With the Premier League fixtures announced football fans finally have something to look forward to.
Despite last season only finishing a few short weeks ago, the Nations League just hasn’t quenched the thirst for the club game and with England’s top flight getting back into action a week earlier than usual due to the Qatar World Cup in November, we can finally speculate how teams will start the new campaign.
Manchester City is an obvious favorite amongst the bet exchange to make it a third title in a row under Pep Guardiola but interestingly the relegation battle has taken precedence, due to the sheer volume of teams that are capable of facing the drop come next May.
Last season the battle for survival went right down to the wire, with Burnley and Watford joining Norwich City in the Championship, and Leeds United just about performing a great escape despite a poor season.
Fulham was promoted with Bournemouth and play-off winners Nottingham Forest, and while the latter two struggled for consistency, Marco Silva’s Cottagers were free-scoring throughout the campaign in the second tier, largely down to Aleksandar Mitrović.
The Serbian, who broke Ivan Toney’s record for the most goals in a single league season with 43, spearheaded Fulham’s attack as they won the Championship title with a game to spare.
But while he was praised for his ability to find the net a step-down, he’ll now have to replicate that form in the top flight.
Silva clearly sees him as a key component in the system, and while he might have struggled in the Premier League before after signing for Newcastle United in 2014, he was still a young man, not fully developed and lacking the tactical nouse to lead the line for such a big club.
He crumbled under the weight of the Magpie’s expectations, and his temperament often overshadowed his good performances at St. James’ Park as well as for Fulham when they were initially relegated in 2021.
However, Silva has clearly got the best out of the now 27-year-old, singing his praises throughout last season.
“Congratulations to him. The numbers speak for themselves. “What I like about him is he’s always demanding more and more and more. He knows that from tomorrow I’ll demand more and more from him.”
He added: “Mitro’s numbers reflect our philosophy and the players have bought into it. We’re creating and building something important.”
Fulham faces a tricky task on an opening day, taking on Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool who will be in contention for the title in what will likely be a debut for £85 million signing Darwin Núñez.
Mitrović will have a chance to outshine the new Uruguayan, and with the added advantage of an early kick-off at Craven Cottage, there’s always an outside chance that Silva’s side could steal a result that would start their season off in style.
Of course, the Serbian will no longer receive the service of Fábio Carvalho, with the 19-year-old joining Liverpool at the end of his contract.
Chances will have to come from Harry Wilson, another former Red who managed the most assists last season in the Championship but was sporadic in terms of the end product when in the Premier League before with Bournemouth.
It will be interesting to see how Fulham performs this season.
Desperate to not become a yo-yo club, they strive for longevity in the Premier League and if they are to ensure that then Mitrović’s goals will be invaluable. Could he be a dark horse for the Golden Boot?