Whenever a club is promoted to the Premier League and spends money improving their team, fans of other teams invariably claim that the promoted team is “doing a Fulham”.
The term refers to when Fulham spent over $100m on 12 players in 2018.
Nottingham Forest are the latest team to be accused of ‘doing a Fulham’ after signing twelve new players for nearly $100m. They follow the likes of Aston Villa, who received the label on their return to the Premier League.
Many argue that by spending so much on new players, clubs ‘doing a Fulham’ create discord in the dressing room and a lack of cohesion on the pitch.
But while there is evidence that keeping the same players together can help improve a club’s performance, newly promoted clubs rarely have that option.
Both Forest and Villa build their promotion squads around players on loan, and other key players were towards the end of their careers, so without new signings they would have had no squad to play in the Premier League.
They effectively had to sign a new squad and decided to sign new players they thought were Premier League quality (which is quite expensive) rather than buying Championship level players.
Newly promoted clubs that don’t spend money could avoid being labeled ‘Fulham’, but instead are often labeled as ‘doing a Norwich’, after Norwich City, who have been accused of not spending enough money to be competitive in the Premier League.
The term ‘doing a Fulham’ stems from the London side’s 2018/19 season, when they brought in around a dozen players before being relegated. This suggests that they brought in superstars for a huge fee and it disrupted their dressing room.
Many people who use the phrase might actually think more of Fulham’s west London rivals Queens Park Rangers, who some six years earlier had brought in Brazil internationals and Real Madrid players, rather than to Fulham whose signings came mainly from Ligue 1 or Championship clubs.
Apart from World Cup winner Andre Schurrle on loan from Borussia Dortmund, Fulham’s signings were hardly superstars.
In fact, despite the ‘do a Fulham’ label, their transfer window wasn’t all that different from other Premier League clubs, and another newly promoted club this season had a very similar transfer window and qualified. for Europe.
First of all, Fulham didn’t bring in a whole new team in the summer of 2018. Despite all their signings, the core of the squad has remained the same. Of their eight outfield players who played 30 or more games in 2018/19, six were already at the club the season before.
Of Fulham’s twelve signings, five were on loan (and one was Aleksandar Mitrovic), replacing the six players they had loaned out the previous season. These signings were needed just for Fulham to be where they were the previous season, which would still be a bit below the Premier League standard.
80% of Fulham’s spending went to just four players, one of whom, Mitrovic, was already on loan at the club the previous season. Mitrovic scored 11 goals in 2018/19, one less than Brentford’s Ivan Toney last season, and he probably would have scored more if Scott Parker hadn’t been in charge for the latter part of the season. His 43 goals last season prove that far from being a flop, he is one of the best players in recent Fulham history.
Two of the other big-money signings, Alfie Mawson and Andre Zambo Anguissa, spent much of 2018/19 injured. Mawson was close to joining the England squad when Fulham signed him from relegated Swansea, and in games he played before his knee injury, Fulham’s results against teams away from the ” Big Six” weren’t that bad. Zambo Anguissa, who is now at Champions League side Napoli, barely featured for Fulham until February.
Their biggest signing this summer, Jean Michael Seri from Nice in Ligue 1, was a huge disappointment. Big things were expected of Seri, who was linked with Barcelona and Arsenal before his move to Craven Cottage. But while Seri might be a $30 million flop, he’s just a player. The likes of Arsenal and others seem to sign a $30m flop every season, but unlike Arsenal, Fulham don’t have a $30m squad of players to cover their weaknesses.
Fulham were not the only newly promoted side to sign a dozen new players that summer. Wolverhampton Wanderers have spent a similar amount of money to bring in twelve players, including signings from Monaco, Porto and Atletico Madrid. They finished seventh – barely “making a Fulham”.
The main difference is that Wolves had a much stronger squad to start with – the team that won them promotion included Diogo Jota, Ruben Neves, Conor Coady and Matt Doherty.
That summer Brighton and Hove Albion also signed 13 players and West Ham United signed ten, while the following year newly promoted Sheffield United signed ten players and Aston Villa signed twelve.
The average spend of these teams was around $90 million each, not far off Fulham’s $110 million. The only real difference is that Fulham paid far more than Seri is worth.
This season, Fulham are back in the Premier League. They won the championship at a gallop, so they should have started the summer with a better team than during their two previous promotions, both of which went through the play-offs. Their stronger and more balanced squad last season is reflected in their fewer signings this summer, although worryingly for Fulham fans, despite having effectively had since February to prepare for their return to the Premier League, manager Marco Silva claims their team is still not ready.
Fulham have only signed four players so they certainly can’t be accused of ‘doing a Fulham’, although if they are relegated I’m sure some fans will claim they are ‘doing a Norwich’.