Dec 6, 2013, 7:16 AM EST
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.
Mar 8, 2014, 10:18 PM EST
They finished last year at opposite ends of the East. On Saturday, D.C. and New York both stumbled in their 2014 openers.
Mar 8, 2014, 9:34 PM EST
After a downturn in 2013, Houston’s main attacking threat has already bagged two.
Mar 8, 2014, 8:45 PM EST
The 35-year-old, four-time Best XI midfielder is left looking for his fourth team in three seasons.
Mar 8, 2014, 7:33 PM EST
CONCACAF Champions League mattered, Seattle will need more time, and Sporting plays to type in MLS opener.
Mar 8, 2014, 6:20 PM EST
On his fifth team in five years, Barrett delivered Saturday for Seattle.
Mar 8, 2014, 5:33 PM EST
Late match chaos produced 2014′s first point of drama, with the veteran journeyman giving Seattle a perfect start.
Mar 8, 2014, 4:21 PM EST
Bayern dominated once again, scoring six against Wolfsburg, while Schalke proved they’re still able to dominate matches by scoring four.
Mar 8, 2014, 3:59 PM EST
Four decades of soccer in the Pacific Northwest were celebrated at CenturyLink Field.
Mar 8, 2014, 3:06 PM EST
The Rapids finally confirm the man who guided them through the preseason would replace Óscar Pareja.
Mar 8, 2014, 2:40 PM EST
Big wins for Man United, Chelsea and Cardiff on a stellar Saturday of PL action:
Mar 8, 2014, 2:35 PM EST
Sporting’s title defense begins at CenturyLink Field, with MLS’s first game of the 2014 season available on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.
Mar 8, 2014, 2:27 PM EST
Goals from Eto’o, Hazard and Ba with two hands Chelsea crucial win, as title race intensifies:
Mar 8, 2014, 1:45 PM EST
Barca could find themselves in third place by the end of the weekend, after losing 1-0 to Valladolid.
Mar 8, 2014, 1:22 PM EST
American forward Johannsson does it again, scores beauty to put AZ ahead:
Mar 8, 2014, 1:01 PM EST
The Fulham manager is convinced that his side can avoid the drop. But is that sort of optimism misplaced?
Mar 8, 2014, 12:10 PM EST
Other sides fighting the drop will be thrilled that Stoke and Norwich split the points available at Carrow Road.
Mar 8, 2014, 12:05 PM EST
Massive London derby at the Bridge, can Chelsea extend their lead at the top? Watch live, here:
Mar 8, 2014, 12:04 PM EST
Fulham remain dead last in the league after losing to fellow strugglers Cardiff – who themselves aren’t yet out of the woods.
Mar 8, 2014, 12:03 PM EST
Saints seal hard-fought win, as Eagles continue to battle at the wrong end of the table:
Mar 8, 2014, 11:32 AM EST
Moyes’ offense clicks as United turn on the style against the Baggies:
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