Fulham’s Return To The Premier League – How the Cottagers got there

Photo Credit: AP

Fulham secured another promotion to the Premier League after being crowned Championship winners in the 2021/22 season. Their up and down trend of bouncing between the top two tiers in English football continues for yet another campaign.

Will the Cottagers be able to make it stick this time around by avoiding an immediate drop? Not according to the bookies who have Fulham pegged as one of the front runners in Premier League relegation odds.

The fight for Fulham is once again on and we look back at how they regained their top-flight status.

Fulham’s Recent Seasons

2017/18 Championship
2018/19 Premier League
2029/20 Championship
2020/21 Premier league
2021/22 Championship
2022/23 Premier League

Fulham Rise again

After another Premier League relegation the previous season, the Cottagers were immediately crowned champions of the second tier, returning to the top flight at the first time of asking.

During the summer of 2021, Fulham had appointed a new manager, getting former Everton manager Marco Silva into the club.

That was a good capture for Fulham, as it brought in a young, forward-thinking manager with previous top-flight managerial experience from around Europe.

Silva was appointed after former boss Scott Parker had parted ways with the club following their 2020/21 EPL relegation.

Fulham came out at the start of the season in fine form, picking up 13 of the first 15 available points, including a four-match winning streak.

Talented youngster Fabio Carvalho was weighing in well in front of the goal, backing up Aleksandar Mitrović’s consistent output.

Some early stumbles

After that initial burst of form, some big questions were then asked of the Cottagers who went into a bit of a slump. From mid-September through to the beginning of October, they posted a poor D2 D1 L3 return from a run of six Championship fixtures.

There was no clean sheet record by Fulham in that run of games and the slide in form came against teams who weren’t were not even in the playoff picture. Fulham’s three losses in that slump happened against teams who would go on to finish the season in the bottom half of the table.

But then it was their form from that point onward through to early March 2022 that set the Cottagers up for promotion success.

Cottagers put their foot on the gas

After losing 4-1 away to Coventry on October 2nd, the wheels looked to be coming off of Marco Silva’s work in progress at Craven Cottage. But Fulham would make a big recovery in the most impressive fashion possible.

A 4-1 win of their own, hammering QPR on home turf, sparked a run of seven straight league victories for Fulham. In that run of form, they scored at least three goals in five of their seven wins. The pinnacle of that was a 7-0 victory at Ewood Park over Blackburn.

Four drawn matches on the spin extended Fulham’s unbeaten run to eleven matches before they were toppled by a strongly competitive Sheffield United. Still, at that point, Fulham had positioned themselves as one of the frontrunners to earn automatic promotion.

After losing to Sheffield United, Fulham would then put together yet another strong run of form. They would win ten of their following twelve matches, during which they scored at least six goals in three consecutive fixtures. That proved to be the crucial period of their season.

The end of the season becomes a tough grind

Fulham were cruising back towards the Premier League at one point, but the end-of-season run-in saw them face some tremendous pressure. It was far from plain sailing for them. In mid-March, they were held to a 1-1 draw at Barnsley, who would finish bottom of the pile.

That saw a four-match winning streak by Fulham come to an end and they would lose three of their next five Championship fixtures (W2). With five matches remaining in the season, things still hadn’t been wrapped up by Fulham.

But a 3-0 win over Preston in mid-April eased all of the pressure. Victory in that match secured Fulham a top-two finish and therefore a place back in the Premier League. The Cottagers still had four matches to go to wrap up the Championship title.

In their next match, they faced Bournemouth just a few days later in the title race. Aleksandar Mitrović gave Fulham a first-half lead, and they looked as if they would collect all three points until their title rivals scored a 90th-minute equaliser.

Fulham lost 1-0 against Nottingham Forest in their next match, opening the door for Bournemouth to get a run at the top spot. In their final home fixture of the season, Fulham then posted a stunning 7-0 win over Luton. That was the title decider for them.

It left the Cottagers heading into the final day of the season with an unassailable five-point advantage over second-placed Bournemouth. Fulham lost their final match 4-0 against Sheffield United, but it was a match of no consequence. They closed out the season two points ahead of Bournemouth.

Fulham’s stunning season.

There were, in total, 106 league goals scored by Fulham in the 2021/22 Championship season. They finished the campaign with a +63 goal difference. For context, the second-best goal difference recorded was +35 by runners-up Bournemouth.

The Cottagers scored at least three goals in seventeen of their 46 league fixtures. On 11 occasions they tallied at least four goals in a league match. They produced an average of 2.30 goals per game during the campaign.

At Craven Cottage specifically, Luton averaged 2.43 goals per fixture and conceded at less than a goal per game there, tallying up a clean sheet in 39% of all home matches. Fulham’s overall home record for their Championship title-winning season was W14 D4 L5.

Mitrović the man

The scoring of Aleksandar Mitrović was simply phenomenal and the real backbone of why Fulham flourished in earning another promotion to the top flight. Mitrović scored 43 league goals.

A staggering 40% of Fulham’s 106 league goals for the season were provided by him. Fulham’s Premier League survival bid in the Premier League 2022/23 season is going to be heavy on his shoulders. Mitrović has spent time in the top flight before, during his former years with Newcastle.

He was sent out on loan to Fulham in February 2018 and he returned 12 goals in 17 appearances for them during that term. Later that summer he signed a permanent contract with the Cottagers.

Can Fulham Avoid The Bounce?

Strangely Fulham don’t appear to be a club that has been too bothered about this constant bounce between the Premier League and the Championship. It’s certainly been an up and down journey for them. Relegation from the top-flight does come with a parachute payment, which helps with finances.

There are financial rewards for winning promotions as well. So while it is a risky model to roll along with, it has been successful for Fulham. Is it more enjoyable for fans to be supporting a thriving team in a Championship promotion chase, or watching constant struggles in a Premier League relegation scrap?

There are clear benefits to remaining in the top flight of course, including the payments from television rights. Fulham have attempted survival in different ways before, from shelling out big summer transfer money to trying to mostly wing it with their Championship squad.

Top Arrivals

The big transfer arrivals that Fulham have captured this summer are Joao Palhinha in a €20.00m deal from Sporting and a €9.50m deal for Andreas Pereira from Manchester United.

That doesn’t bolster the midfield ranks, as the players coming in have just been replacements for what has gone out. Fulham saw creative attacking player Fabio Carvalho go to Liverpool, while Andre Zambo Anguissa also left for Serie A side Napoli.

But will there be more transfer market action by Fulham in the summer? Certainly, some backup for Mitrović in the goalscoring department would be a reasonable target for the Cottagers.

It would be foolish to just put all of their eggs in that particular basket.

The latest sports news transfer rumours have them linked with Burnley’s Maxwel Cornet, having seen another of their targets Federico Bernadeschi opt for a move to Toronto FC.

Part of Fulham’s profile of continued relegation campaigns in the top flight could be a big hindrance to them getting the quality that they would need to survive. They may not have the most appeal for players looking for a long-term stay in the top-flight.

Premier League Relegation 2022/23

Joining Fulham as the newcomers to the Premier League for the 2023/23 season are Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest. Those are the three market leaders in the Premier League relegation betting line-up ahead of the new campaign.

Bournemouth are the current favourites to take a slide back down to the Championship, with Fulham’s current odds-against quote, suggesting that they are the most likely of the promoted three to survive.

Select Premier League Relegation Odds

Bournemouth 8/15
Nottingham Forest 4/1
Fulham 11/10
Leeds 23/10
Brentford 23/10
Southampton 3/1
Everton 9/2

Early fixtures

Looking ahead to Premier league fixtures for Fulham, they get one of the toughest starts that they could have received. Fulham will meet last year’s runners-up Liverpool at Craven Cottage on August 6th.

In their first eight league fixtures, Fulham will also face Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea so half of their first eight will be against teams who finished in last season’s top five.

Fulham’s First Six Fixtures

  • Liverpool (H)
  • Wolves (A)
  • Brentford (H)
  • Arsenal (A)
  • Brighton (H)
  • Tottenham (A)

But perhaps more importantly is what awaits them at the end of the season. If the Cottagers are back in a relegation fight, what kind of finish do they have? It’s not the easiest as they face both Manchester City and Manchester United within their final five matches.

Fulham’s last league match will be against Manchester United at Old Trafford on May 28th. Before that, they have a run of fixtures against Leicester, Southampton and Crystal Palace, matches which could potentially decide the fate of their top-flight status.

Fulham’s Final Six Fixtures