It’s here folks! The Premier League season is back. I would say after a long wait, but let’s be real, it’s not. The last season just ended a few months ago, and I’m used to waiting from February until September for American football season to begin. But it’s highly anticipated nonetheless, and Martin Jol’s boys have already gotten to shaking off the rust in the Europa League first few rounds. So that means we’ll be shaking off the offseason rust here at Fulham’s Finest as well (and there’s a lot of it). Martin Jol is making his return to the Premier League after a few years overseas, and another new club/manager pairing visits the Cottage. IT’S FULHAM. VILLA. ESPN 2! *insert crazy pregame tv graphics and animations that pump you up here*
State of Aston Villa:
Another manager with a new club is coming to Craven Cottage in the form of Alex McLeish with Aston Villa. The two came together after Gerard Houllier resigned after only 9 months on the job. McLeish came over in a controversial move just 5 days after leaving Birmingham City, but has put together a pretty darn good squad. He made Shay Given his first signing, a great job shoring up his goalkeeping situation with a guy who has excellent talent. He has also gone out and got Charles N’Zogbia after losing Ashley Young to Manchester United. Losing Young was a given, and there was really nothing he could do about it, so in the wake of that huge loss he’s done a great job piecing together a new approach.
In my Premier League predictions (the post just below this one), I have Villa shockingly finishing 6th. I still stand by that, and while it may be a little crazy, it’s not out of the question. This is a good club coming off a great offseason. We’ll have to see how McLeish performs with his new club on the pitch, but he’s certainly performed well off of it, and it bodes well.
Something that may help Villa is they haven’t been completely silent this preseason. They played in the Barclays Asia Trophy competition, facing Blackburn and Chelsea, defeating Blackburn 1-0 but losing to Chelsea 2-0. So they won’t be 100% rusty.
Injured for Villa to start the season is Carlos Cuellar.
State of Fulham:
With the transfer window in its waning stages, Martin Jol has yet to add the striker depth he has promised so many times before, but has recently said he still is looking to add a player or two. You can bet your britches those two players will be a left back and a striker, as those have been the widely reported positions of need in Jol’s club.
Speaking of striker depth, I think Jol got himself a scare when Bobby Zamora went down with a broken wrist. But, in typical Bobby Zamora superman status, he’s going to be playing through it just like he did against RNK Split. Will anything ever defeat him? I shouldn’t jinx it.
Something interesting to note, we could see players such as Marcel Gecov and Pajtim Kasami make their Premier League debuts. Don’t expect them to start of course, but they could be late additions to try and change a bad run of play or to provide a boost of one kind or another.
Some milestone notes: This match will be Aaron Hughes’ 400th Premier League appearance. Duffer is 1 goal away from 50, while Danny Murphy and Andy Johnson are 2 out of the same mark.
On the injury front, Simon Davies is still out with his knee problem, while Moussa Dembele will be on his way back. Even though he hasn’t played yet this season, look for him in the starting lineup, as Jol has an absolute man-crush on the midfielder.
Fulham will win if…
…they correct their mistakes they’ve made and learned from early on in the Europa League. These include allowing the other team to score (or at least have very good chances) against a great run of play from Fulham. To me that was their biggest weakness early on in Europe. Also, they will have to take advantage of Villa’s mistakes early on to get ahead, because they no doubt will be the rustier side. If Fulham fail to capitalize, they could be in for a tough opener.
Unfortunately, since I put Villa ahead so high in the table, I have to be consistent and give them lots of respect. Plus, Fulham are 0-2-2 against Villa in their last 4, and have only won 3 of their 20 all-time Premier League fixtures. Something that could come into play however, Aston Villa led the Premier League last season in one dubious statistic: they dropped 26 points from winning positions. Combine that with the fact that Ashley Young, who is now with Sir Alex, was involved in 37% of their goals last season, and Villa could be in for some trouble. Ultimately, these two sides are decently evenly matched I think. Villa is the better club, but Fulham have been playing more, and that’s very important. Plus they’re at home. Therefore, I’m going for a 1-1 draw to start the season for Fulham.
Any thoughts on Fulham’s season? You can leave them here. Also, be sure to check out my Premier League predictions for this upcoming season, right below where you are reading right now. And as always……COME ON YOU WHITES!!!
Final note: I found this picture of Martin Jol. It kind of makes me want to run and hide in a corner of my room. I’ll show it to you anyways.