Fulham boss Martin Jol added to his options up front last week by acquiring Darren Bent from Aston Villa on a season-long loan, with a view to making the deal permanent at the end of the current campaign. The 29-year-old’s arrival continues a summer of restructuring that has seen Jol target experience campaigners, with the likes of Maarten Stekelenburg, Fernando Amorebieta, Adel Taarabt and Scott Parker also added to the Cottagers’ ranks:
Jol had recently admitted he was desperate to find a solution to his striking problems, with far too much reliance placed on Dimitar Berbatov to deliver. Beating off the challenge of Crystal Palace and Newcastle, the Fulham boss was delighted to land his man:
“Darren Bent is a striker I have always admired. He has shown in the Barclays Premier League that he is composed and clinical in front of goal but, even if he is not scoring, he is involved in some good link-up play, creating opportunities for his teammates. I’m delighted that he has joined us, he gives us pace up front and I am confident that he will add to our goals scored tally this season.”
A product of the Ipswich Town youth system, Bent’s career got underway back in 2001. After scoring 48 goals in 122 appearances across four seasons in the top-flight and Championship, he was snapped up by then-Premier League Charlton in June 2005. His eye for goal flourished at the Valley, with 31 goals and an assist in just 68 appearances catching the eye of Tottenham, with the north London outfit shelling out £16.5m for his services in the summer of 2007.
Bent’s time at the Lane proved frustrating, though. With 28 of his 60 appearances coming courtesy of the subs’ bench, he notched 18 times and provided seven assists before Harry Redknapp sold him off to Sunderland in July 2009. A first season on Wearside was hugely successful – installed as the Black Cats’ first-choice forward, Bent started all 38 league matches and racked up 24 goals and four assists. Having produced eight goals and an assist over 20 appearances in 2010/11, Bent moved again, making his way to Villa during the winter transfer window.
Bent’s time at the midlands got off to a strong start. Up and running with nine goals in 16 matches, his prospects dipped with the arrival of Alex McLeish in 2011/12 – he gathered nine goals in 22 games but his season came to an abrupt end after sustaining a knee injury. With McLeish gone and Paul Lambert installed in the Villa hotseat, Bent’s chances were dealt a further blow by the arrival of Christian Benteke. Playing second fiddle to the Belgian, Bent mustered a mere sixteen appearance, with eight off the bench, and found the net just three times in his final year in the midlands. On the international stage, the 29-year-old has produced five goals and an assist over 13 appearances for England.
Bent’s arrival at the Cottage could, potentially, hand Fantasy managers a viable mid-price contender for their three-man frontlines over the season ahead. Coming in at 6.5 in Fantasy Premier League (FPL), he is likely to be fielded as the most advanced forward in Jol’s 4-4-1-1 formation and with a security of starts seemingly on the cards, will surely be targeted once his match-sharpness is up to scratch.
The downside, however, is the likely effect on Dimitar Berbatov’s potential. The Bulgarian thrived as Fulham’s main forward in 2012/13 – with Bryan Ruiz supplying the creativity from behind, the former United man notched 163 points in FPL last term but he now looks set to drop into “the hole” in order to accommodate Bent. As we saw last year, when a hamstring injury kept Ruiz on the sidelines for a number of weeks, Berbatov’s Fantasy returns took a real turn for the worse when moved to a more withdrawn berth and, while his spot-kick duties offer some solace, there’s no doubt his appeal will lessen if Bent cements a first-team place.
Ruiz’s prospects looks even more concerning. Some had fancied the Costa Rican as a decent budget option but the expected shake-up should force him into midfield, with a role on the right flank looking the likeliest scenario, with Adel Taarabt operating on the opposite wing. The likes of Damien Duff, Ashkan Dejagah, Alex Kacaniklic and Pajtim Kasami may have to settle for bench-warming duties if such a scenario transpires, as Jol freshens up his options on the flanks.
An unused sub in last Saturday’s win over former club Sunderland, Bent may be introduced from the bench over the next couple of matches as he builds up his fitness. With a fortnight’s international break already on the horizon, he’ll be afforded plenty time to bring his sharpness up to speed and potentially come into consideration when domestic action resumes mid-September. From Gameweek 4 onwards, Jol’s side have four enticing fixtures from the following five which will offer the new boy the chance to prove his worth – home games against West Brom, Cardiff and Stoke, allied with a trip to Palace, could well have the bandwagon rolling before long.