The consummate ease with which Fulham avoided Premier League relegation last season, finishing tenth in the table, raised expectations around Craven Cottage this campaign.
However, the summer transfer window subsequently saw the club become victims of their own success with the vultures circling for a number of the side’s top talent including manager Marco Silva, talisman Aleksandar Mitrovic and midfield lynchpin Joao Palhinha.
Maintaining two out of three may not have been a bad return (Mitrovic joining Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal in a club record deal for Fulham) but the uncertainty it brought continued right up until deadline day with Bayern Munich’s failed pursuit of Palhinha.
There’s no doubt Palhinha will continue to attract attention, with the club moving swiftly to sign the 28-year-old onto a new, improved contract alongside new deals for Willian and Harrison Reed as well.
The trio have been joined by a host of new arrivals with Ajax defender Calvin Bassey being the stand-out signing and natural, long-term successor to the ageing Tim Ream.
Timothy Castagne (Leicester), Alex Iwobi (Everton) and Adama Traore (Wolves) have also brought much-needed strength in depth to a side which at times looked short of options in key areas.
Fulham may only have accrued eight points from seven games but when considering the calibre of opponents they have faced (Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City, Chelsea), it’s a reasonable return from a tough start.
Nevertheless, without Mitrovic, goals have been hard to come by with Fulham scoring the same amount (5) as bottom of the table Sheffield United and AFC Bournemouth and only one of those coming from a recognised striker (Carlos Vinicius).
Raul Jimenez has been brought in as one solution but question marks remain over the Mexican’s long-term impact following his horrendous head injury he suffered back in 2020.
Jimenez’s arrival has seen Silva tweak Fulham’s formation to a 4-3-3, bolstering the midfield as opposed to the previous 4-2-3-1 line-up that often saw Mitrovic utilised as the lone striker.
Regardless of Jimenez’s own goal scoring issues, he was never going to be a like-for-like replacement for Mitrovic, preferring the ball played to his feet or finding spaces to run in behind defences.
There is a general feeling that another striker in the mould of Mitrovic is still needed, either in the January window or next summer but in the meantime the squad has enough to remain competitive and consolidate their Premier League position.
Given the pre-season uncertainty and the tough start to the season, Fulham’s next game at home to Sheffield United appears even more important.
A good win will see the Cottagers sign off ahead of the international break in a solid position before another tricky run of fixtures.
Should three points be achieved, Silva’s side will hopefully be able to finally put the summer distractions behind them and kick on – anything less and question marks could slowly begin to be raised.