While this summer has moved slower than many Fulham supporters would like, the business done off the pitch has been with only one target in mind: promotion. Tony Khan began his summer business while the season was yet to finish as the future of Tom Cairney was settled with a five-year deal despite relegation confirmed and two games to go until the season was over. Out of the gates before the window had even opened, Khan secured his next bit of business a month later and it was more in-house dealings as striker Aleksandar Mitrovic also committed himself to Fulham Football Club undeterred by relegation and with that, the Championship was aware that they would be facing one of the divisions best playmakers of recent years and a forward who scored 12 goals in 18 starts in his last period at that level.
Tony Khan’s feeling for the next season was clear before a first signing was seemingly close according to reporting. However, six days later after a week of bubbling Fulham announced the signing of electric Wolverhampton Wanderers winger Ivan Cavaleiro who saw his game time at the club drop in the Premier League due to change of shape. A year prior as Fulham were contending in the play-offs, Cavaleiro’s 21 goals and assists (while playing around 900 fewer minutes) was only bettered for goal contribution by Diogo Jota (22) on the other flank for Wolves. A menacing direct winger with a recent Championship title, excellent form in his previous stint in the division and at 25 still has room to grow; Tony Khan in attracting Jorge Mendes client Ivan Cavaleiro to the football club made the perfect statement of intent with this transfer window and Fulham not only got better for the coming season but should promotion come, they will be better in the Premier League.
Fulham’s attack was already looking menacing but eight days later it turned absolutely ruthless. Anthony Knockaert signed, like Ivan Cavaleiro, on a loan with an option to buy next summer and like that, Fulham’s front four now contained a Championship Player of the Year from just two seasons ago. The French winger pipped Chris Wood (then of Leeds) and Dwight Gayle to the award with 15 goals and 8 assists as part of a Brighton team that didn’t leave the top 2 from the end of October and were just a point behind Rafael Benitez’s Newcastle United. An underlying tone is also that Anthony Knockaert helped Brighton maintain their Premier League status and is leaving the coastal club as their most goal productive wide player from last season.
Four bits of business, two headline retentions and two incomings set the tone for Scott Parker’s Fulham this season. Whilst pre-season has shown evidence of a more direct wing play heavy attack inserted into a possession focused football team, Tony Khan has made this football team stronger, deeper and containing two more players you can take into the Premier League and produce. He’s had his critics (and admittedly, I’ve been one of them) but he’s showing signs of learning, growth and depth beyond spending multimillions. While there is business still left to do, namely within the back four and the centre of midfield, Fulham has roared into not only being promotion favourites but favourites for the Championship title. Scott Parker has been supported to an extent where he has everything to lose in his first full season as first team manager – this team is set up for promotion and whilst a title or promotion will look good on Parker’s record, the offseason business has made it so anything less will be a complete and utter failure.