Why Martin Jol must start Dimitar Berbatov with Darren Bent

Sports Mole considers how Martin Jol could utilise both Dimitar Berbatov and Darren Bent in his lineup.

Getting the right formation and the correct players to play in it can be difficult for Premier League managers. With different philosophies from many teams, does he try to counter the threat of the opposition or take the game to them? Certainly, so far this season, Fulham manager Martin Jol has yet to strike the right combination.

Part of the problem could well be that a number of the Cottagers' best players or better performers this season - Pajtim Kasami, Bryan Ruiz and Adel Taarabt - prefer to play as the number 10 and are less effective on the wing. Another issue is that by playing one up top Jol is keeping either Dimitar Berbatov or Darren Bent on the bench.

Both strikers play very different games and bring their own take on the lone striker role. For example, Bent wants to be in the box; he wants to run on to through-balls and put it in the back of the net. While Berbatov is perfectly adept at this too, he wants the game to flow through him and as such often drops into midfield when the central midfielders are being pressed.

Dimitar Berbatov© Getty Images

While an extra body to help create in midfield is useful, when Berbatov plays up front on his own it leaves the opposing centre-backs able to push up and close the gap that is created. This limits Fulham's space, and in particular whoever plays in behind the striker - most often Ruiz. With Berbatov now operating in his space, he has no outlet for his passing.

When it is Bent playing as opposed to Berbatov there is the potential of the opposite problem. Of course his three goals so far in limited appearances - mainly off the bench - suggest that this is less of an issue than the alternative, but when he is played from the start his need to get into the box can often translate to his being isolated. While in theory this should create space for the number 10 it could leave too much work for the creator.

Jol alluded in his most recent press conference that Bent was brought in to play with Berbatov, and the on-loan man himself said that the pair were trying to strike up a partnership in training. With the differing styles the two bring to the striking role, the conundrum could well be solved by both playing together.

Darren Bent warms up prior to kick off during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Norwich City at Villa Park on October 27, 2012© Getty Images

It would require a change in style. Berbatov could perhaps be tried as the number 10, but the partnership would be more effective if he dropped deep from a position alongside Bent. Instead of playing with attacking midfielders on the wing, Jol might have to choose two genuine wingers in order to widen the play and create space for crosses for Bent to bury.

Where the combination would reap most rewards, however, would be with Bent hanging off the shoulder of the defenders and keeping them on their toes. While Fulham currently have space quickly closed down with Berbatov playing with his back to goal, he would instead have a lot of space in which to operate in behind Bent. His touch is excellent even in confined areas, but with more space would come the chance to really dictate play.

The issue with playing both - and this could be why Jol has appeared reluctant to so far - is what of Ruiz and Taarabt? Neither player excels on the wing and instead prefer to operate centrally. Jol could perhaps sit one of them in front of a defensive midfield core, but that would be a gamble. The simple fact remains that Fulham would look a far more dangerous prospect with arguably their two best players, Bent and Berbatov, both in the starting XI.

Darren Bent warms up prior to kick off during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Norwich City at Villa Park on October 27, 2012
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