Key man: Dimitar Berbatov
Predicted position: 11th
At a football club, changes of ownership are normally treated with a mixture of excitement and fear, with the club possibly leaping into a wealthier future but also running the risk of being terribly mismanaged, as history shows.
Fulham, however, find themselves in the enviable position of knowing that they’re likely to have swapped stability for more stability, a luxury not many clubs can afford in this day and age.
Mohamed Al Fayed, the man who financed the club’s arrival in the top-flight at the turn of the Millennium, has stepped aside having sold the West London outfit to to Shahid Khan in July, a decision Fulham fans will hope proves to be as astute as the many Al Fayed took during his time in charge (Michael Jackson’s statue, obviously, doesn’t feature on the list).
Under Al Fayed’s ownership, the Cottagers established themselves as a regular presence in the Premier League, never good enough to seriously challenge for trophies, bar their impressive run in the Europa League in 2011, and yet comfortably too good to be find themselves dragged into the quicksand of the relegation zone.
Shahid Khan’s financial muscles are even bigger than Al Fayed’s, but Fulham’s new owner is yet to flex them significantly this summer, as the Cottagers have conducted their business in typically understated, yet effective, fashion.
Soon after the season ended, Martin Jol secured Sascha Riether from Cologne for just over £1m. The German full-back had an impressive season on loan at Fulham last season, the defensive side of his game as impressive as his marauding runs forwards that saw him deliver the second-highest number of crosses for a Premier League full-back.
Fulham conceded 60 goals last season and Martin Jol has moved swiftly this summer to shore up his defence, with former Athletic Bilbao defender Fernando Amorebieta set to partner Brede Hangeland in the middle of the back four.
The Basque looks to be a smart addition, particularly considering he has European football experience, is comfortable with a ball at his feet and hasn’t costed Fulham a penny.
Likewise, Maarten Stekelenburg should prove to be a reliable replacement for Mark Schwarzer, who moved up the Kings Road and joined Chelsea. The Dutch keeper lost his starting spot at Roma last season, but will be desperate to impress Dutch boss Louis Van Gaal in a World Cup year.
Further up the pitch, Fulham’s capture of Derek Boateng from Ukranian outfit Dnipro could prove to be another shrewd piece of business but Martin Jol must bolster his midfield options, for Steve Sidwell can’t do all the water carrying by himself, while Damien Duff and Giorgos Karagounis performed admirably last season, but neither is getting any younger.
Ashkan Dejagah, Alexander Kacaniklic and Kerim Frei are more than capable to provide entertainment in spades, but have so far lack the consistency required to deliver on a weekly basis.
Up-front, Fulham could do with some strengthening too, considering that apart from Dimitar Berbatov, the club’s top scorer with 15 league goals last season, nobody apart from Mladen Petric netted more than five times last season and the Croatian was released this summer.
At the time of writing, Martin Jol’s pursuit of Darren Bent is still ongoing and a proven goalscorer like the Villa frontman could prove to be crucial for the West Londoners, as they look to begin the Khan era in style.
What’s in store for Fulham this season? Will Martin Jol’s men continue their consistent run or will they aim even higher if they manage to secure Darren Bent? Let us know below or get in touch via our Facebook or Twitter.