Fulham have been one of the more disappointing clubs in the Premier League this season. After having won the promotion playoff final against Aston Villa last year, Fulham looked poised to make an impact in the Premier League. The club made its intentions clear after they plunged into the summer transfer market. Fulham spent 82 million pounds on four players. Jean Michael Seri, Andre Zamboanga Anguissa, Aleksandar Mitrovic, and Allie Mawson were brought in to help bolster the side. However, the club also made numerous smaller signings including loans for Calum Chambers, Luciano Vietto, and Sergio Rico. All of the transfers were no doubt upgrades over the side that got the club promoted from the Championship, however too many signings can disrupt the continuity that made Fulham so successful.
It is always a balancing act when trying to improve a newly promoted squad. On the one hand, you must make acquisitions that can help bridge the unquestionable gap in quality, but on the other hand a club must be wary of losing the identity that made the club successful in the first place. Teams like Brighton and Hove Albion and Burnley FC have managed to find positive results by sticking to a particular strategy that was employed prior to their promotion to the Premier League. Brighton spent 58 million pounds across all of their signings in their first transfer window in the Premier League. Burnley spent 41 million pounds in their first window in 2016. This is not to say that clubs that do not spend money will find more success, but rather that clubs who are less reliant on overhauling their squads will be more likely to keep a more cohesive locker room.
Fulham have just recently fired Claudio Ranieri after 17 matches in charge. He was only able to muster three wins in those 17 games. Whether or not he was the right person to hire in the first place, he was not at fault for the sides woes but he was just unable to make them better. Ranieri had taken over for Slavisa Jokanovic, who had led Fulham up to the Premier League the season before. There was a great deal of hype surrounding Jokanovic’s ability to get the best out of his players while in the Championship. It was expected that excluding a rather meek defense, the club should have been able to avoid relegation. Yet, Jokanovic was unable to turn his success in the Championship into success in the Premier League. Fulham lacked the necessary players on defense to deal with the quick and technically gifted attacking players of the opposition.
Fulham now sit in 19th with only 17 points to their name. Scott Parker, former player of Fulham, has taken over as manager for the remainder of the season. Unfortunately, Fulham are 10 points from safety and have struggled to score goals as well giving up a league high 65 goals. Mitrovic has been the only consistent scorer with 10 goals in 29 matches. The next highest is Andre Schurrle with 6 goals. Youngster Ryan Sessegnon has been unable to make his mark in the Premier League accounting for only two goals and five assists. The Fulham defense has only been able to keep two clean sheets all season. In hindsight, the investments on the pitch were in the incorrect positions.
Fulham are getting closer to become officially relegated from the Premier League. While they can still turn it around, it is unlikely that Scott Parker will be able to correct the many issues that plague his side. Fulham will be looking to trim the squad to cope with the financial limitations accompanied with competing in the Championship next season. Players like Seri and Anguissa will be looking for moves away so they can continue to play in top divisions across Europe. One of the more frustrating losses would be Ryan Sessegnon. Having been tipped to be a star in the making, he would not relish the reality of having to play another season in the Championship. At the same time, Premier League clubs will be looking to purchase him on the cheap as Fulham look to get as much money as they can from a transfer fee.
Fulham will also be needing to purchase players to remain competitive in the Championship. Relegation is not a death sentence for a club as quick promotion back to the top flight is not out of the question. However, if a strong club structure is not in place, then Fulham could find themselves fighting amongst the mid table Championship side for the next few seasons. It is a disconsolate end for club that was expected to perform much better this season. While Fulham were not necessarily expected to be comfortably sitting mid table, the manner in which Fulham has performed may be creating apathy amongst supporters. If Fulham are indeed relegated, then the Premier League will be losing a historic club and a historic stadium. This summer will be important but no less challenging for Fulham. They must retain their identity and push for a return to the Premier League.
*Transfer information was gathered from Transfermrkt website