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Opposition Research: Fulham Q&A with Russ Goldman of Cottage Talk

We checked in for the latest on Marco Silva’s bunch.

Fulham FC v Brentford FC - Premier League Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

Arsenal face Fulham on Saturday at the Emirates. We checked in with Russ Goldman of Cottage Talk podcast to get the inside scoop on the Cottagers. The Gunners’ neighbors to the south finished a (perhaps) surprising 10th last season but had a tumultuous summer that saw star striker Aleksandar Mitrović force a big money move to Saudi Arabia. How will they fare without their primary goalscorer? Can they push for a European finish or will the departure drop them towards the relegation battle?

TSF: What’s the state of Fulham Football Club in the early days of the Premier League season? We’ll get to the biggest roster change in a second, but what other important business has the club done or have left to do? Is there a player or two you’re particularly excited about, that you think might have a big year?

CT: They have much to do in the transfer window and not much time to do it. I expect them to bring in five or six more players before the window closes next week. I think Calvin Bassey will be Fulham’s long term successor to Tim Ream so I am excited to see how the young Nigerian develops this season. I’m intrigued to see what Adama Traore and Raul Jimenez can offer as well. They’re Premier League veterans who’ve both had impressive, albeit fleeting, runs of form over the years.

The problem is Fulham still need several players to make this a successful window. The club need defensive reinforcements: at least one centerback and fullback. The attack needs help, too: a replacement striker and perhaps a creative, attacking midfielder.

TSF: Fulham were able to fend off Saudi approaches for manager Marco Silva but were unsuccessful in holding onto Aleksandar Mitrovic. Why is that? How are the club going to spend the money made from selling the striker? Do they need to buy a replacement or do they have one at the club? I’ve seen some links to Arsenal’s Folarin Balogun crop up.

CT: I am very disappointed that ownership buckled in the end and sold Mitrovic. They did not need to do it. He was under contract with the club through 2026. They could have held onto him and convinced him to return to the fold. They let him force a move and put himself ahead of the club. They need to buy a replacement because Jimenez wasn’t signed to be an every week starter and primary scorer in the same way that Mitro was.

I would be all for Balogun. We’re Fulhamerica, after all, and I’m in the States. I was told by a source that Fulham would be talking to his agent this week. But Balogun isn’t the only target, Fulham are contacting several clubs about strikers. Elye Wahi from Montpellier and Hugo Ekitike at PSG are both on the club’s radar.

TSF: What does a successful campaign look like for Fulham this year? Is a Conference League finish achievable?

CT: I think a successful season is better than 10th. I predicted seventh and I’m sticking to that. Ownership needs to give Silva the players he needs before the window closes to make that possible. The manager has shown he can get a lot out of his players. People expected Fulham to be in the relegation picture last year, and Marco Silva guided the club to a fantastic season. Back the manager.

TSF: Say Arsenal beat Fulham on Saturday. What happened? As in what weaknesses were the Gunners able to exploit / which Fulham players struggled?

CT: It’s pretty simple. Attack the new centre-back pairing of Issa Diop and Calvin Bassey. Tim Ream is suspended because he picked up two yellows against Brentford last weekend. Diop and Bassey haven’t started a Premier League match together. Even though I’m excited for Bassey’s growth and development this season, making your first Premier League start at the Emirates against Arsenal is a tough ask.

TSF: And flip that on its head. Fulham beat Arsenal. How did they manage it? How did Marco Silva set up his side?

CT: Well it will come down to a few things. The biggest is the return of João Palhinha. He did not play at Craven Cottage last season when Arsenal dominated Fulham. The Portuguese central midfielder is a key piece for Marco Silva and should help Fulham not get eviscerated in the middle of the pitch.

Fulham are most likely to score off a set piece rather than open play. The club tied for fifth most set piece goals last season. They’ll hope to nick a goal and hold onto the lead. And to hold onto a lead, they’ll need Bernd Leno to have a big game. He’s been good so far this season and should have extra motivation to beat his former club.

TSF: We always end with a match prediction. How do you think Saturday’s contest plays out? Final score?

CT: 1-0 to Arsenal. Fulham under Silva tend to bounce right back after a bad loss. It won’t be enough for a result, but Fulham won’t roll over. They’ll give Arsenal a tough game.

Thanks so much to Russ for the insight. Be sure to check out my (Aaron) appearance on the Cottage Talk show later today. I’ll post the link when it publishes.