Fulham open their campaign against Norwich in a game which involves two teams who had particularly good seasons last year. The Cottagers finished inside the top half whereas the Canaries comfortably avoided relegation with a 12th placed final standing. Both will be looking to keep their form from last season, despite the loss of key figures in their line-ups.
For Fulham, they have lost a creative presence in Danny Murphy, who made the decision to drop down to the Championship and sign for Blackburn Rovers. The 35 year old moved on a free transfer after failing to negotiate a new deal with Fulham and Jol has not yet found a replacement.
Pavel Pogrebnyak, who scored six goals in 12 starts during his loan spell last season, chose to play for Reading next season and Jol has moved to replace him by signing Mladen Petric from Hamburg. Jol’s main aim is to not lose Clint Dempsey, who has come under the radar of Liverpool. The American international was left out of the club’s training camp in Switzerland and whether he will be a Cottager by the end of the window remains to be seen.
Jol has rejuvenated the Fulham side, mixing youth and experience, and there will be plenty of first-team opportunities this season for the likes of Kerim Frei and Alex Kaciniklic. The Cottagers were hard to beat at times last season with Norwegian central defender Brede Hangeland marshalling the backline and Jol will expect the same this time around. Fulham’s opener against Norwich could prove to be somewhat of a banana skin, after the bright opening the Canaries had last season.
Norwich fans were delighted with last season’s heroics, but the summer that followed proved to be distressing as they lost manager Paul Lambert to Aston Villa. Lambert guided the club to back-to-back promotions from League One to the Premier League and then cemented their place last season with a brand of adaptable, attacking football. The Canaries now have Chris Hughton at the helm, who has plenty of experience in Premier League football following his time with Newcastle United. Hughton did a great job with Birmingham in the Championship last season and Norwich fans will hope he can produce the same quality performances.
Grant Holt has agreed to stay at the club, signing a three year deal following an initial transfer request early in the summer, and his goals last season were pivotal. The striker scored 17 in all competitions and Hughton will be looking for a similar number if he wants to have success at Carrow Road. Holt will be backed up by a talented midfield, which has been strengthened by the arrival of Robert Snodgrass from Leeds United. Other summer recruits include Steven Whittaker on a free, Jacob Butterfield from Barnsley and Michael Turner from Sunderland.
Fulham were undefeated against Norwich in last season’s outings, grabbing a 2-1 win in the fixture at Craven Cottage. Murphy’s absence in the Cottagers midfield is a distinct worry and Jol will be searching for a replacement before the window shuts. Fulham should have enough class to get past a Norwich side who need to shake up their defensive frailties from last season.