Somehow they’ve gone under the radar after a flying start. Fulham were your typical yo-yo club at the start of the season. Jibes were made about them and Norwich City not even contributing to Premier League campaigns during previous stints but those critics have been quickly silenced after a season of success for the Cottagers.
The opening day draw with Liverpool proved two things: Fulham could compete with the elite clubs and Aleksandar Mitrovic was serious about taking the Premier League by storm this season. Having scored a record 43 goals in their title-winning Championship season, this term he has been the goal-scoring focal point that Fulham have craved. Two goals against the Reds got him up and running and he’s scored 14 in 23 top flight games this term.
Their season could have been even better. They should have had a Wembley trip to embrace but they absolutely capitulated at Old Trafford as Willian handled the ball on the line, Mitrovic pushed the referee and Marco Silva was also sent off after losing his head. It was a brilliant watch for the neutral but not so much if you were desperate for the Whites to get to Wembley.
- Northern dominance in English football
That in turn led to star man Mitro being banned for eight matches, of which Fulham lost five - so you can see how their European hopes tailed off towards the end of the season. Despite that, this has still been a campaign worthy of huge celebration for Fulham.
The bookies had them as the second favourites to get relegated when the season got underway, only above Bournmeouth, yet they, along with the other two newly-promoted teams have all kept their heads above water this term. It means the relegation battle that concludes on Sunday afternoon features three established Premier League teams and will give the top flight a refreshing look next term.
But Fulham haven’t just avoided the relegation stress, they’ve not been anywhere near the bottom three at any point. In fact, the only time they’ve been in the bottom half this season was after two gameweeks. Ever since they’ve been as high as 6th or as low as their current position in 10th.
And they are guaranteed a top half finish, having amassed 52 points in the league this term. They’re eight points clear of Crystal Palace in 11th and have finished above Chelsea for the first time since 1983. That’s something they’ve been waiting to do for 40 years! To give that some context, bookmakers were offering 10/1 for Fulham to outdo their west London rivals at the start of the season.
Out of the two, who would have thought the club on their third manager of the season and out of touch with their fans would be Chelsea? They also deserve praise for how they handled the transfer market. Nottingham Forest have also stayed up, but they’ve done so in a garish way by spending £140m.
Meanwhile Fulham spent £60m, but have done so in smart fashion. They have revived the career of Willian, plucked out a gem in Joao Palhinha from Sporting CP who has trebled in value in one season and got a whole season out of the influential Andreas Pereira. Bernd Leno was a snip from Arsenal and has been solid number one while Issa Diop has contributed well after his summer move from West Ham.
None of these signings raised the needle enough for people to tip Fulham for survival, yet they were smart arrivals. And surprisingly, almost all of their newbies have been successes. Barely a wasted penny, and that bodes well for Marco Silva moving forward. Avoiding relegation will be the goal again next term, but with Mitro available for a full season and some more strong recruitment, Fulham could trouble the European spots again.