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Enjoy these days – we may be close to Marco Silva’s final chapter

Written by Sammy James on 22nd April 2024

Tom Cairney v arsenal
© Adam Farquharson 2024

As the sun sets on our second successive Premier League campaign, it feels like a surreally calm time to be a Fulham fan. After six consecutive seasons of either being in the Championship play-offs, getting relegated from the top flight or going up automatically – we’ve found a patch of incredibly smooth ocean from a footballing stability point of view.

Games like Sunday remind me of peak 2011-2013 Fulham. Almost nothing riding on any game and a real lack of any external care about what we do. Whether we beat West Ham, lose to Liverpool, or draw to Crystal Palace (it screams a draw, let’s be honest), nobody outside of Fulham gives a hoot about us.

This is life in the Premier League mid-table; far too good to go down, but quite a long way from troubling the European spots. Is this how it is from now on? Or is something bigger around the corner?

While we were also comfortable and safe this time last season, there was a big worry about whether what we’d achieved was a flash in the pan. Much was made about how Fulham vastly outperformed their expected goals, and eventually we’d have to regress to the mean (which apparently, wasn’t very good). Not to mention there was the uncertainty of Silva’s contract, which everyone knew had only one year left on it.

Whereas now, I think we can be a bit more confident that this all isn’t just an anomaly. We have a very good manager and some brilliant players. Sure, there are things to be addressed, such as Tosin’s future – and I’m sure one or two players will receive some bids. Assuming nothing drastic happens though, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that Fulham have a solid base for remaining in the Premier League.

I don’t know why, but next season just feels like it’s Marco Silva’s swansong. I hope I’m wrong, but deep down I just feel like an ambitious manager like him does not stay anywhere more than four seasons. Obviously, that’s a massive concern, because whoever is next has gigantic shoes to fill, but in some ways, it could be quite exciting.

Each year, Marco has built something. The first two years (promotion then survival) were obvious, but this year has been more subtle. Consolidation is probably the right word, but it undersells the achievement. Marco has truly refined his style, has built a great blend of youth and experience, and proved that he can beat top managers and top sides. Additionally, the run to the Carabao Cup semi-final proved that a trophy and/or a historic Wembley appearance isn’t out of the question.

So, while we might be currently in a bit of a lull, waiting for the wind to pick up again, I think from a football sense, we should be excited at what next season is to bring. This isn’t just Fulham treading water like in the Jol and Coleman days, this is a Fulham that feels like it might be on the cusp of something. Inconsistency is the last barrier that Silva needs to overcome to open up something pretty special.

Watching Sunday’s game, I looked around the pitch and the only place that screamed out like it needed improvement was on the wings. While we have plenty of options, I think we lack somebody who puts genuine fear into defenders (yes, I know Adama does – but only really off the bench). Alex Iwobi, Harry Wilson, Willian, and De Cordova-Reid are all fine players, but I think we can find a winger who really raises the bar.

Obviously, there will be some squad management to sort, and any departing players will need direct replacements, but in terms of raising the floor, some more flair out wide probably does that for us. The biggest benefit for Rodrigo Muniz solving the striker problem is the freedom to spend the limited funds (due to PSR) that we have available in other positions that will really improve the squad, rather than just filling the Mitrovic hole.

Maybe I’m being slightly pessimistic, but I feel like we’re approaching the final chapter in the Marco Silva story. But whether that comes with another cup run or a more ambitious assault at Europe, it feels like Silva’s got one more big achievement up his sleeve.

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