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Should Fulham sign Darren Bent?
Aston Villa are looking to reduce the wage bill
The former England international failed to impress last season. He used to be the main man throughout his Aston Villa career, but last year when Paul Lambert took over, Bent was deemed surplus to requirements. The new manager decided to make Christian Benteke the fulcrum of attacks. His choice was justified as Villa stayed up comfortably in the end.
Last month, Villa signed Nicklas Helenius from dansih outfit AaB, so Bent would start the next season as only the fourth choice striker. Aston Villa are looking to sell him to reduce the wage bill, as he is on a 65,000£ per week contract. With the World Cup coming up next year, regular first team football is a must for Bent. Several clubs are being mentioned as possible suitors, but Fulham FC are reported to be monitoring the situation since January. But would Bent be a success at Craven Cottage?
Do Fulham need a new striker?
The first question is: do Fulham need a new striker? Would Darren Bent get regular first team chanes every week?
The main striker for Fulham FC is Dimitar Berbatov. The bulgarian's slick style and 15 league goals saw him win Fulham's player of the season award last year. He is the fulcrum of Fulham's attacks, and the leader of the team as he is constantly giving advice to team mates on their positioning. His vision, passing and ability to keep the ball in tight areas, under pressure are features that make him indesposable for the club.
Bryan Ruiz is a Costa Rican playmaker who is great on the ball and is capable of playing exceptionallay well when he can find free space ahead of him. A prime example of this was the match against Arsenal in the autumn, when he was a constant threat and troubled the Arsenal defense through 90 minutes. He is exceptional when the circumstances are right, but can go anonymous when he can't find space for himself. His finishing can be quite frustrating too. He is the one who will likely play up front with Berbatov in a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 or behind him in a 4-2-3-1 next season.
The third choice striker at the moment is Hugo Rodallega. He was disappointing in his first season for Fulham. Scoring 3 goals in 14 starts is not what he had in mind when he joined the club last summer. However, he was often played out on the wing. But it is clear that he can't lead the attack alone, or become the main man.
The last striker in the first team squad at the moment is Marcello Trotta. The 20 year old Italian was out on loan at Brentford last season, where he scored 6 goals in 18 starts. In the coming season, the young striker should be incorporated in the Fulham first team. He demonstrated in the FA cup, when his team met Chelsea that he is capable of playing against the top sides. He will likely get substitute appearances next season.
It is clear that Fulham have enough strikers at the moment to do a full season without signing anyone. The type of striker Fulham would need is somebody who can replace Berbatov if the bulgarian is injured. This would take somebody who is a goalscorer as - apart from Berbatov - Fulham's current strikers are not consistent goalscorers.
The main issue with signing Darren Bent is how he would fit with Berbatov. The bulgarian is the first name on the team sheet. Any striker wanting to play for Fulham has to fit his style of play. I am sceptical about the striker partnership in question as Berbatov is someone who likes to get on the end of the last pass. I am afraid that Bent and Berbatov would restrict each other's runs far too many times.
Should Fulham sign Darren Bent?
Darren Bent: Exceptional at one thing, not very good at anything else
Darren Bent is arguably one of the best English finishers. He has made a career out of being in the right place at the right time and finishing critically. His skill made him an English international. He scored 102 Premier League goals in 202 starts so far, scoring a goal every 181 minutes on average. He is a poacher who makes the most of half chances and the mistakes of defenders. No one questions Darren Bent's goalscoring ability. The problem is with every other aspect of his game.
First, let's look at the weakness in his attacking play, and if that weakness would prevent him from succeeding at Fulham. His link-up play in notoriously weak. He didn't register a single assist last season, despite making 8 starts, 16 appearances in total. This is very worrying for a striker in 2013. Modern strikers are required to do far more than just score goals. The only way his lack of awareness for his team-mates would not get in the way is if he would be used as an impact sub for the last few minutes of games. Even then, it is always better to have somebody on the pitch with whom the team can function as a cohesive unit. The other way Fulham could use Bent is if both Ruiz and Berbatov are injured. This happened in the beginning of the season when Fulham played Southampton away. Rodallega started as the lone striker, and it was miserable to watch. Although buying somebody for 5 million pounds and paying him massive wages just in case two players get injured does not make much sense.
Another weakness of his play is defensive contribution. He is not a workman-like striker who will press defenders, or come deep into midfield to boost the numbers. His defensive contribution is almost non-existent. He tends to stay as high up the pitch as possible, to be able to get the ball as soon as possible when his team regains it. This is good from an attacking point of view, but extremely poor when defending. In modern football, defending starts from up top as the strikers have a crucial part in determining where the ball is going to end up. They are the one to press deep lying playmakers, or rush defenders into aimless passes. A team like Fulham, who had a shaky defense last season, can not afford the luxury to have a player who does not defend.
Let's talk about what Fulham could use. Darren Bent is arguably a great poacer. His big strenghts is sitting on the shoulder of the last defender and making the most of the mistakes of defenders. At the moment, Fulham doesn't have a player like that. But the thing is they don't need one.
Especially not a big-name player who would demand high wages, and have no sell on value. Bent is 29 years old, he is past his prime, and he is part of a dying breed. Modern strikers are multi-dimensional. Football is heading into the direction of using more universal players, who are tactically aware and can perform well in multiple situations. Darren Bent is not one of these. He is very good at one thing, but he wouldn't have a place in Fulham's current starting eleven. Signing him as a substitute striker wouldn't make much sense for either party involved.
A typical Bent goal (at 1:00 )
Please leave a comment, and let me know what you think!