but enough to know what we are going to find in this competition. It is always important that we grow, and we need to grow up from last season.

The Fulham head coach also refused to be drawn into predicting where his side would finish – telling the press that his focus was on trying to take three points from the first game and doing everything possible to try and keep the club in the top flight.

Our principal target is to stay up. This is a famous question from the press, where are we going to finish, and we haven’t even started yet. I prefer working step by step, all of us will have more information after the first game and it is better for us to think this way. At the end of the season we will see our level and where we can improve for the future.

It is very exciting, a great experience for us, my first experience of coaching at this level. It’s probably a dream for all coaches to have this opportunity, and I’m going to push to be successful. We are trying to build a Premier League team. We are trying to be competitive at this level.

McDonald: ‘We’re going to give it a right old blast’

Kevin McDonald says Fulham are ready to ‘give it a right old blast’ in the Premier League this season after seeing the club supplement their promotion-winning squad with new signings during a busy summer transfer window.

The Scottish international insists that the Whites aren’t just looking to survive but are determined to prove they belong in English football’s top flight. Fulham spent around £120m on twelve new signings over the summer – including five arrivals during a busy transfer deadline day – and McDonald told the Evening Standard that reflects the ambition at Craven Cottage.

We are going to give it a right old blast this season. We are not here to make up the numbers. We are here to prove to everyone what we can do, prove that this is where the club belongs. The owners have invested money wisely and bought some really good players. That can only benefit the team.

The former Wolves and Burnley midfielder was quick to insist that the squad themselves are remaining grounded ahead of the start of the new campaign, acutely aware of the big step up in quality from the Championship.

People are seeing all these big names coming in and the money we are spending so it is understandable that from the outside expectation levels have been raised. But we are a level-headed group of players and we know where we stand. We would be naive to start looking above to the top half of the table. First and foremost we have got to establish ourselves as a Premier League team. Of course we want to finish as high as we can but we know it is going to be a long, hard season.

McDonald also reiterated that Slavisa Jokanovic has told his players to keep true to their footballing principles and that the Fulham squad don’t feel under any extra pressure on the eve of the new season.

We are a new team coming to the league so I do not think there is pressure on us. Outsiders always think the three promoted teams are favourites to get relegated. With the signings we have made maybe we are different. The gaffer wants us to play the exact same way. He got us here playing that way. That is not going to change.

Fulham’s frantic transfer window sets the pulse racing

Even in your wildest dreams, you couldn’t have envisaged a transfer window like this. Fulham appear determined not to waste the chance that Premier League football returning to Craven Cottage this season. Tony Khan and his colleagues have bought Slavisa Jokanovic an entire new team in just a summer, spent more than £100m and attracted some serious talent to the club. The ambition that has been shown by the Khans is incredible. We set a new record this summer with the first promoted club to ever spend over £100m in their first summer and we have signed some mouth watering additions to add to a very talented squad. However, with the new signings coming in, the likes of Denis Odoi, Kevin McDonald, Stefan Johansen and Marcus Bettinelli have to be wondering if they’ll be getting much game time this upcoming season.

The most exciting arrival for me is no doubt the signing of Jean Michael Seri from Nice. Just twelve months ago that he appeared on the verge of joining the Spanish giants Barcelona, but the move collapsed right before the deadline. Seri has also been linked with the likes of Manchester City, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich but, much to our surprise, Tony Khan and the Fulham board managed to persuade the classy midfielder to sign on the dotted line at London’s oldest club. His stats are also impressive, making the most completed passes in the Ligue 1 and also claimed three individual honours last season, Prix Marc-Vivien Foe award, Nice Player Of The Year as well as being selected in the Ligue 1 team of the year. Former Fulham head coach Rene Meulensteen lauded him as the new Clarence Seedorf, which is some comparison. If Seri can reach those heights that he has achieved in previous seasons, he may well be our best signing of the window and it all adds to the dizzying excitement of a new campaign.

Our shrewdest signing of the summer window has to be Andre Schurrle. His previous Premier League experience and versatility is just what we required, as the spine of the side that triumphed at Wembley had very little top experience. Schurrle can play anywhere in the front three and his years of experience playing at the highest level will certainly help the likes of Mitrovic, Sessegnon grow and have a successful season. Schurrle has stated that it was the football we play which persuaded him to join a club wanting to reach the next level and with a two-year loan deal secured, he could have a major part in taking Fulham there.

Overall, it has been an enjoyable 2018 for us, gaining promotion back to where we belong, securing 12 fantastic additions to our squad and agreeing new deals with key players Tom Cairney, Tim Ream and Kevin McDonald. I have seen a lot of people complimenting the work of the Fulham board over these past 3 months and with just over 24 hours to go until the first ball is kicked, what a time to be a Fulham fan! COYW!

Fulham announce audacious Anguissa capture

Fulham have completed an audacious deal to sign Cameron international André Frank Zambo Anguissa which could be worth as much as £27m. The transfer remains dependent on the midfielder being granted a work permit.

The deal to sign the powerful defensive midfielder, who has enjoyed two stellar years in the south of France since being signed from Reims’ second string, looked liable to collapse twice earlier this afternoon – firstly, over a dispute about solidarity payments to the midfielder’s former clubs and then when West Ham attempted to try and tempt Anguissa to east London.

According to reports in the French press this evening, Anguissa had his medical in Marseille – watched by Fulham employees – and the clubs had to apply for an extension as protracted negotiations over the structure of the deal dragged on. Anguissa established himself as a key member of the Marseille side that reached last season’s Europa League final with a number of composed displays as a deep-lying midfielder, but the French club successfully managed to double Fulham’s opening bid of around £14m.

Anguissa leaves Marseille having made 104 appearances in three seasons and fits Slavisa Jokanovic’s mould of a strong defensively minded midfielder – the type of signing he was calling for in the aftermath of the Whites’ final pre-season friendly against Celta Vigo. Fulham have now broken their club transfer record for the second type in a month after signing Ivorian international Jean-Michael Seri from Nice earlier this summer.

Anguissa, who has won eleven senior international caps for Cameroon, has put pen to paper on a five-year contract. He told Fulham’s official website tonight:

I am delighted to have signed for Fulham today. This is a new chapter in my career and one I’m really looking forward to. I hope to bring my qualities to this new project. I like a challenge and I will ensure that I give my very best to my team, the Club, and the supporters.

Fulham’s head of football operations, Tony Khan, also added:

I’m thrilled to announce that Fulham Football Club has signed André Zambo Anguissa. André’s tremendous data profile, his glowing scouting reports, and his sterling reputation confirm his world class talent. Throughout this summer, we’ve pursued elite players on whom we believed we could rely to deliver the quality required to challenge the great competition we’ll face in the Premier League, and thus, Andre has been one of our top targets.

Fosu-Mensah completes Fulham loan move

Fulham have confirmed the signing of Manchester United defender Timothy Fosu-Mensah on a season-long loan deal.

The versatile 20 year-old defender, who can operate as a right back, in the centre of defence or in central midfield, has arrived from Old Trafford to gain more Premier League experience following his loan spell at Crystal Palace last season. The Dutch international made 24 appearances for the Eagles as Roy Hodgson’s side comfortably avoided the drop – and he could be considered to start against the south London outfit in Fulham’s first game of the season at Craven Cottage on Saturday.

Fosu-Mensah remains highly rated at United, whom he joined from the Ajax academy at the age of sixteen, and he has made 21 senior appearances for the Red Devils. He told Fulham’s official website this evening of his delight at finalising his latest loan switch:

I have a good feeling about the Club. It has a nice history, it’s a nice Club. Fulham has a lot of good players, and it’s good for my development to be here. I spoke to the Manager and he gave me a good feeling. I’m happy to be here and I want to keep progressing.

Fulham’s vice chairman and head of football operations, Tony Khan, commented:

I’m pleased to announce that Fulham Football Club has signed Timothy Fosu-Mensah on loan from Manchester United. Timothy is a gifted young defender who excels at multiple positions, and his addition will further reinforce a strong and promising squad that we have assembled to compete in the Premier League.

Fosu-Mensah’s arrival will boost Slavisa Jokanovic’s defensive options ahead of the new campaign. He is unlikely to start ahead of Calum Chambers and Tim Ream at the heart of the defence, but provides an experienced alternative to Irish international Cyrus Christie at right back.