Fulham return to the Premier League for the 2022/23 season and having been relegated in their last three top flight campaigns, survival has to be their priority.
Original article published 22 August 2022
The Cottagers stormed to top spot in the Championship last term but weren't without their weakness. While Aleksandar Mitrovic netted a record 43 times, his side's attacking instincts often left them looking vulnerable at the back.
While they can be forgiven for losing 4-0 on the final day at Sheffield United, Fulham still conceded almost an average of a goal a game in the second tier and need to tighten up.
Additionally, Mitrovic needs to show he can cut it in the top-flight after a career of false starts at the highest level.
England Premier League 2022/23
|When||5th August 2022 - 28th May 2023|
|How to watch|
Selected matches broadcast on Sky, BT Sport and Amazon Prime
|Odds||Manchester City 4/7, Liverpool 2/1, Tottenham 14/1, Chelsea 16/1, Manchester United 33/1|
1st in the Championship
Fulham's recent Premier League history has been somewhat chequered, with them suffering relegation on the last three occasions they have played in the Premier League.
Owner Shahid Khan has taken contrasting approaches to his side's last two attempts to stabilise themselves in the top-flight. He spent big ahead of the 2018/19 campaign but the new faces struggled to make an impact as the Cottagers finished 19th.
Khan decided to be shrewd, rather than splurge in 2020/21, largely relying on loan signings but his team again failed to stay up, finishing the campaign in 18th.
Fulham's business so far has been limited but they appear to have slimmed down their squad, adding quality rather than quantity.
Still, they will need bodies through the door to avoid being bottom at Christmas, available at 5/1. However, Silva may want to give his Championship winners the chance to prove themselves before heading into the market before the deadline.
Fulham's hope of hitting the ground running could be scuppered by them facing Liverpool in the lunchtime kick-off on 6th August.
The Reds will again be eyeing silverware on all fronts and are 3/10 to win at Craven Cottage. A home win is 9/1, with the draw 4/1.
Interestingly, Fulham took four points from Liverpool during the 2020/21 season, winning 1-0 at Anfield after drawing 1-1 at home.
However, they have not beaten the Reds on their own patch since 2011, while they also have to guard against the return of their former player, Fabio Carvalho, who starred in their promotion campaign but has since joined Jurgen Klopp's men.
Home form could be critical to Fulham's survival chances and the visits of Brentford and Brighton to the Cottage before the end of August could be crucial.
Another match they'll be targeting is the trip to Nottingham Forest on 16th September.
Meanwhile, Fulham sign off for the World Cup on 12th November at home against Manchester United before returning on Boxing Day away at Crystal Palace.
The home game against Southampton on New Year's Eve could be key if Silva's side focus on their home form and they will also travel to the Saints in their third last fixture on 13th May.
Palace are then their penultimate opponents before heading to Old Trafford on the final day.
Fulham's return to the Premier League means they will be the fourth team that Silva has coached in the English top-flight following spells at Hull City, Watford and Everton.
While he gained plaudits at Hull, despite their relegation, his time in charge of the Hornets was overshadowed by him regularly being linked with the Goodison Park hot seat, only to fall short when he eventually joined the Toffees.
After taking time out, the 45-year-old has looked refreshed at the Cottage and after his predecessor, Scott Parker, was occasionally criticised for his perceived negative tactics, that accusation could never be aimed at the Portuguese.
Fulham scored 106 Championship goals last season and it could be argued that attack may prove to be the best form of defence. However, how Silva adapts his approach could define his team's fortunes.
Joao Palhinha (Sporting)
Kristian Sekularac (Juventus)
Andreas Pereira (Man Utd)
Manor Solomon (Shakhtar Donetsk)
Kevin Mbabu (Wolfsburg)
Bernd Leno (Arsenal)
Shane Duffy (Brighton, Loan)
Issa Diop (West Ham)
Taye Ashby-Hammond (Stevenage, Loan)
Fabio Carvalho (Liverpool)
Cyrus Christie (Released)
Michael Hector (Released)
Alfie Mawson (Released)
Jean Michael Seri (Hull City)
Timmy Abraham (Released)
Jacob Adams (Released)
Eric Ameyaw (Released)
Xavier Benjamin (Released)
Tyler Caton (Released)
Jerome Opoku (Released)
Jonathon Page (Released)
Julian Schwarzer (Released)
Jaylan Wildbore (Released)
Sonny Hilton (Carlisle, Loan)
Steven Sessegnon (Charlton, Loan)
Kieron Bowie (Northampton Town, Loan)
Luca Ashby-Hammond (Aldershot Town, Loan)
Michael Olakigbe (Brentford)
|Star player||Aleksandar Mitrovic|
|Potential top scorer||Aleksandar Mitrovic|
|Set-piece king||Harry Wilson|
|Exciting youngster||Rodrigo Muniz|
Much will also depend on whether Mitrovic can finally transfer his Championship form to the Premier League. The Serb has scored 81 times in the second tier since initially joining Fulham on loan in February 2018 but managed just 14 top flight strikes in the same time.
The 27-year-old is 40/1 to finish the season as the division's top scorer and needs to find his shooting boots.
However, if he doesn't, Rodrigo Muniz could be the man to step up. The Brazilian netted five Championship goals and will be desperate to take any chances that come his way.
Both will be reliant on service from Harry Wilson, who provided a competition-best 19 assists last term.
That said, a new face could be key to Fulham's hopes. Portuguese international Joao Palhinha had been linked with both West Ham and Tottenham before joining from Sporting Lisbon.
The 27-year-old is the type of steadying influence needed to give the team structure, especially with those defensive doubts lingering.
Mitrovic's tally of eight goals in qualifying means he could be crucial for Serbia in Qatar. In fact, it was his strike that forced Portugal to go through the playoffs but the Selecao successfully navigated that hurdle and having impressed at Euro 2020, Palhinha is again likely to anchor his country's midfield.
USA defensive duo Antonee Robinson and Tim Ream will also hope to be in the Middle East, while Wilson could make his mark with Wales.
The Welsh are set to make their first World Cup appearance since 1958 and the 25-year-old will be hoping to have a more positive impact than at the Euros, where he was sent off in the 4-0 last-16 defeat to Denmark.