Top of the league and playing beautiful football. New signings making an instant impact and key players are back to fitness after long-term injuries. On Friday, Arsenal will learn their Europa League group stage opponents as the Gunners once again look to reestablish their place in European competitions. But before that journey begins Fulham visit the Emirates on Saturday who are off to their own impressive start in the Premier League.
The familiar London rivals are back in the top flight once again after soaring through the Championship last season. On the back of an in-form Aleksandar Mitrović and a solid summer transfer window, Fulham opened the season with a dramatic 2-2 draw against Liverpool. Another draw with Wolves and a win over Brentford followed, placing Fulham 7th place in the Premier League.
This week for the Q&A we welcome in Alan Drewett Jr. from Fulham website HammyEnd.com to discuss the club’s return to the Premier League (again), a busy summer signing period, their opening three matches, plus a prediction for Saturday’s game.
TSF: 106 goals brought Fulham their third Championship title, the first since 2000-01. After immediately dropping back down after their last two promotions, will it be third time’s the charm?
Alan: I certainly hope it’s third time lucky. We look like we are in a good place in regards to our starting XI but our squad as a whole is lacking depth. Mitrovic has started off the season as we expected him to and if he stays fit for all 38 games, it puts us in a strong position to stay out of the bottom 3 places come May.
TSF: After an impressive season winning the Championship, Fulham had a sold summer of transfer activity. Our own Bernd Leno, Issa Diop (West Ham), Kevin Mbabu (Wolfsburg), Andreas Pereira (Manchester United), João Palhinha (Sporting CP) & a young attacking midfielder from Juventus, Kristian Šekularac. How do you grade those additions? Who do you think will have the biggest impact? And what is the biggest gap remaining in the squad?
Alan: Our transfer window has been a good one so far. The additions of João Paulhinha and Andreas Pereira have really strengthened our midfield and they have slotted straight in and haven’t looked out of place. I am very happy with the addition of Bernd Leno as he provides us with Premier League experience and the £3m + add-ons is very good business from our point of view. Our biggest area we needed to strengthen was our defence and we have done that with Diop and Duffy. But we will be in big trouble if Mitrovic was to get injured as he is the only recognized striker within the squad.
TSF: Based on those previous drops back down to the Championship and the summer transfer activity, what were your pre-season expectations coming into the season? Beyond simply surviving relegation, what do you want to see from this year’s team?
Alan: I would be lying if I said finishing 17th wasn’t the aim as it is. As long as we finish outside the bottom 3, it’s a great season for any newly promoted club. Surviving your first season in the league is massive for any club to then look to improve their squad further. After the first 3 games, we look to be in a good place.
TSF: The opening trio of matches had to have surpassed those expectations. Two draws, including 2-2 against Liverpool, and a win last time out over Brentford. What’s worked well for Fulham in those games and do they enter the match against Arsenal feeling like they have nothing to lose?
Alan: Absolutely, we are expected to get beat and there’s a very good chance we will. However, I do think we’ll be competitive in the majority of games this season. And with the confidence from the first three games under our belts, I am hoping to see a good performance.
TSF: And now they head to the Emirates to take on an Arsenal side in fine form. Give us your predicted starting lineup and what you think the scoreline will look like.
Alan: Leno, Tete, Tosin, Ream, Robinson, Paulhinha, Reed, Andreas, Decordova-Reid, Kebano, and Mitrovic will probably be our lineup. The only possible change may be Stansfield for Kebano. My prediction is Arsenal 3-1 Fulham, I think the fast-paced attack of Arsenal will get the better of our defence.
Thanks to Alan & HammyEnd.com for chatting with us prior to this weekend’s match.