Above: Darren Bent played for Martin Jol at Tottenham; will we be seeing him in a white shirt again soon?
Depending on your thoughts on particular recent transfer speculation, you either read the title as “Get Bent!” in which case you are supportive of our reported pursuit of England international and former Spurs forward Darren Bent, or you read this as “Get bent!” in which case you are not.
Experiment over, the potential signing of Bent is a divisive matter for Fulham fans. On one hand, he’s a pretty much gauranteed goalscorer with something like 103 goals in 206 starts in the last 6 years (I can’t quite remember the stat off the top of my head), and even at Villa he scored 19 goals in 41 games in his first season and a half, before being mysteriously frozen out by manager Paul Lambert. On the other, he is a sell out who left a personally successful period at Sunderland to chase the money at Villa, with attitude problems, commands too high wages, no place in the squad with Berbatov and Ruiz up top, is too old and is too one dimensional. And until about a week ago I was firmly in the second camp, but I’ve changed my mind on the guy. It’s subject to a few conditions – the reported fee of about £5-6m is alright (compare with Jordan Rhodes for £8m and Charlie Austin for £4m, nothing like the pedigree that Bent has) and we won’t agree to sign him without forcing him to take a fair chunk out of his wage – but I think Darren Bent at Fulham could work out well.
First of all, Bent has an attribute which we don’t currently have: pace. Now, we’ve banged on about this for a good season or two, but pace is such an important attribute. It can’t be taught and it’s rarer than you might think so if you have it you are niche, so as well as giving us more threat on the counter it’s something which forces the opposition to counter it dramatically; they must drop deeper, and therefore we have more space in midfield, plus good, rapid movement can be utilised to drag defenders out of position, especially in unorganised defences. He is also, as I say, a natural goalscorer, and we are blessed with some wonderful creative players (look at the ease Berbatov played in Mesca against Werder Bremen, and Kaca and Dejagah are two direct wingers capable of beating a man and putting a ball in, supplemented of course by the talents of Ruiz) that can spot and exploit his movement. I also think the rest of his game is underrated. Yes, he is a specialised goalscorer but he’s also stronger than he looks and has sharp movement, and while he is not as selfless as Andy Johnson, we missed a player of that ilk who can turn a defence and collect a long ball forward in order to hold it as others flood forward.
Signing Bent would give Jol a headache however. He will not want to drop Berbatov or Ruiz, and arguably they are are two best players in midfield and attack. But, to accommodate all three of Bent, Berbatov and Ruiz we will either have to play very offensively, with the two forwards and Ruiz in midfield, or put Ruiz out on the right wing – which, as we all know, neuters his effectiveness. I think though that if Jol is strong enough, this can be done. In games we expect to dominate, we can play all three; in games we want to keep possession, play Ruiz and Berba, and in games we want to play on the counter we play Bent with one other. I think, of the trio, only Berbatov is indispensable.
I think people would be missing the point of Darren Bent if he signs, to be perfectly honest. He is not needed because we need a goalscorer; Berbatov netted 15 in the league last season, after all. He is needed because we need something to offer us offensive balance and shape, another dimension in attack so we are not the one dimensional, confused outfit we looked like on too many occasions last season. If the price is right, go get him Jol.