Fulham Fanview: 'With a tighter defence we should remain a force in the top 10'

"After Zamora and Johnson joined Hughes at QPR, I'd love to repeat our 6-0 demolition of them this year" - a Cottagers fan offers his views ahead of the new Premier League season
FAN: Kester Jones

The target: Top 10 finish

A top-half finish to the season would be good. A solid display throughout last year saw us finish in ninth and more of the same this time round would be great. It’s difficult to better yourself year on year due to the amount of money that is being spent by teams around us, but Martin Jol has invested what funds are available to him to give the squad a new look, particularly up front, with a lot of players also departing Craven Cottage.

My thoughts on the gaffer...

After a shaky start last season, from Christmas we saw a great improvement in the team and Martin Jol's football philosophy is now starting to show through.

Having had three different managers in three seasons, consistency and stability is required now. Hopefully Jol continues to bring through youth players and play attractive football at the Cottage, and I'm confident he will build for the long term.

Our key man this season

A solid defence is essential to us building on last season and finishing in the top half. It would seem that when Brede Hangeland is in the team we are a lot more organised and solid at the back, and if we can tighten up on the 56 goals conceded last term, then we have the foundations push on to make a surprise challenge for European places, or at least a potential cup run.

Youngster to watch

Kerim Frei has come through the ranks at the club and broke into the first team last season. He's small, quick, sharp and adds another dimension to our team when he plays.

A lot like Aaron Lennon at Tottenham, Jol likes the smaller, quicker players to play wide and supply to the front men. And it’s not just fans at the Cottage who are noticing his potential, with the 18-year-old also recently called up to the Turkish national side for a friendly with Austria.

A player who must deliver

Bryan Ruiz joined the club in the summer transfer window last season after we beat Newcastle to his signature, but he endured a torrid time in his first five or six games.

He's since shown glimpses of the player that the Twente fans adored, including that wonderful chipped goal against Bolton at the back end of last year. After a full pre-season, he will be fit and up to the speed of the Premier League, therefore he must begin to deliver week in week out. We don't want another Steve Marlet on our hands!
Our Achilles heel

We have never been the most productive team in the last third of the field and the changes in management in recent years have not really improved the situation. We relied a lot on Clint Dempsey last year, and his 23 goals in all competitions from midfield contributed massively to our top 10 finish.

However, he seems destined for pastures new, with Liverpool still likely to be his next destination. Therefore the new-look front line of Hugo Rodallega and Mladen Petric must step up with the goals and ease the pressure on the attacking midfield players.

Fixture I am looking forward to the most...

QPR are our local rivals, and while the clash with Chelsea at home is a big one, the Rs recently signed Bobby Zamora and Andy Johnson from us, as well as having Mark Hughes at the helm after he left Fulham due to a supposed lack of ambition. Those three moving across west London has not helped relationships between us and QPR and I’m pretty keen to see us repeat the 6-0 demolition from last season at the Cottage!

Our toughest opponents will be...

Manchester City - although they have not spent big so far in the transfer market, I still anticipate the oil money will be used again to strengthen their squad as they look to retain the Premier League title. If you look at the City team, they have at least two world class players for every position, but will naturally look to reinforce if they want to dominate European competition.

Having said that, we were the first side to halt the Man City juggernaut last season with a 2-2 draw in September, and it would be great to see us go one better this year.

Player we love to hate

Definitely Bobby Zamora! He joined QPR in the January transfer window for their ambition, but almost found himself in the Championship. There is no doubt he was great at times with us, and the big calls to see him in the England set-up only came when he was in a Fulham shirt. Yet I'm sure we will see the old lazy Bobby in for the Hoops this year.

Rival player from the Premier League you'd have in your team?

I'm a big fan of Manchester City playmaker David Silva. He has the ability to change a game, he can dazzle with the ball at his feet and is always likely to chip in with the odd goal. The Spaniard may have tailed off towards the back end of last season, but he bore so much of City’s attacking impetus in the first six months of the campaign, it’s no wonder that the odd injury and niggle began to take its toll. If we could have him at the Cottage, well, it’d be blooming fantastic!

My first choice XI






My verdict

I'm looking forward to the new season and I’m certainly approaching the big kick-off on Saturday with a sense of optimism. I think we need a few more new faces in through the door before the August 31 deadline, and if Dempsey does leave, certainly in attacking midfield.

I hope that our away form picks up this year and we continue to play the good, attractive football which we saw glimpses of last season. If we maintain a place in top 10 with all the above as well, I think many Fulham fans would be satisfied.