Russ Goldman was kind enough to answer a few questions I had for him ahead of Saturday's match and I did the same for him over at Cottager's Confidential. Russ knows Fulham as well as anyone so it was pleasure to have a chance to pick his brain a bit before our respective clubs clash at Craven Cottage.
How has Mark Hughes performed to this point?
Mark Hughes I think has done a tremendous job in such a short period of time. He had very little time before the season began to get the team ready to go. His summer signings have worked out great. Moussa Dembele I believe will be a star in the Europa League. He has a special talent up front. When Zamora returns these two could make a dynamic duo. Carlos Salicido was also a really good signing for Hughes.
The most important thing I think he has brought is a change of style. Fulham are now asked to be far more adventurous in creating scoring opportunities. A player like Dickson Etuhu hardly ever came up last season up front. He is now an added weapon in scoring situations.
Also, on the road Fulham even though they have not won, their style of play is to go for all three points instead of just one. I think the future looks bright for Fulham under Hughes.
How has Fulham's attack looked since the injury to Bobby Zamora? Have they been forced to change the way they do things at all?
The Fulham attack has definitely been a work in progress since Zamora went down along with other key injuries. Dembele right now is playing more of the Zamora role. Clint Dempsey has stepped up as well to help up front.
I don't think they have changed their approach at all. I think they are just trying to figure out what works.
Could you talk a bit about Carlos Salcido and his impact on the team?
Salcido has been an unbelievable addition to Fulham. I was concerned about the loss of Paul Konchesky at left back. However, it did not take long to see that Salcido is an upgrade at the position.
His crosses and shots on net I think are top flight. Fulham are far more dangerous when Salcido is involved in attacking situations. I also have not seen any kind of drop off in defense. I think he will be an integral part of Fulham's success this season.
Who has been Fulham's most stand-out player so far this year?
I would have to say Moussa Dembele. I was surprised by his talent. He can score but also is excellent at assisting with other scoring opportunities for Fulham.
What are the Fulham's current strengths?
The strength of Fulham would have to be in back. Fulham still have an elite goalkeeper in Mark Schwarzer. Plus, we have very solid defenders with Brede Hangeland and Aaron Hughes. They make it difficult for opponents to score.
What are the Fulham's current weaknesses?
The weakness right now would have to be in midfield. Danny Murphy is really the key to this group. When he plays, and distributes the ball up front Fulham can be dangerous. The problem is that Etuhu has been out hurt along with Damien Duff. I think finding the right 4 players in midfield has been a challenge.
What do you think the key for Aston Villa will be against Fulham on Saturday?
I think the key match-up for Aston Villa will be to stopping Danny Murphy. If Villa can stop him from making passes up front, it could be difficult for Fulham to score.
What is your prediction for the match and why?
Since Fulham are home I am predicting a 1-0 victory for the Cottagers. Fulham are very difficult to beat at Craven Cottage. I think they will be able to create enough scoring opportunities to grab a goal and win the match. However, I have much respect for Aston Villa and I know this game will be a struggle.