Rhys looks at our next opponents’ summer transfer activity and wonders if they’re doomed to repeat our mistakes.
The frantic summer transfer window enjoyed by big-spenders Nottingham Forest might well be a statement of Premier League intent – but Fulham fans know all too well of the accompanying risks.
I’ll be the first to admit to being carried away by Fulham’s 2018/19 influx of players that saw pundits like Jamie Redknapp dismissing the threat of relegation and Adrian Durham tipping us to replicate 2015/16 Leicester.
As many as 15 players joined the Craven Cottage ranks in the summer of 2018, including big-money deals for Jean Michaël Seri, Alfie Mawson and Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, as well as tantalising loan arrivals of Andre Schurrle and Luciano Vietto.
The subsequent months of diabolical defending under three different managers and relegation in early April, were enough to crown a new insult for ambitious Championship promotees: ‘doing a Fulham’.
‘Doing a Fulham’
The jibe, which was thrown at Aston Villa following their £143million expenditure the following summer, has now been aimed at Steve Cooper’s Forest – so just how similar are they?
Fulham spent £104.85m in total. The club brought in just £4.82m, despite sanctioning 14 permanent departures to make room on both the wage budget and physically inside the Motspur Park facilities.
That outlay was a record for any promoted club taking on the top flight, with Slavisa Jokanovic naming six new signings in his starting XI for the opening day against Crystal Palace and the same amount in different personnel the following week.
Slav pays the price
From the outside, it looked as though Fulham tried to skip a phase of top-flight adaptation in bid to avoid a relegation battle entirely – that lofty target led to the sacking of Jokanovic and arrival of Claudio Ranieri in the same brutal November tweet.Embed from Getty Images
With Villa hanging on by the skin of their teeth the following season and Leeds United surviving after an outlay of £96.1million in 2020/21, ‘doing a Fulham’ is now exclusively tied to failure. Forest have spared no expense in pushing their dreams of Premier League security – which way will it go?.
Having signed off on 21 incoming deals, from Omar Richards to Serge Aurier, an overall spending of £145million has blown all previous records out of the water.
Cooper insists he has been left with an “exciting challenge” in making his new squad a competent one, despite an abundance of pressure being heaped on his shoulders thanks to the objectives of owner Evangelos Marinakis.
Forest fans will argue that signings were a necessity following departures of Djed Spence, Brice Samba and James Garner among others – but as our own Jack Collins points out – the exits of Ryan Fredericks and Matt Targett among others left only 14-players on the first-team books put Fulham in a similar position in 2018.
In truth, whether Forest have ‘done a Fulham’ or not will depend on their fate on the final date of the season, but the task ahead of Cooper is no doubt a burdensome one.
Scared and confused
Jokanovic stayed in the role for a total of 12 Premier League fixtures, having claimed four points from the opening four fixtures – and was rather critical of his side following his penultimate game in charge which was a fifth league defeat in a row.Embed from Getty Images
Having conceded 29 goals in 11 matches, he said: “At the end we were confused, I don’t know if some players were a bit scared of this kind of responsibility that was in front of us.”
The general feeling from our fanbase is that Jokanovic was given an impossible job of trying to form a coherent starting XI – with Claudio Ranieri’s subsequent failure only reaffirming that.
A new benchmark
Having said that, Cooper has a wealth of talent to mould from thanks to the summer spending spree – and has proved his ability to unite a fractured team in taking over at a Forest side who sat in the relegation zone last year.
Having conceded 11 goals across three consecutive defeats to leave them second bottom of the table, a win over Fulham and time to adjust over the international break would give Cooper a fine platform to build.
Although ‘doing a Fulham’ stuck for a few seasons, Forest’s wild window might just become a new benchmark should they drop back down – they have 32 fixtures to avoid it.