We’ve asked Fulham fan Russ Goldman to give us the lowdown on Friday’s opposition. Russ hosts the Cottage Talk podcast and this is what he had to say about the Championship, Fulham and Newcastle ahead of the opening match of the season:
1) What are your views on the Championship this year? Is it stronger than last year?
I think this season will be the toughest for Fulham since going down to the Championship. It will be stronger because of the teams that have dropped down from the Barclays Premier League. I think this season will also be extremely even as Financial Fair Play is really starting to play a factor in this Division. You have to be careful on how you spend your money, and I think that has helped the competitive balance throughout the Division.
From top to bottom you will deal with difficult matches, and that is one of the reasons that the league is fun to watch. I don’t expect one team to run away with it, but your top six teams should establish themselves fairly quickly in this league. For the rest of the division, you will see that there is not much separating a team in 10th to a team in 21st. This league is exciting, but also extremely competitive.
2) What changes have Fulham made this summer? Are you well prepared going into Friday?
Fulham have made many changes from last season – they needed to build a new identity. Under Kit Symons, Fulham did not have a real defined style, but I can already see that head coach Slavisa Jokanovic is building a team that is going to press and attack. The two biggest weaknesses Fulham had last season were the defence and the lack of pace. Jokanovic has addressed both issues with the 8 signings he has made this summer. The theme this pre-season has been pace and the defence being very solid. The pre-season has been very encouraging, but we will see for real how far they have come starting this Friday. However, I believe Fulham are well prepared to start the season.
Jokanovic has addressed both issues with the eight signings he has made this summer. The theme this pre-season has been pace and the defence has been very solid. The pre-season has been very encouraging, but we will see for real how far they have come starting this Friday. However, I believe Fulham are well prepared to start the season.
3) There have been contrasting views on Ross McCormack amongst Fulham fans, what are your views on the situation?
My view is that Ross McCormack is a pure goalscorer and his record has proven that. However, with the change of style for Fulham this season, I actually don’t know how he fits to how I think Jokanovic wants to play. McCormack is a player where everything goes through him, so when you have this change of style utilising the pace we have now, it is hard to see how it would work. I call him the “Championship Wayne Rooney” and that has positives and negatives attached to it.
Fulham still need possibly five or six more players, so business-wise, it makes sense to sell him and reinvest that money in players that can play within the style of Jokanovic. If I was running the club, I would get as much as I could for McCormack and move on. My view is that McCormack will score any team goals, but for Fulham building a brand new team, I think both sides need to go their separate ways.
4) This will be Slavisa Jokanovic’s first full season at the club, how do you think he will look to play this season?
Jokanovic wants his team to press high up the pitch and control the play. He has used different formations, so I am not sure which one he will use against Newcastle United. It could be a 4-4-2, 4-4-1-1, 4-3-3, or even a 3-5-2 that he used last season. He is a tactician and plays the chess game against the other manager. He will set up Fulham with the players and the formation to take advantage of the weaknesses that he sees in his opponent. What is also great about Jokanovic is that if it is not working, he is not afraid to make early substitutions or change the formation.
5) What are your expectations going into the season? Where do you think Fulham will finish?
My expectations are much higher than the experts, as I have seen the changes to Fulham in pre-season. I think right now, Fulham can battle for a play-off position. However, if Jokanovic can add the five players he wants, they can do better than just battle for the playoffs. I have a feeling we will get those additions for the head coach, so I am making a bold prediction and picking 5th for Fulham. That would be a huge jump from 20th last season, but Brighton made the leap from 20th to 3rd so it can happen, simply because the league is that even.
6) Which Fulham players should Newcastle fans look out for on Friday?
I will give you three of the new additions for Newcastle fans to watch. I will start with right-back Denis Odoi who has pace going forward, but has shown the ability to defend pretty well as he held his own against Wilfried Zaha on Saturday in the Friendly against Crystal Palace.
Floyd Ayite has been used as a winger and he has serious pace – you will have to be aware of him. Lastly, Sone Aluko has fit in really well with Fulham, and again has a huge amount of pace. He can play as a winger, but he already has shown how dangerous he can be right behind the striker in a 4-4-1-1 formation. Those three additions are a huge reason as to why I am optimistic for this upcoming season.
7) What are your views on Newcastle this season? Do you agree with the bookmakers pricing us at such short favourites?
Newcastle deserve to be favourites this season. Firstly, having Rafa Benitez as your manager is a huge difference maker, and you have made some key signings this summer as well. The addition of Dwight Gayle will help, but I think your best addition so far is Matt Ritchie, as he is a very dangerous player.
8) What are your thoughts on Friday’s match? And what is your score prediction?
Both clubs have really had impressive pre-seasons so both teams should feel confident going into this match. What makes this very interesting is the unknown. I cannot confidently tell you how Jokanovic will set his team up against Newcastle United. With that said, I think this is going to be a very even match, and I am going to predict a 1-1 draw which would be a positive result for Fulham.
A huge thanks to Russ for helping us out – his podcast Cottage Talk can be found here.