On Monday 28 September, Fulham endured the second of three consecutive home league defeats in a 3-0 trouncing by Aston Villa. The loss prompted co-owner Tony Kahn to publicly apologise to Fulham fans for the performance.
Things were already looking bad. The Cottagers were being written off for relegation by pretty much everyone, despite the season being in its infancy.
Five weeks down the road, and things are starting to look better for Scott Parker's Fulham. Monday night saw the Cottagers' first league triumph of the campaign as they beat fellow strugglers West Brom. With the win, Fulham moved out of the relegation zone, letting Slaven Bilic's side replace them.
This result comes a week after a performance that warranted more than a defeat against Crystal Palace and couple of weeks after a promising showing away at Sheffield United, in which the two sides settled for a point each. Since then Fulham have grown in confidence and there seems to be real cohesion within the squad, as both goals against the Baggies came after sweeping moves.
In his post match interview, Parker didn't give too much away, but regarding the squad he said as quoted by the BBC: "We are definitely maturing and definitely improving. We got a result and it is brilliant but we have to keep moving forward."
Parker's side look like they are steadily advancing and look a lot more fluent when they play compared to their relegation season of 2018/19.
During the summer, the Fulham boss maintained the core of the squad with the likes of Tom Cairney and Bobby Reid and notably made the loan deals of Harrison Reed and Ivan Cavaleiro permanent. Loan deals for Ola Aina and World Cup winner Alphonse Areola were also completed. Fulham spent around £21.5m in the summer, compared to over £100m in the summer of 2018.
This shrewd approach to transfers and exploitation of the loan market have really encouraged the squad to gel quicker than the Fulham of 2018/19, and we are already seeing some stand outs.
Alphonse Areola started a bit shakily between the sticks at Craven Cottage but is rapidly looking like an obvious number one choice for Parker and provides a good platform upon which Fulham can build.
Ademola Lookman, on loan from RB Leipzig, has already made an impact. He impressed on his debut against Sheffield United, scoring a lovely goal at Bramall Lane. He has since continued to look sharp, while also showing discipline and defensive capabilities, making nine tackles in four appearances so far.
There is no doubt about Aleksandar Mitrovic's goalscoring capabilities, having notched 26 last year. With Fulham's increased fluidity throughout the team in recent games, we are beginning to see Mitrovic add to his game. The Serb assisted both goals on Monday, making it four goal contributions in seven games.
Frank Zambo Anguissa failed to impress in his first year at Fulham and spent last season on loan at Villarreal. However, he's come back stronger and has shone in midfield in recent games. He was crucial to the first goal against West Brom and looked commanding throughout the match. This man could be a huge component in Parker's safety push this year.
Of course, the real tests for Fulham are the so-called six-pointer games. They have so far played two of the teams in and around the bottom three and come away with four points.
The mentality of the squad looks much stronger than their last Premier League campaign, and the players look much more ready to compete with the teams battling for survival. A trait that, with the quality they have, could see them stay up come the end of May.
This is obviously a long way away, and there are many games to be played before then. However, for the time being they look much better off than the teams below them as Burnley and Sheffield United seem to ship too many goals while struggling to score, and West Brom, who they have crucially just beaten.
The Fulham players will face a real test of character in the coming month, with tough fixtures away at West Ham and Leicester either side of a home tie to Everton. With the faltering of the Hammers and the Toffees, there's no reason Parker can't go on and pick points up moving on from Monday's result.
Having shown what they're capable of recently, Parker's squad have definitely given a glimmer of hope to their fans. Before the season started there weren't many who would have given Fulham a chance, but based on recent performances Tony Kahn might not have to be so apologetic.
Source : 90min