Newly promoted Premier League side Fulham face a stern challenge in their return to the top flight on Saturday, facing Arsenal in the early kickoff on Saturday. Fulham won the promotion from the Championship after a solid season, seeing the London team finish fourth with 81 points, tied with the third placed Brentford who they eventually beat in the promotion final 1-2 after an overtime thriller. The manager Scott Parker achieved his goal in his first full season as Fulham’s main man after being promoted from the assistant manager to replace Claudio Ranieri on 28th February 2019. Parker marked an impressive record of 1.60 points per game during his 62 games in charge in the Championship and the team now looks to transfer the success into the top flight.
Fulham’s competitive squad remains much the same as during the highly abnormal 2019/2020 season, with only just over a month from the promotion playoff final to the start of the new season. A couple of key acquisitions were made in the short period of time to replenish the roster and add some high-level experience by the arrivals of France international goalkeeper Alphonse Areola and midfielders Mario Lemin, while also making the loan deals of Anthony Knockaert and Harrison Reed permanent. Areola arrives from PSG, having spent the last season at Real Madrid serving as a backup for Thibault Courtois, but has appeared for France and will challenge Marek Rodak for the no. 1 keeper’s post. Holding midfielder Lemina arrives on loan from Southampton after spending the previous season in Galatasaray and suffering from injuries. The core squad of Parker’s promotion winning team still remains – but it remains to be seen if they go the Sheffield United or Norwich way.
Craven Cottage will witness the Cup and Charity Shield winners Arsenal pay a visit in the season opener and the Gunners are likely to provide a stern test for the home side. Being touted as one of the dark horses for the title, or at least challenging for the Champions League qualification.