By Chris Harris
Plenty of pundits have been tipping Fulham for relegation this season and, at first glance, it's easy to see why. The Cottagers cascaded down the Premiership table in the second half of the last campaign and avoided relegation by a solitary point. It wasn't pretty to watch.
Fulham's poor run culminated in the departure of manager Chris Coleman and the arrival of Lawrie Sanchez. Not surprisingly the former Northern Ireland boss has spent the summer overhauling his squad. There were plenty of introductions to be made when Sanchez and his players met up for pre-season training last month.
Fulham's first assignment couldn't be much tougher - a trip to Emirates Stadium to face an Arsenal side already well in their stride after some morale-boosting wins against big-name opposition. Can the Cottagers confound the critics? We asked Paul Warburton of the Kensington and Chelsea News whether Fulham's new personnel can cure some old problems.
THE STORY SO FAR
"There has been a complete overhaul of most of the playing staff. That's the biggest argument against them getting relegated. Lawrie Sanchez felt he had to make wholesale changes and anybody who has kept abreast of the transfer dealings this summer will see that Fulham have brought in a whole raft of players to make sure that situation doesn't prevail this season."
MAN OF THE MOMENT
"I think what he's gone for is the tried and the tested. He wasn't keen to get foreigners in who wouldn't settle immediately into the Premiership. He believes that by getting the players he has in, they will hit the ground running. There won't be the acclimatisation period that some foreign stars have needed and obviously he believes that the people he knows well from his Northern Ireland days are good enough for the task."
"They have two new strikers in Diomansy Kamara and David Healy, not forgetting Brian McBride. He's getting on a bit but he still gets among the goals. With all three vying for two places it could be quite interesting up front. Healy is the gamble. He's the one Lawrie Sanchez has invested £1.5million in him and he believes he can make the step up. I think it will be interesting to see if he can make it in the Premiership but he has scored important international goals so certainly his pedigree at that level goes before him."
THE BOY MOST LIKELY TO...
"Jimmy Bullard has become a bit of cult figure at Fulham and he hasn't played that much! There are even a group of fans, a fanclub, who call themselves 'Jimmy Bullard's Hair Net'! I think it's something to do with his blond curly locks, he's much liked and admired. He's not expected back much before October but when he does come back it will be like signing a new player."
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
"The best-case scenario for Fulham is qualification for Europe, the Uefa Cup in this case with perhaps the Intertoto as a back-up. The worst-case scenario is relegation. It could be as chalk-and-cheese as that. Whatever else you might want to say, the top four have loads of back-up if they get injuries but that's not the case elsewhere. If any other Premiership club gets a raft of injuries any of them will struggle."
"I think Sanchez will be happy with a draw. I was speaking to him yesterday and he's absolutely determined that Fulham don't have the disaster they had on the first day of last season when they got turned over 5-1 by Manchester United. It was 4-0 after 40 minutes so he's determined that doesn't happen this time. He believes he has the kind of players who won't panic if they go down a goal. They can regroup and make sure they don't concede a second and maybe get an equaliser. I think it's going to be tight and I think Sanchez concedes that Arsenal will probably have more of the ball, so it's up to Fulham to take advantage of the time they do have it."