I've been trying to write this season preview for some time now, but it's been hard to know where to start. This Fulham side still feels much the same one that Roy Hodgson started off with three glorious seasons ago. There have been some additions, but only Hughes' Dembele and Jol's Riise are free of Roy's guidance. Even Senderos and Sidwell were lined up before Hughes arrived.
Last season Sparky tried to impose himself on the side, but they only pulled themselves out of trouble when allowed to play the way Hodgson pioneered at the club. It is still unclear what approach Jol will take.
It's hard to gauge what tactical innovations from the early rounds of the Europa League will stick, but one of them seems to be playing Aaron Hughes at right back so the team can adapt to three at the back when in possession. This is worrying given the strength of the Hughes/Hangeland pairing, but retaining Hughes' presence in the back line might preserve some of the advantages. If it doesn't work then Baird, Kelly or possibly Salcido (who is right footed after all) could get a run out.
And that's as exciting as it will be: who will play right back? While it's nice to be back in Europe, it is a much shallower squad now than two seasons ago. The departures of Paintsil, Kamara, Zolly Gera, Greening, Stockdale (thankfully just on loan), Elm, hell even Eddie Johnson, along with some of the Europa alumini such as Konchesky and even Seol, suggest there is not the depth to emulate 2009/10. In fact, with just three strikers in the squad, all of whom missed chunks of last season through injury, there is a need for reinforcements up top. The two new midfielders Gecov and Kasami sound interesting, but are somewhat of an unknown quantity.
What this squad has achieved at Fulham will rightly have it hailed as the club's best ever. However a few injuries this year and the team might find itself dragged into a relegation battle, especially if it advances into the Europa groups and beyond.
Fortunately there's still time to get a few more bodies in and maybe some of the youth team like Dala Valle can step up.