Ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Craven Cottage for their Premier League opener against newly promoted Fulham, we had a quick chat with Andrew Beck of Cottagers Confidential, our SB Nation sister blog.
We’re going to try to be more regular with Know Your Foe / 3 Questions this season. It’s nice to get a different voice and perspective on the other Premier League clubs.
TSF: What’s different about Fulham since the last time they were up?
AB: The last time Fulham came up they had a massive roster turnover, this time they’ve added some pieces (with hopefully more still to come), but there will be much more continuity with the squad that won promotion.
The other big difference is the style that they will be playing. Under Slavisa Jokanivic, they were designed to have the ball and apply constant offensive pressure. Unfortunately, they didn’t really have anyone who could win the ball, which is sort of a big problem when your team can’t function without it. To make matters worse the defenders weren’t good enough, especially when teams could easily bypass the midfield.
Scott Parker will still want the team to have the ball, but in possession it will be much more that the other team doesn’t have it rather than attacking with it. The best comparison might be to the boring Brendan Rogers kind of attack.
TSF: What do Arsenal, and the other Premier League clubs, have to watch out for? How are Fulham going to beat you?
AB: Aleksander Mitrovic is still a physical beast who’s surprisingly skilled. He’s going to be a handful for almost any centerback, and that’s before you take into account his reputation for pushing the limits on dirty play.
Fulham also have a lot of guys who are in love with shooting from distance. The attacking midfield seemed to endlessly beat their man near the top of the box and then shoot rather than work for an opportunity nearer to goal. It led to a lot of highlight reel moments, but it isn’t the most sustainable way to attack. You definitely need to be prepared for it though, because there will be 4 or 5 guys on the pitch willing and able to take that shot.
TSF: What’s a realistic expectation for Fulham? Do they have enough to stay up?
AB: Staying up would be the realistic goal. Anything more than that is gravy. Being a London club, with a big stadium renovation soon to be completed, means they should have the financial clout to stay midtable long term if they can just make it through a year.
Right now, I don’t think they have enough. But there should be at least one more fullback coming in. They still need another CB, because Tim Ream isn’t going to cut it at his age. That being said, the bottom half of the premier league was awful last year, and I’m not sure how much better some of those teams were than the top Championship clubs (I expect Leeds to really show this). I also don’t think many clubs outside of the top 4 have done all that much to strengthen themselves. You could easily talk me into any combination of 9 teams ending in the bottom three. So just playing the odds I think they’re more likely than not to stay up.
Thanks so much to Andrew for taking the time!