With the 15/16 Championship season kicking off in just five days’ time I thought it was about time that I posted my thoughts about what this season might entail. As my article last week about pre-season stated, I think that this year’s preparations have been a level above last years. Kit Symons has brought in good quality players in Cairney, Pringle, O’Hara, Garbutt, Lonergan and Richards contrasting drastically from last year’s acquisitions of Adil Chihi, Dino Fazlic and Mark Fotheringham to name a few. The standard of pre-season fixtures have also been much more impressive than last season and it is fair to say that the squad haven’t been too far off teams from both the Bundesliga (Hertha Berlin and Eintracht Frankfurt) and the Premier League (Aston Villa and Chrystal Palace). This should provide a really solid platform to build upon, something that we lacked last year. With that in mind, here are my season predictions-
- Top Goal Scorer- Ross McCormack. Simple one really. He was a standout player in a very poor season last year and without his goals I think we would be looking ahead to a season in League One. He didn’t play as an out and out striker a lot as we didn’t have as many creative options, but with Cairney, Pringle and Kacaniklic all capable of creating chances, it could be an even more fruitful season for McCormack. I reckon he has 20+ goals in him this year.
- Best newcomer- Jamie O’Hara. This one isn’t quite as simple considering the smart signings Fulham have made over the summer. I’m excited about each newcomer but I believe that O’Hara’s vision and defensive work will prove vital this season. Garbutt is worth looking out for at left back and Cairney should add some creativity in attack, but I believe that O’Hara will play an important role in front of the defence.
- How our Centre Back pairing will do- Better than last season but not promotion standard. At the minute it looks like Symons is going with a CB partnership of Burn and Hutchinson. Last season there was little consistency at the back which will have played a part in our horrendous defensive record. I expect there to be a lot less chopping and changing this season, especially at right and left back with Richards and Garbutt likely to play regularly. This should allow Burn and Hutchinson to build a better partnership as they shouldn’t be concerned about who is playing alongside them. I can also see them having much better protection from the players in front, particularly with O’Hara there. Under Magath last season it didn’t look like the midfield players knew exactly what was expected of them defensively which left the defence horribly unprotected. This is something that a better overall team structure should prevent. Throughout pre-season there have still been a couple nervy moments which need to be sorted out but with the better protection and the more consistent line ups I think the centre backs should have a better season. Let’s remember that both Burn and Hutchinson have both been rated highly in the past so hopefully they will fulfil their potential. However I still don’t think they are quite at promotion standard yet so a centre back should be at the top of any remaining transfer target lists.
- Best Youngster– Lasse Vigen Christensen. I think LVC is going to be a big player for us this season. If we play the same formation as we did against Crystal Palace (picture below) then it looks like LVC is going to play alongside O’Hara, with the former having more attacking freedom. His bursting runs last season were fantastic at times and now that he is back fit and with added international experience I can only see him getting better. I’m really excited to see what he can do for us this year.
- Final League Position- 7th. I hope more than anything that I’m wrong but I don’t think our defence is up to a successful promotion campaign. Attacking wise I believe we have all the right attributes and we should score a lot of goals but defensively we aren’t solid enough. I think we will be in contention come May but I’m not overly confident that we can make the play-offs the way things stand at the minute. On the other hand, if we sign Lewis Dunk then I think we will have a much better chance. That’s one transfer saga I’m sure most Fulham fans are keeping an eye on. I’m sticking with my prediction for now but with the inconsistent nature of the Championship I’m sure we are in for more than a few surprises!
I can’t wait for Saturday to come and I am confident that we are in for a much more exciting season than last season. Here’s to a great one!