After securing promotion via the playoffs last season, Fulham arrived back in the big time for the first time since being relegated in 2014. With money in the bank, they decided to strengthen their squad to prepare for life in the Premier League. It was a good idea in theory. Over a £100 million spent and eight months later they were condemned back down to the Championship. Fulham have succeeded in showing promoted teams how not to stage a Premier League campaign.
Fulham’s Premier League Downfall
Big Money, Big Problems
There’s only one place to start, with their summer transfer business. On paper, the signings looked good. Good enough to turn people’s heads with many people fearing Fulham could stage a successful season for that of a promoted club. Whilst the pedigree of the players was good, the transfer policy in hindsight was a touch over exuberant. Almost as if they felt that they had to spend money and ended up buying for buying’s sake.
The higher profile name signings included former Chelsea winger André Schürrle, Jean Seri and Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa. With young loanees like Calum Chambers, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Sergio Rico also looking to make impacts as well – the squad was building nicely.
Combine those with the team that brought them into the league – young talent such as Tom Cairney, Ryan Sessegnon and Aleksandar Mitrovic who helped fire them to promotion in the second half of the previous season, it all looked like it was a squad too good to go down right? Wrong.
Bringing in over a £100 million worth of talent, in the end, took away from the core group that brought them into the Premier League. Successful promoted teams of the Premier League era look to keep the core group together because that’s the identity of the team. Having a settled team starting from minute one gives the team a much better chance of settling into the league quicker. However, you have to acknowledge the step up in quality from the Championship to the Premier League.
The youthful team they had should have been strengthened in the right areas in the summer. What followed was a combination of the manager’s open style of play and a lineup that seemed to change every week. His open style of play lead to the second highest goals in the league with 79. But in the Premier League, its lead to them conceding the most goals. They have sorely missed experience in this team. Combining the youth with some much-needed experience in defence and midfield would have given more stability.
However, Slaviša Jokanović could have managed this team a whole lot better in terms of keeping a much more consistent lineup. Chopping and changing the team week in week out did not help. Especially with the defence, which never looked settled and that resulted in this team conceding the goals they have.
Trying to play open, expansive football without a settled defence has been arguably their main issue. Defeats lead to more defeats and a lack of confidence spread through the club. It felt as if they didn’t start the season with that hunger that you typically expect from a promoted team. Either way, the future could be even more problematic.
Coming back around to the talent brought in, a lot of players will feel they are too good for the Championship and some may have a point. In a poor season, players such as Cairney, Seri, Mitrovic and Sessegnon are the players most likely to gain a move. Players on loan will return to their former clubs. Out of Fulham’s starting eleven, we could be seeing a large majority of them not at the club next season.
Once again, a summer rebuild will have to take place as they deal with the financial repercussions of not being in the Premier League and all the riches they are now going to be missing out on. As well as the financial hit they will take with most of their players being risks that have failed.
The goal of being an established Premier League team has now been replaced with promotion once again. They must learn from their mistakes that success cannot be gained overnight. Failing to rebuild correctly could result in something like this happening again.
Look to the likes of Bournemouth, Stoke City, Swansea City and Wolverhampton Wanderers who have all came through the ranks and built well from the Championship to the Premier League. A rebuilding job now has to take place over summer. This could give a young English manager, Scott Parker, a chance to flourish and gain experience.
However, Fulham will be hoping that this summer can go a long way in rebuilding this club to give them the foundation to spring back to where they want to be.
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