Premier League Preview Number 15: Fulham

08 August 2009

Fulham

Biggest Ins: Bjorn Helge Riise will provide good depth on the right side of midfield, if not pushing Simon Davies for the starting spot. Stephen Kelly at the back is simply a guy to fill numbers.

Biggest Outs: Squad players Collins John and Moritz Volz are the biggest losses for Roy Hodgson’s men this summer.

Easiest Month: February. After an away trip to Bolton, Fulham host Burnley and Birmingham City. The month ends away to Sunderland. It’s possible nine points can be had out of this month.

Toughest Month: December. After possibly finishing up with the Europa League (still have one more qualifying round to go), Fulham host Sunderland before two difficult away trips to Burnley and Stoke City. The hell part of this schedule is hosting Manchester United and Tottenham before a trip to Stamford Bridge. Four points is the best case scenario out of this month.

Five Questions About Fulham This Season
1) How does the Europa League affect this team? If Fulham go out in the fourth round of qualifying, it could devastate them all season long. If they get through their first jaunt into Europe advancing to the knockout stages, we will hear two months of ‘how serious do you take this competition now’. Does anyone remember Aston Villa last season? If you make it to the group stages and beyond, enjoy the ride in Europe just as Middlesbrough did…all the way to the final.
2) Can Fulham stay relatively healthy for the second year running? Last season, they had eight players play at least thirty games in the same position and Clint Dempsey played in twenty eight games all over the midfield and forward line. If the injury bug hits this team, the depth on board hasn’t been tested in the top flight in a long time.
3) Is this the last ride of Roy Hodgson at Fulham? If he has another good season in the Premier League, does a major club come calling his name? Yes he’s advanced in years, but if a major international club came calling one more time, would he take it?
4) How does the back four look should Brede Hangeland leave? He has been targeted by Arsenal and while for the moment interest has backed off a little bit, until the window closes it is a worrying prospect.
5) Will this be a breakout year for both Eddie Johnson and Clint Dempsey? Dempsey’s stock rose in the eyes of the English media after the Confederations Cup. Eddie Johnson, by all accounts, has impressed in preseason training. If there is anyone in England who can get Eddie Johnson to fulfill his potential, Roy Hodgson can do so.

My Ultimate Reality: This will be a season of frustration for Fulham. I just have a feeling the injury bug will bite and the added games of European football will make life difficult on what was almost a set squad by Hodgson. Roy Hodgson is a masterful tactician and can keep up with the best managers in the game. I don’t see Fulham in relegation trouble at any point this season, but I don’t see them leaving the lower third of the table after February. As for Europe, I do expect Fulham to shock a lot of people in making at least a round of sixteen or quarterfinal run. They have the perfect man for the job to guide them.

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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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