Ruiz injury - where does it leave Fulham ahead of Newcastle visit?

Dean Mouhtaropoulos

Without the midfielder's dynamism, where can Jol turn?

This time last year, losing Bryan Ruiz through injury would have been quite uneventful. He was struggling with the pace of the English game and his impacts were rare, if still wonderful.

This year, though, it's a different story. The Costa Rican is Fulham's only creative linchpin after the departures of Moussa Dembele and Danny Murphy, and, although he plays in a far more advanced role than the departed pair, Jol values his inclusion so much that he is willing to reinforce the centre of the park with two work-horses in the shape of Steve Sidwell and Mahamadou Diarra.

That's a risk in itself because, if Ruiz floats out of the game - as he so often can do - where does it leave Fulham? It leaves us without a cutting edge, without ingenuity.

So, with the news of Ruiz's extended hamstring injury, where does it leave us? What can Martin Jol possibly do?

There are, of course, many options but few will uphold against a resurgent and somewhat wounded Newcastle United side.

The Magpies have an intimidating midfield that, while not full of household names, is full of talent. So, Jol must ensure he chooses a solid line-up, capable of overpowering the Newcastle middle.

But we are at home too and there has to be a source for our forward forays. Giorgios Karagounis could fill the attacking midfield void in a 4-4-1-1 but can his legs really hold? Kerim Frei can also but, would we trust him down the middle? It's unlikely.

Dimitar Berbatov has even been pulled behind the lead striker a few times this season and while he is clearly effective there, you have to feel that he's at his best when spearheading the attack.

We could move, then, into a more dynamic 4-3-3 with two attacking wingers to support a central Berbatov. It would absolve the need for a deeper role behind the striker which, right now, is proving difficult to fill.

Damien Duff or Ashkan Dejagah, and Kieron Richardson or Alexander Kacaniklic, could take their roles on either side of the Bulgarian. In the midfield three you could have Diarra and Sidwell and chose from either the more resolute Chris Baird or the more progressive Karagounis.

This could leave the full backs exposed yet the selection of Richardson could help on the left as he is more than defensively adept. Simultaneous tracking back for 90 minutes, however, could well take its toll on the former Sunderland man.

As for Riether's exposure - you feel he can cope. A central midfield trio, no matter whom forms it, will probably outnumber Newcastle's, who are more likely to adopt a more natural, flat 4-4-2. That said, they're not quite so predictable.

It won't work over the whole festive period but its flexibility, as shown by Wigan Athletic at various points over the last year, could be a blessing in disguise. Whether we'll see it on Monday - who knows?

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