Fulhamish Round Table: Championship 19/20 Preview

Fulhamish 1st August 2019

With the Championship season tantalisingly close, what can we expect from the next 46 games? We’ve brought the Fulhamish writing team together to answer the key questions on the year ahead. Do you agree with our views? Let us know!

Which Championship team should Fulham fear the most?

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Ben Jarman: The usual contenders of West Bromwich Albion, Stoke and Cardiff will be dangerous, of course. However, this year feels like it could be Bristol City’s year to finally reach the play offs. They have a talented manager in Lee Johnson, a stable squad and have bought particularly well in the transfer window. Also keep an eye on Luton Town who’ve bought well, and Brentford who have kept their big guns.

George Singer: Any side which has Marco Bielsa managing it surely has to be feared. I don’t subscribe to the theory that Leeds burned out last season, as in reality they only had one bad 45 minutes of football – enough for Derby to pip them to Wembley. Therefore, for me they have to be favourites for the title. Aside from Leeds, Brentford have been improving year on year, and I (unfortunately!) think this may be their year to get promoted!

Drew Heatley: Everyone says Leeds, but for me (Clive), it’s West Brom. A decent manager in Slaven Bilić and Premier League experience in their squad with the likes of Jake Livermore, Kieran Gibbs and Chris Brunt. The addition of Kenneth Zohore is also a shrewd one. I expect them to challenge.

Cam Ramsey: The Championship is easily the planet’s most competitive domestic division, but for me, the team Fulham have to fear the most is Slaven Bilic’s West Bromwich Albion. The Baggies were unfortunate not to bounce back last term and now, with the proven Croatian tactician at the helm, they’ll be a genuine threat. Though they’re without the free-scoring Dwight Gayle, Kenneth Zohore will menace defences persistently, with Filip Krovinovic supplying ammunition.

Sammy James: Brentford – they’re looking very strong this season, and will be doing everything to try and secure promotion before they move into the new ground. I still believe our squad is stronger on paper, but with players like Benrahma, Maupay and Jansson – they’re definitely going to be knocking on the door of the top 6.

Tim Clarke: Cardiff. Warnock knows how to grind out results in the championship and I would be very surprised if they didn’t challenge for automatic promotion. Beating them late last season at the Cottage probably cemented their relegation as well, so I imagine they would relish taking points from us.

Jack Collins: Leeds are the obvious choice but I can’t look past the noisy neighbours down the road in TW8. I assumed they’d lose Maupay and Benrahma but with seven days left till the window closes the buzz around the two of them has died down, leaving an exceptionally strong Championship squad that has, as usual, been bolstered by strong additions through the system they have in place.

West Brom also have a point to prove and Woodgate’s Boro, I imagine, will be in and around the playoff spots; whilst Stoke have quietly kept a lot of a talented squad which, with a full pre-season, I imagine Nathan Jones will be able to do a whole lot more with. Cardiff are my shoe-ins for a top six spot, mind – when you build an elite Championship squad for the Premier League, you have one thing in mind.

Nik Macnee: Cardiff. They were actually pretty unfortunate to get relegated and they’ve only lost Bruno Ecuele Manga from their major PL contributors. They’ve got THE manager to get you promoted to the Premier League in Neil Warnock and added two perfect players for his system in Aden Flint (have fun defending him at corners) and Will Vaulks and his long throw. They’ve got depth and a squad who have done it before – it’s very hard for me not to see them as favourites for the title.

Which Championship teams do you think will face the drop?

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Ben Jarman: After escaping by the skin of their teeth last year, it would be easy to ear-mark Millwall for the drop, but ultimately they will have too much quality. Birmingham on the other hand seem to be reeling from a turbulent summer, losing Garry Monk and still feeling the effects of an ill-fated spell under Redknapp. It could be them.

George Singer: Despite being Bookie’s favourites for the drop, I actually see Millwall and Barnsley having a good year. In particular, the Lion’s underlying numbers suggested they were a top-7 side, so I’m expecting them to bounce up the table. QPR have lost some key men, and even with Warburton at the helm I expect them to really struggle. Wigan and Charlton are probably the 2 other for me.

Drew Heatley: I think Reading have been treading water for too long – they’ll go. And I expect Birmingham and Charlton to join them. Partly because of the turmoil at those clubs, and partly because they’re just not strong enough.

Cam Ramsey: Frankly, the three teams that will plummet to League One will be Luton Town, Charlton Athletic and Millwall. Out of the trio, I hope the Addicks prove me wrong as it’s a quality day out at The Valley, but they’ve shaky tendencies. As for Luton and Millwall, I just don’t care much for them, but I’m sure they’re both fully geared up for the season ahead.

Sammy James: Charlton are obviously big contenders for the drop given their calamitous state. I think Luton will also struggle to adapt to the Championship after back-to-back promotions. There’s always one surprise team, and I’m going to go for Sheffield Wednesday. Bruce is a big loss, and they seem to have been badly managed for a few consecutive years now.

Jack Collins: Everyone keeps banging on here about QPR but I think the Hoops have actually signed really well under Warburton and I’d tip them for a top half finish. He’s a good manager and I’m reasonably confident they’ll be fine. I worry for Birmingham, and for Barnsley, who I think will be a tough test until people work them out properly. Unfortunate that we’ve got them so early then!

Nik Macnee: Charlton, Reading and Swansea. With Charlton, there’s just no investment there as a result of the ownership saga still ongoing and they’ve lost good players in Bauer and Aribo. Hard to see them staying up. Reading as well look likely for me – who signs Charlie Adam (56% pass success rate as a CENTRE MID) now? There’s also seemingly financial constraints there and they’ve defied the data for three seasons now – this will finally be their end I think. Finally, Swansea look doomed to me. As of this article, Oli McBurnie is leaving them to go to Sheffield United and he played a massive role scoring goals against other Championship sides last year. Couple this with the likes of Fer, Narsingh, Olsson all leaving on frees in addition to minimal recruitment and Swansea have a young roster with an unproven coach in Steve Cooper giving it all to keep them up. Can’t quite see it I’m afraid.

Who will be the Fulham Player of the Season?

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Ben Jarman: Tom Cairney looks to be showing flickers of his wonderful best, and Parker is a manager that believes in his ability. It’s difficult to see past Mitrovic, Cavaliero and Knockaert, but everything good about Fulham has come through the Captain and his ability to create something out of nothing.

George Singer: I had Zambo earmarked as my answer to this one, so seeing him head off to Villareal is a real kicker. For me, if Alfie Mawson can stay fit, I can see him being a real leader from the back & guiding us to a strong finish.

Drew Heatley: Our man of the match awards tend to go to goal scorers, but our POTS awards seem to be more measured. If Knockaert has the impact we all expect him to, he’ll be up there, but providing he can stay fit and finally establish himself at the club, Alfie Mawson could be a dark horse for the award – and that’d surely mean promotion.

Cam Ramsey: Fulham’s Player of the Season, without question, will be Aleksandar Mitrovic. Mitro’ will wreak havoc upon subservient back fours, and now that the Serb’s settled in SW6 for the foreseeable future, every ounce of his grit, focus and determination will be invested into the Whites’ push for promotion. We witnessed what he’s capable of in this environment during the second-half of the 2017-18 campaign, but with a full season under his belt, he could smash 30+ goals effortlessly.

Sammy James: I reckon Cavaleiro. Whilst Mitro might be the obvious answer, I just have a feeling that Ivan is going to be the man to actually grab games by the scruff of the neck and secure us valuable points. Seems really likable too.

Tim Clarke: Denis Odoi. Mawson will drink some hot soup and suffer third degree burns to his entire body, and Super Denis will command the Fulham backline.

Jack Collins: Big up Joe Bryan. Have strong hopes that our left back is going to be the man that reunites the fanbase and the club, and that his threat from deep on the left is going to be a key part of our attacking arsenal in the season to come.

Nik Macnee: Aleksandar Mitrovic. He’s a lock for 20+ goals, barring injury and will just dominate opposing centre backs with his physicality. This is a lay-up for him.

Where in the table will Fulham finish?

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Ben Jarman: The squad feels like it could challenge for automatic promotion from day one, but nothing is ever easy in this league. Fulham will have ups and downs on the pitch, and off it, this year but I am confident that we can make the play offs at the very least.

George Singer: Answering this question before the transfer window closing is challenging – as the squad may look substantially different post deadline day. However, at the time of writing, I think this is a squad that will finish somewhere within the play-off spots, but isn’t strong enough for top-2.

Drew Heatley: My head says play-offs, but my heart says second. We know this league, we’ve got a great squad on paper loaded with attacking talent. It’s the defence I’m concerned about; we can’t win every game 4-3. Whether my head or heart wins depends a lot on our dealings before the window shuts. 

Cam Ramsey: Our defensive department still worries me deeply, but given that our offensive armoury is by far the most razor-sharp in the Championship, I’d like to think we’re in with a tangible shot of gaining automatic promotion. Leeds United will contend, as will West Brom, Bristol City, Swansea City and Cardiff City and Stoke City, but if all falls into place for Scott Parker, there’s no reason why we can’t walk this league. Sensible head on, though, I’m thinking we’ll finish second, but you just never know. 

Sammy James: 1st. I hastily (and slightly foolishly) predicted Fulham to be champions on the latest podcast, so I’m gonna stick to my guns. I’m probably over-confident, but if there’s any time of the season that’s ok, it’s August. UTF

Tim Clarke: 4th – we haven’t started a season well in a long time, and I feel like the weight of expectation may hinder us. Hopefully Wembley is kind to us again (forgetting Spurs at “home” last season).

Jack Collins: Playoff spots for me right now. Given the window hasn’t closed there is plenty of room for this to change but I think we need one or two key additions before I’d be confident that this is a squad capable of going all the way to automatic promotion, or dare we dream, winning the league!

Nik Macnee: Outside of the front 4, there’s too many question marks surrounding this team. Is Scott Parker any good as a manager? What will the defence look like come August 9th? Can Alfie Mawson stay fit for the whole season? Will the likes of Ream and McDonald regress with age? There’s just such a wide scope for this team – they could absolutely blow most teams out of the water and stomp to the title or seriously struggle and be 17th by Christmas. I’m going to say 6th for now though. This team is just too talented in attack to not make the playoffs but could be badly let down by a lack of recruitment in defence.