The first season in charge of Fulham for Martin Jol was a hugely successful one, building on the solid foundations Roy Hodgson had built prior to Mark Hughes’ brief stint as manager at Craven Cottage.
Finishing 9th – one position below their 8th-placed finish of the 2010/11 campaign, but with a higher points total – Jol could deem his first season back managing on British soil a success. Their 52 point haul was The Cottagers’ second highest ever tally. The Dutchman quickly made an impression in London – his second spell in England’s capital, having formerly managed Tottenham Hotspur – by splashing out £10.6m on Costa Rican forward Bryan Ruiz from FC Twente.
Although the new arrival, who joined with a strike rate higher than one goal every other game in the Eredivisie, failed to replicate his impressive goal-scoring record for his new side in his inaugural season, he did play his part in Fulham’s top ten finish with numerous assists. With Andrew Johnson and Bobby Zamora both having left Fulham for London rivals QPR, the share of the goals may fall more Ruiz’s way in the forthcoming campaign.
Instead, the goals were divided among three key men over the course of the entire season at Craven Cottage – Bobby Zamora (7), Andrew Johnson (11) and Clint Dempsey (23). Pavel Pogrebnyak did indeed see Fulham over the line in the second-half of the season – but even his input was rather sensationalised. Having scored 5 in his first 3 Premier League games, including a perfect hattrick against Wolves, the Russian striker then only scored 1 in his remaining 11 games for the club. Jol had got the best out of The Pog at minimal cost and was therefore happy to let him go at the end of the season when his demands were high and Mladen Petric and Hugo Rodallega were available on a free.
Fulham, however, were perhaps on the last draws of a cusp of a wave – their squad was becoming old with an average of 31.2 years of age. Yet their cohesion and organisation, still withstanding from the Hodgson days, was a vital by-product of this aging squad. When Fulham scored first in Premier League games last season, they won 81% of the time and never lost. Furthermore, they’d turned Craven Cottage, a small and imposing stadium, into a fortress, achieving the seventh best home record in the league. Only Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle and Tottenham had a better home record. Or in other words – the top six.
In physical terms Fulham’s preseason looks kindly upon the approaching campaign: they’ve so far scored 13 in 5 games, conceding just two, with seven of their goals coming in the past two fixtures: a 3-0 win over Wycombe Wanderers and a 4-0 win against Ligue 1’s OGC Nice.
A man particularly amongst the goals is Mladen Petric – the last of Croatia’s key men in the qualification for and participation in Euro 2008 to make the move to the Premier League, following in the steps of Luka Modric, Niko Kranjcar and Ivan Klasnic. The former Hamburg striker scored one goal in his first two appearances for Fulham – both as a substitute – before scoring 4 in his 3 starts since. Therefore 5 of Fulham’s 13 goals to date in preseason have come through the Croatian striker, who has partnered numerous strikers during preseason, such as Marcello Trotta and Bryan Ruiz, as well as leading the line alone.