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It is the question on the lips of every Fulham follower at the moment. What does Marco Silva need to make the Whites competitive in the top flight? The yo-yo is a horrible cliche, but the fear is real. Fulham, so flawless at times in the Championship last season – with arguably their best promotion-winning outfit since the Tigana days, have struggled woefully at English football’s top table on their last two all-too-brief visits. Signings are essential, but only the right ones will give Silva a chance of fully rehabilitating his reputation in English football – as gap between the established Premier League sides and those who head up from the Championship appears to be growing with every year.

Each transfer window brings ITKs, rumours and wild swings from excitement to desolation. This article isn’t about who’s set to arrive at Motspur Park, but intended to an analysis of the areas in which Fulham have to strengthen in this crucial period before the serious business gets going. They simply can’t afford to playing catch up from September again, so let’s get stuck into the sort of upgrades that Silva needs.

First the man between the sticks: is Marek Rodak deserving of a shot at Premier League level? There is no doubt the Slovak is a brilliant shot stopper and a great Championship keeper but on our previous outing in the top flight he was quickly replaced by Alphonse Areola, who proved to be a big upgrade on the academy graduate. Now the Whites are back in the big time they have been linked with Pope, Henderson, Ugurcan Cakir and, most seemingly, Thomas Strakosha, the Albanian keeper has spent his entire professional career in Italy at Lazio. Back in 2018 he was one of the best up and coming keepers in Europe and had the world at his feet but since then his star has waned slightly. Strakosha wasn’t even first choice for Lazio at the beginning of this campaign losing his place to Pepe Reina, but earned the jersey back and produced some excellent displays as Lazio finished fifth in Serie A. The experienced goalkeeper is out of contract and has already said his goodbyes in Rome, with a four-year deal at Craven Cottage widely reported. Peter Rutzler’s latest piece claims that the club don’t see the goalkeeping position as a priority. Do Fulham desperately need a new stopper? Can Rodak prove his pedigree in the top flight? Or will giving a new addition enough time to work with Hugo Oliveira make a massive difference to Fulham’s fortunes? Probably, the latter in my view.

Arguably the biggest issue at present is who replaces the reliable Tim Ream in central defence? The American veteran certainly isn’t getting any younger and, despite playing all 46 Championship games last term and fully earning a contract extension, it is clear that he won’t be a starter in August. Many names have been mentioned like James Tarkowski, Joe Gomez and the club have recently opened talks with Tottenham about Joe Rodon – which underlines just how vital the powers that be consider defensive reinforcements. Silva could switch to three centre backs but that would be both risky given the lack of numbers at his disposal presently and go against his words after Luton when he insisted his style would not significantly change in the top flight. Whilst tightening up at the back is imperative in comparison with the last couple of Premier League failures, Fulham look far more threatening with a sense of adventure rather than the ponderous Parker approach.

Fulham are keen to re-sign Neco Williams following his superb loan spell last season and having two good options at right back would suit the nine substitutes rule change. Williams will be eager to play regular football to remain in Rob Page’s Welsh plans with a World Cup around the corner, whilst Kenny Tete has to prove that he has shaken off the injury concerns that have dogged his first two years in SW6. Both are accomplished operators going forward and suspect defensively – but even Trent Alexander-Arnold, whose emergence has effectively ended Williams’ Liverpool career, was found lacking in that respect during Saturday’s Champions’ League final.

It is no secret that Fulham are looking for more combative options in the middle of park to make them less easy to play through. Libyan international Al-Musrati has been withdrawn from their African Nations’ Cup qualifying squad to negotiate his exit from Braga, with Marco Silva a known admirer of his ball-winning abilities after a couple of excellent years in Portugal. Other names in the frame include Nemanja Matic, whose house in Finlay Street would make matchdays a doddle, and another Serbian in Luka Milivojevic, who Silva coached at Olympiacos. Both defensive midfielders would offer vast Premier League experience that this Fulham side lacks – but neither would fit the conventional Fulham capture of the recent past. Would they be an Andre Schurrle seeking a final pay day or more like Ryan Babel, who surprised all of us with how good he was in a team destined for the drop?

Going forward Fulham will count on the magnificent Aleksander Mitrovic, whose stunning 43 goals powered us to promotion. It was lovely to hear Tom Cairney authoritatively dismiss the ‘he’s not good enough for the Premier League’ narrative on Talksport yesterday afternoon: Mitrovic’s international record shows that he can be handful for even the best defenders, but the key will be getting numbers into the box to support him. The Manor Solomon saga is still to be concluded: Fabrizio Romano declared it dead days ago, but other reports suggest the deal is very much alive. Even if the Whites do add the Israeli, they won’t be able to rely on Harry Wilson’s assists and Mitrovic alone, they will need creativity in the number ten position to replace the departing Fabio Carvalho.

Fulham are certainly looking, although the soon-to-be free agent Andriy Yarmolenko hardly produced his best form at West Ham and a link to Miguel Almiron is intriguing. Viktor Gyokeres, fresh from a fine season with Coventry and two terrific performances against Silva’s side, continues to be mentioned in the red tops but the prospect of Luke Harris and Jay Stansfield featuring in pre-season alongside Rodrigo Muniz is appealing. The club’s recruitment team are definitely hard up at work and it is obvious that Silva would love a less raw alternative to the hulking physicality of Mitrovic. Persuading an established forward to come to Craven Cottage to be a back up forward at best is a tall order, though.

The Whites certainly need to strengthen and the earlier Silva’s signings can bed in, the better. A good partner for Tosin Adarabioyo has to be the first priority, as a steady central defensive partnership will be pivotal in the Premier League. There is also a need for some substantial squad depth – and not just because of rule change regarding the number of substitutes. Fulham’s squad is weighed down by an extraordinary amount of deadwood who are unlikely to attract serious suitors so a swift overhaul, akin to the one carried out by Slavisa Jokanovic in 2016, is required. It is such a tough job, but the rewards are tantalising. You feel that if Silva can guide Fulham to safety this season, he might be the man to firmly establish the Cottagers in the top flight once again.