Sorting Out the Striker Problem

Ian Walton

Like every position other than right-back and holding midfield, Fulham's production from its strikers has been mostly horrendous this season. After a strong campaign last season, Dimitar Berbatov has promptly vanished (although, I suppose you can at least say that he's been physically present), and while the club has been linked to a few Scandinavians, all of them appear to be summer transfers if at all. Thus, if we operate under the assumption that Fulham will not buy a striker during this transfer window (and that Berbatov will remain at the Cottage for the remainder of the season), we're left with a depth chart looking something like this:

Berbatov/Bent/Rodallega

Berbatov is obviously the most talented of the three, although he turns 33 at the end of this month, and, perhaps because of his age, he hasn't been able to finish at all this season. More importantly, as Doug pointed out in his brilliant post, which you should definitely read if you haven't already, his unwillingness to move around in the box hinders our attacks. He's also a notoriously idiosyncratic player and it's unlikely that anyone can inspire him to change his ways, especially at this point in his career. That being said, his first touch and ability to hold up the ball are as strong as ever and he's exceptional at setting up others in dangerous positions.

Darren Bent has been an absolute shell of his former self, which everyone has been quick to point out To his credit, he moves intelligently and does a good job of drawing opposing defenders onto him, which in turn creates space for others to attack. However, he hasn't been able to finish consistently, he usually can't hold the ball up, and he wins nothing in the air, meaning that he's essentially a decoy on offense. If we could somehow combine he and Berbatov into one person (Berbabent!), we'd have a useful striker, but, as is, both are severely lacking. As for Hugo Rodallega, he can provide pace, but hasn't provided anything else since his arrival in 2012.

Given our rather poor choices, I'd add Adel Taarabt and Clint Dempsey to the list of candidates. Although Deuce was seemingly brought in to solidify the midfield, Meulensteen might be better served playing him up front as he possesses more skill than either Bent or Rodallega and plays with more energy than Berbatov. Additionally, this would allow Kacaniklic, Kasami, and Dejagah to play in the starting XI, which I feel that they have earned based on their play.

The only problem with this is that I have a hard time seeing Berbatov being dropped from the starting lineup altogether. Given his reputation (if not his actual performance) and his wages, he's a virtual lock for better or for worse. While knowing this renders every word of this up to now as pointless, it's not the worst thing in the world; Berbatov's still a very useful player, he just limits the flexibility of the rest of the lineup. I'm personally convinced that he and Taarabt are unable to play together, and our wingers are forced to play on their natural sides because his lack of movement prevents them from cutting in.

Unless he's injured, sold/loaned, or his play becomes horrible long beyond the point of justification, Dimitar Berbatov is our striker going forward. The reality of this situation means that Rene Meulensteen has very little margin for error when the selecting the rest of the team (see: the Sunderland fiasco). If we survive this season, it will be because he's a masterful tactician.

Other Random Observations Going into Tomorrow's Match

-I won't try to argue that Andrew Garfield and Alexander Kacaniklic are the same person, but I will merely point out that I've never seen them in the same room together.

-Jack Wilshere currently holds top position on my "Most Hateable Players" list. He might be getting worse than Rooney in terms of complaining to the officials, which is no small feat. I don't know what it is about the guy, but every time I watch Arsenal, I find myself rooting against him.

-On those occasions, when he's been clean-shaven, Giorgos Karagounis looks completely unnatural. Without the scruff, our wily veteran doesn't look the part, and we can't have that.

-Speaking of Karagounis, no matter how times I've watched him play, I never cease to be amused by the way he runs: arms out, palms up, and an expression on his face that says, "What? I didn't do anything" (see above photo). Don't ever change Giorgos.

-As much as I love the beautiful game, I've always had one major complaint: the limited number of substitutions. In addition to football, I'm also a passionate NBA fan, and some of my favorite moments come during the blowout games where one team is up by 20 with 5 minutes to play, and each team empties their respective benches. If I were Sepp Blatter (it's not often that one says that, I'm sure), I'd institute a skunk rule wherein if a team is up by 4 or more at the 80-minute mark then both teams get an unlimited number of substitutions. Don't tell me that wouldn't make those matches more compelling.

-Due to the peculiarities of the broadcasts in my country, I've missed every Fulham win except for the Aston Villa match. In other words, I think I might be jinxing us. Sorry guys....

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