Premier League Preview - Fulham
NICKNAME: The Cottagers
MANAGER: Martin Jol
STADIUM: Craven Cottage (25700)
LAST SEASON: 9TH
Fulham is a club that continues to punch above their weight and impressively so. Driven on by the goals and creativity of American forward Clint Dempsey, the Whites finished a respectable ninth, picking up several high-profile scalps along the way. Pavel Pogrebnyak and Moussa Dembele were two key figures in the Fulham second half push.
IN: Hugo Rodallega (Wigan, free), Mladen Petric (Hamburg, free), George Williams (MK Dons, free), Sascha Riether (Cologne, loan)
OUT: Dickson Etuhu (Blackburn, undisclosed), Marcel Gecov (AA Gent, undisclosed), Andrew Johnson (QPR, free), Danny Murphy (Blackburn, free), Pavel Pogrebnyak (Reading, free), Bjorn Helge Riise (released), Orlando Sa (released)
While Hugo Rodallega is a very useful signing for Fulham, it cannot mask the fact that Pogrebnyak opted for newly-promoted Reading over an experienced top flight side. Couple this with Clint Dempsey's desire to depart and Fulham's future may not be looking quite as rosy as hoped given a good performance last season.
There are still plenty of grounds for optimism - Rodallega consistently over-performing in a relegation-threatened Wigan Athletic side will bolster the attack for one - but in what will be a season of transition for Fulham, can they remain consistent and once again finish in the top half.
KEY PLAYER: Mladen Petric
A new addition to the Fulham squad, Petric will be most remembered for knocking England out of qualitying for the Euorpean Championships in 2008 - England's first defeat at the newly built Wembley that sparked a mass inquest into the side's disappointment. Starting his career in Switzerland with Baden and Grasshoppers, Petric eventually made the move to Swiss giants Basel.
38 goals in 72 games prompted Dortmund to come calling and after a season there he moved on to Hamburg where a fee of around 5m euros was paid out for his services. He was however released last season and free to pursue a move to England, where Martin Jol reunited with the Croatian striker.
I believe that Fulham can maintain their top half status, despite the fact Dempsey could depart. Dembele in particular is a fine player that will be at the heart of the Whites attack - strikers will be sure to profit from his industrious work.
The bulk of the line-up remains the same but the transition of losing some key players could of course go one way or another. I expect that Martin Jol will have his side well drilled coming into the season and steer the ship in the right direction, albeit potentially without star talents.
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