Writer: Kristian Balkin
Date:Sunday August 8 2010
To say this Summer has been a turbulent one could be considered a reasonably large understatement.
While signings have been close to non-existent, the back pages have been filled to the brim with a managing debacle which all unfolded after Roy Hodgson's understandable departure to Liverpool.
Martin Jol was, and it's no secret, Mohamed Al Fayed's first choice for the manager role at the Cottage. However, the interest came to nothing and with what seemed slight reluctance, Al Fayed opted for the sturdy hand of Mark Hughes to take Fulham forward.
Pre-season was mixed, with a memorable win at Griffin Park followed by relative disappointments at both Portsmouth and Bournemouth.
Sparky's first game in charge on the other hand brought jubilation to Craven Cottage with a fine 5-1 drumming of Champions League qualifiers Werder Bremen.
Regrettably though, we can't read too deeply into such Summer successes as of course, they are only friendlies, and friendlies, in reality, are arranged to provide answers to questions of fitness rather than ability.
Saying that though, the boys did look sharp and it's a decent way to kick start a new managerial campaign for us.
With that in mind, I get the feeling this year has the potential to be a good one.
Firstly, let's talk transfers: The uncertainty over the managerial hot seat has left the side looking short on incomings.
Phillipe Senderos and Jonathan Greening are the only deals to go through since the window opened with the first of which being wholly Roy-Hodgson-inspired. Greening's permanent move has been met with a mixed reaction from the fans, but for the most part, his addition to the squad doesn't seem too necessary given his overly weak role in last year's triumphs.
Hughes is likely to delve into the market when you take into account his promised £20 million from Mo, yet, the wage structure at the club will by no uncertain terms be compromised, which has more than likely ruled out moves for the likes of Stephen Ireland and Craig Bellamy.
The new boss has little time to work with but I would expect him to do anything but panic, with new transfers likely to be few and far-between. I'd anticipate Mark bringing in two or three additions safe in the knowledge he has inherited a side capable of reaching a Europa League final.
I'm sure he's noticed the team is in desperate need of firepower alongside the now Internationally accredited Zamora, as well as a play maker to temporarily complement captain Danny Murphy before eventually replacing him.
At risk of being fatally proven wrong, I get the feeling our goalkeeping maestro Mark Schwarzer will be staying by the Thames and Hangeland seems a certainty to play a part in the up and coming term.
Because of this, Hughesey is unlikely to invest much into a defensive department who have gelled well over the last two years and will be looking to improve on only 46 Premier League goals conceded last season.
Tactics: With only one pre-season game to base predictions on, I can see us being tactically similar to the previous two years under Roy, with a few predictable tweaks which will suit the new chief.
Hopefully the attractive football will continue to be something to look forward to on any given weekend, but a more direct style may prove appropriate given the aerial and physical attributes Bobby Zamora possesses.
Against Bremen, for example, the first time passes from midfield in the second half exposed the German's defence far more than the slow, patient build up which was employed in the opening segment of the game.
4-4-2 or any adaption therein (4-4-1-1 e.t.c.) is likely to be a mainstay from Hodgson's era, though, I could easily be proven wrong after a few signings.
Final Standings: Once everything is looked over, even at this early stage, the season ahead looks to be relatively rewarding.
Assuming signings do come and assuming Mark Hughes withholds his reputation of getting his teams to punch above their weight, we could be looking at a decent cup run or two as well as an established, if not very reputable, league finish.
Premier League: 9th
F.A Cup: Quarter-Finalists
League Cup: Finalists/Winners
Date:Sunday August 8 2010
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