Last Season: 12th
New Signings: Greening, Senderos
Key Player: Brede Hangeland
One To Watch: Matthew Briggs
Needs A Big Year: Andy Johnson
Would Quite Like: More of the same.
Thoughts: It must be quite nice for Mark Hughes to inherit the basis of a very sound, organised Fulham team. Roy Hodgson performed wonders in getting more than the sum of its parts out a small squad, finishing seventh in 2008/09 before reaching the Europa League final last season. All while playing a neat passing game.
Hughes perhaps unfairly gets maligned for the football his teams produce – his Blackburn team played some decent stuff on occasion but there’s no doubt Fulham will be less fun to watch this season. Despite his protests, Hughes can’t deny Rovers finished bottom of the fair play league in each of his four seasons in charge.
Even so, I suspect the foundations will stay much the same with two banks of four and Dempsey or Gera taking turns to support Zamora but perhaps with everyone tackling a little more aggressively. Hughes will certainly want to improve Fulham’s away form, which while better last season, still provides few very victories. A striker to take the burden off Zamora is certainly needed as Andy Johnson seems perma-crocked.
If Arsenal prise away Schwarzer (unlikely given the relationship between Hughes and Wenger) then a steadying presence in goal will also have to be found. Al Fayed has tended to back his managers in the transfer window, and if Hughes can persuade players of the quality of Bellamy or Santa Cruz to join either on loan or permanently, then another top half finish should arrive in May.