Martin Jol wasn’t the only thing that departed from Craven Cottage recently, as it seemed to be that Dimitar Berbatov’s bad attitude had also disappeared with an outstanding performance enabling Fulham to come away from Sundays game with much needed 3 points. The contrast from his last home appearance under Martin Jol in a 2-1 defeat to Swansea to this weekends game is obvious and can clearly be seen.
Having played a full 90 minutes, Berbatov had a total of 5 shots and 4 of these were on target. This 80% shooting accuracy gave the Fulham fans hope that he has returned to his goalscoring form that he had in his years at Manchester United and that an in form Berbatov can mean an in form Fulham. The Bulgarians goal came from a penalty and as you can expect with the laid-back striker this was no ordinary penalty, it managed to encompass everything he is about in one moment.
The composure shown to roll the ball right into the corner barely reaching the goal line did not suggest that he is playing for a struggling team and hopefully he can rub some of his confidence off onto some of the other players which could help to get the West London club out of the bottom three. Not only was the number 9 great with his feet when it came to getting shots off, he managed to win a header, rising above the Villa defence, and as it was about to cross the line into the top corner, Brad Guzan leapt across to palm the ball against the bar. The desire to win the ball like this has not been seen in recent weeks, with people suggesting the player only turns up for his pay-cheques which made a move away from the Cottage in January seem imminent, however, the change of management looks to have done the trick and Fulham fans should keep their fingers crossed they get to retain the services of the magical striker for longer.
From the first minute Berbatov tried to make things happen, and as Fulhams main attacking threat he was picking the ball up in any position he could. Either slowing play down by holding the ball up then passing it out wide or creative flicks forward, the 32 year old knew when to do these things and did them to perfection. 30% of his passes were forward and with 26% going left and 24% going right, this even spread illustrates how key Dimitar was in keeping play flowing and therefore not forcing the ball for an attack, compared to the loss vs. Swansea where 45% of his passes were forward.
Two moments of magic showed the separate qualities of holding the ball up and looking to create a chance quickly on an attack, and the first is where Fulham actually won the penalty by one of the passes of the season as Berbatov flicked the ball first time off the outside of the foot round his marker and allowed Kacaniklic to controversially fall to the ground in the box. Secondly, there was a switch ball across the half way line and the ball was flying through the air at an incredible height and a moment of pure brilliance occurred where Berbatov just cushioned the ball onto his foot and the ball stopped dead. This just provided him with the time and space to instruct team mates on where to move before laying off a short pass into the midfield.
With performances like this, Premier league defences and goalkeepers should be scared and cautious of the talent that the Bulgarian international posses, his intelligence shown in Sundays game is something that Fulham require to ensure safety. However, this is all down to the man himself as he needs to show this desire 100% of the time as I don’t see Rene Meulensteen allowing his bad attitude at the club.