Dec 6, 2013, 7:16 AM EDT
With Fulham struggling to produce anything of quality this season, Rene Meulensteen has taken the reigns, tasked with rescuing the storied London club.
The green manager’s biggest challenge will be to inspire a squad that seems to have little fire burning beneath them at times.
“It’s a massive challenge,” Meulensteen told Sky Sports. “But at the end of the day, when you’re faced with a challenge like this, it comes down to making sure you get the basic things right.”
The biggest challenge of the squad is none other than its name-brand striker Dimitar Berbatov.
The 32-year-old Bulgarian throughout his career has been on the end of a back-and-forth debate between fans and pundits alike. Some criticize him for a lack in the work rate department, others praise him for moments of brilliance on the ball with a brilliant first touch and pinpoint accuracy.
With just a single Premier League goal to his name this season in 12 starts, Fulham’s number-9 has given his critics new life and new ammunition.
“We need to make sure that you stay mentally strong, that the fans are getting behind the team, and we need to make sure that the players stay mentally strong and believe,” Meulensteen said to Sky. ” And then you make sure you get the basic things right, work rate, discipline, that sort of thing.”
Berbatov has proven to be Meulensteen’s biggest conundrum in the work-rate department, and that’s not news to anyone.
The Mirror’s Darren Lewis called him a “luxury player” and said, “In the situation they find themselves, Fulham now need fighters and scrappers. Not flair players more suited to a grander stage.”
Whether Meulensteen can not only transform his position from temporary to permanent but also transform the club from bottom-3 caliber to Premier League assured will no doubt hinge on a correct decision regarding their main man at the front.
Berbatov’s agent Emil Dantchev told the Mirror that rumors of his client’s desire to leave Craven Cottage this January are true. He was quoted as saying “Dimitar is not happy at Fulham.”
But not so fast.
In Fulham’s energetic 2-1 loss to Tottenham midweek, Berbatov looked at times a new man. He showed more touches of brilliance than the entire season prior. Sure there were lackluster moments as well, but it was a clear improvement.
Should the Cottagers decide to offload their biggest signing of the last few years, it would potentially save them a good £2 million ($3.27 million) in wages. However, they’d also become even more barren in the attack. After all, Fulham have scored a paltry 12 goals all year, with just Darren Bent and an injured Hugo Rodallega waiting in the wings.
Should Rene Meulensteen give in to the vultures, with clubs like Trabzonspor and West Ham circling, or should he stay the course and keep faith in his main man?
It’s hard to say what the right answer is, but the other options sure don’t seem much better, if better at all.
Sep 21, 2014, 1:55 AM EDT
Highlights and recaps from the seven-match night in Major League Soccer.
Sep 21, 2014, 12:49 AM EDT
Alan Gordon’s late winner moves LA even with Seattle at the top of Major League Soccer.
Sep 20, 2014, 10:25 PM EDT
Arsenal’s manager lauded his team’s concentration in its 3-0 win at Villa Park.
Sep 20, 2014, 9:27 PM EDT
Bradley Wright-Phillips is closing in on history after his season’s third hat trick.
Sep 20, 2014, 8:02 PM EDT
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Sep 20, 2014, 7:52 PM EDT
Arsenal became the first to break through Aston Villa, while Sam Allardyce’s plans came to fruition in East London.
Sep 20, 2014, 7:16 PM EDT
The Timbers claim fifth in the Western Conference after another decisive win over their rivals.
Sep 20, 2014, 6:48 PM EDT
Thierry Henry will be center stage as two teams recovering from mid-week commitments meet at Red Bull Arena.
Sep 20, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT
Portland’s brightest executed a sublime volley to give his team a first half lead.
Sep 20, 2014, 5:07 PM EDT
QPR manager credited Potters’ solidity while extolling the value of his team’s point.
Sep 20, 2014, 5:01 PM EDT
The Liverpool boss didn’t see enough dynamic play from his squad after a mid-week UEFA Champions League match against Ludogorets.
Sep 20, 2014, 4:33 PM EDT
Former DC United player Pablo Hernandez can take as many bows as he’d like after his stunning backheel volley put one past Atletico Madrid.
Sep 20, 2014, 4:23 PM EDT
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Sep 20, 2014, 4:03 PM EDT
Roughly-translated, it said, “A year of rage to be great again.” That’s good stuff, and the noisy crowd made it even better.
Sep 20, 2014, 3:37 PM EDT
There were several eyebrow raisers on Matchday 4 even before Sunday’s Rhein Derby and a big Wolfsburg match versus Bayer Leverkusen.
Sep 20, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
Cameroon will host the ACON for the second time in their history in 2019.
Sep 20, 2014, 2:57 PM EDT
Recaps, videos, reaction and analysis from Saturday’s six games in the PL.
Sep 20, 2014, 2:26 PM EDT
Brendan Rodgers side lost its third match of the young season and Sam Allardyce’s West Ham United leapfrogged the Reds with a Saturday win.
Sep 20, 2014, 2:17 PM EDT
Saints are flying high early in the season, as preseason predictions of relegation seem to be well wide of the mark.
Sep 20, 2014, 1:50 PM EDT
Can Welbeck and Ozil click and become Arsenal’s main offensive weapons?
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