The countdown to the Premier League is on with just two weeks before Fulham officially return to the big time on the 11th August with the home tie against Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace. It will be nice to start the new campaign off with a game at the Cottage, and there is a ‘full circle’ feel to it as our last game in the Premier League four seasons ago was also a home tie against Palace.
It’s going to be a special day for the club and it’s a day that we have dreamed about since relegation was confirmed against Stoke in 2014. The squad is shaping up nicely with the additions of Jean Michaël Seri, Maxime Le Marchand, Fabricio Agosto Ramirez and Andre Schrulle. We have also had new contracts for a number of key players and brought Scott Parker back as a First Team Coach. Things are looking very nice from where I am sitting!
But what about the clubs who we are facing in the first part of the season? Our first set of fixtures before the September International break are against Palace, Tottenham Hotspur, Burnley and Brighton. How are these clubs shaping up before the new season?
11th August – Crystal Palace (H)
Last season’s finish – 11th
Transfers so far-
Vicente Guaita (Getafe) Free
Diego Cavalieri (released)
Damien Delaney (released)
Lee Chung-yong (released)
Yohan Cabaye (Al Nasr) Free
Just the one incoming for Palace so far in goalkeeper Guaita and it was done very early, so you’d imagine that there are some very frustrated Palace fans out there. Yohan Cabaye leaves behind a gap in midfield, while Lee Chung-Young was always a handy player to have when in need of a goal. After being main big contenders for the drop after losing their first five games, they only had to finish the season at a canter to avoid the drop in the end after Roy Hodgson worked his magic. Wilfried Zaha will be the main threat if he is still at Palace come the 11th August, but watch out for Connor Wickham and Jason Puncheon as well who like to pitch in with a goal or two. So far their preseason has consisted of three games, two victories and a draw.
18th August – Spurs (A)
Last season’s finish – 3rd
Transfers so far-
Keanan Bennetts (Borussia Monchengladbach) Undisclosed
Anton Walkes (Portsmouth) Undisclosed
Not much transfer activity to report on in North London, which will be extremely annoying for Spurs fans. They have become the ‘nearly team’ and don’t look like they will be building on last year’s finish unless they get some quality player in now to improve what they already have. That said, they are still one of the most talented sides in the league and will pose the first major test of Fulham and Slavisa Jokanovic. They have only had the one preseason game so far and that was in the International Champions Cup. They are still without many of their World Cup stars but still managed a 4-1 victory over Rome.
25th August – Burnley (H)
Last season’s finish – 7th
Transfers so far-
Dean Marney (released)
Scott Arfield (Rangers) Free
Tom Anderson (Doncaster) Free
Chris Long (released)
Josh Ginnelly (released)
Conor Mitchell (St Johnstone) Loan
Aiden Stone (Lancaster City) Loan
Burnley are another club who have had no incomings this summer so far, which is perhaps surprising considering that they might be competing in the Europa League group stages if they get through the qualifying rounds. So far their only game of the summer has been their first leg of their qualifier against Aberdeen this week and they drew that 1-1. I’d still expect to see some players come through the door at Turf Moor, but if they can’t overcome Aberdeen next week and progress through to the last qualifying round of the Europa League, you’d imagine that the joy of last season will be well and truly gone. Nick Pope went off injured in the game against Aberdeen so that’s another blow for them.
1st September – Brighton (A)
Last season’s finish- 15th
Transfer so far-
Leon Balogun (Mainz) Free
Joseph Tomlinson (Yeovil) Free
Florin Andone (Deportivo) Undisclosed
Jason Steele (Sunderland) Undisclosed
Bernardo Fernandes da Silva Junior (RB Leipzig) Undisclosed
Hugo Keto (Arsenal) Free
David Button (Fulham) Undisclosed
Yves Bissouma (Lille) Undisclosed
Percy Tau (Mamelodi Sundowns) Undisclosed
Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar) Undisclosed
Uwe Huenemeier (Paderborn) Free
Steve Sidwell (released)
Jamie Murphy (Rangers) Undisclosed
Bailey Vose (Colchester) Undisclosed
Liam Rosenior (released)
Connor Goldson (Rangers) Undisclosed
Robert Sanchez (Forest Green Rovers) Loan
Ben Hall (Notts County) Loan
Niki Maenpaa (released)
Henrik Bjordal (Zulte Waregem) Undisclosed
Christian Walton (Wigan) Loan
Steven Alzate (Swindon) Loan
Ales Mateju (Brescia) Loan
It has been a very busy summer so far at Brighton with ten players through the door and thirteen sold, released or away on loan. They had a solid first season in the Premier League but will be hoping for a more comfortable finish to next year’s campaign. I don’t know an awful lot about the players who they have brought in so far apart from David Button so it will be interesting to see how they pan out for them. Their preseason matches haven’t been very successful so far, with a loss to AFC Wimbledon and draws against FC St Gallen and Charlton Athletic. As I write they are also trailing 1-0 to Birmingham, at half time.
Obviously there is a lot that can change over the next few weeks in terms of transfers but looking at the teams who we will face early on only gets me even more excited for the season ahead. Hopefully we can get off to a strong start against Palace and with the calibre of the signings so far, and more in the offing, I can’t see why not.