Premier League

Down by the riverside, something stirs

SOME impressive new signings, a significant chunk of cash invested and a healthy amount of continuity. Fulham have embarked on their return to the Premier League with gusto, arguably making more noise this close season than their far more celebrated neighbours along the road.

I have to admit I have a vested interest in Fulham doing well having bought a season ticket for 2018-19 when promotion was far from certain. For £ 390, I am watching Premier League football at one of Britain’s best football locations at a club that used to define the word “nice”. When you consider it is a couple of hundred quid to watch step three non-league in my home town, Fulham are offering value for money. Or maybe, it is just a case of realistic pricing.

Fulham may not consider they have a long-term future in the Premier, but on the evidence of their recent expenditure, they’re having a go at more than survival. In the space of a few days, they have secured some interesting players, and judging by the news flow, there may be more to come before the transfer deadline.

The key signing, as far as many people were concerned, was luring Aleksandar Mitrović from Newcastle United, a deal that cost Fulham around £ 20 million after a loan spell last season that saw the Serbian international score 12 goals in 20 games. Going into the Premier League without a quality striker would be suicidal to some extent so tying-up Mitrović was something of a coup. With the current situation at Newcastle, a move to London must have looked very attractive for the 23 year-old.

It is good to see André Schürrle return to South West London on a two-year loan deal from Borussia Dortmund. He’s still only 27 and he’s won 57 caps for Germany. His stint at Chelsea ended in January 2015 when he was sold to Wolfsburg for £ 22 million. Normally a wide man, he can also play as a second striker, and is most effective when a team plays on the counter-attack. This could be a very good piece of business by Fulham.

Also worth watching out for is midfielder Jean Michaël Seri, a 27 year-old Ivorian who was also on the shopping list of both Dortmund and Chelsea. Apparently, Fulham have paid £ 25 million, a club record, to Nice for a player who has won 18 caps for the Ivory Coast. Also making the journey from the south of France is versatile defender Maxime Le Marchand.

Of course, Fulham have one of the most coveted youngsters in London football in Ryan Sessegnon, who made an impact in 2017-18 with 15 goals in the Championship. He’s just 18 and has been capped by England under-21 and there was [premature] talk of him being called-up by England’s senior team. How long Fulham keep him is open to debate. Fulham manager Slaviša Jokanovic has described his protégé as a mix between Real Madrid duo Marcelo and Gareth Bale, which is tantamount to saying, “come and get him…but he will cost you.” Tottenham have shown an interest, but one senses the Sessegnon story will run through the season, especially if Fulham start to struggle and need money to strengthen mid-season.

With their new signings and players like the impressive Tom Cairney and Sessegnon in their line-up, Fulham may do much better than many people think, though. They could slip very comfortably back into the Premier League this season – if they can keep their key players and, of course, their manager.

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